Small Wins – A Parenting Victory

I don’t have to tell you that this parenting gig is hard. Like, really hard. Most days, I feel like parenting a toddler ranges anywhere between blissfully strolling through a field of wildflowers on a sunny day and being run over by a train carrying 4 billion tons of coal to the North Pole for your child’s Christmas stocking. Rarely is it one extreme or the other – it’s almost always both. At the same time. Times 1,000.

More often than not, I feel like a complete failure as a mother, co-parent, wife, friend, and person in general. But on occasion, I’m reminded that even though I may not feel like it, I’m doing a pretty decent job raising a tiny human being. Sometimes it’s a big thing, like the pediatrician telling us we made the right call to bring him in (because he does, in fact, have strep throat) or watching my son offer up a few of his unopened Easter eggs to a little girl who arrived late for the egg hunt at school.

Other times, I’ll take a step back and notice some of the smaller things that make me think that maybe, just maybe, his dad and I aren’t doing too bad. This post is dedicated to those times – the seemingly insignificant things that often get overlooked, but deserve a round of applause – because some days it’s really hard to get up after that dang train hits you.

The internet says that “Success is a series of small wins.” So here are a few examples of small parenting wins that deserve a pat on the back. This list is really just a few of my own motherhood victories. Share your own in the comments – you never know who may be fighting the same fight. And we could all use a little glimpse into someone else’s wildflower field.

  1. He can hold a fork correctly. Let’s be honest – nobody wants to be at a business lunch and look across the table to find a colleague shoveling food into his mouth like a caveman. Table manners are good, but without proper table ergonomics, manners are just frosting on a fruitcake. If your child can get the food from his plate to his mouth using the eating utensil of his choice, he’s on the right track.
  2. She remembers that you told her she could have a cupcake after school…last month. You may see this as a negative because of the major meltdown that ensued when she realized you ate the last cupcake for breakfast weeks ago. But that long term memory is going to serve her well throughout her life. Also, this means you’ve taught her to hold others accountable for the things they say and promises they make. Well done!
  3. He doesn’t smell like a foot (all of the time). Getting a child to bathe is no easy feat. Remembering to make them is sometimes even harder. So if you accomplish both of these things at least once a week, high five to you! (Bonus points if you also get them to brush their teeth on the reg. I’m hoping nobody is counting how often my child goes to school with “stinky fish breath”)
  4. YOU don’t smell like a foot. Let’s face it – when you are in the grunt of parenthood, personal hygiene is often the first thing to go. Plus, showers are a lot less enjoyable when you have an audience that is eye-level with your lady parts. Let’s all be thankful for deodorant, mouth wash, and dry shampoo!
  5. You and your partner* still love each other. Kids are innately going to love you and vice versa. An adult relationship, on the other hand, takes work, time, and desire to keep going – all of which are hard to come by when you have a 3-year-old that has never slept in his own bed for a full night and still poops his pants. If you and your partner can keep it together long enough to come out the other side, I hear it can be glorious. (*Partner refers to anyone that loves you and is part of the village helping you raise your child – spouse, parent, sister, friend, neighbor, stranger you met in the grocery store, etc.)
  6. Your child is breathing. Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s all you can do as a parent to keep your kid alive. If you child screamed bloody murder when you suggested he wear his camouflage underpants instead of the dirty ninja turtle ones he pulled out of the laundry basket, count it in the win column because you kept your child alive yesterday. Yay…

So here’s to you, parents. I know you think you’re screwing everything up and you worry that your child is too spoiled/anti-social/busy/shy/slow/talkative/stinky/etc. But I want you to know that you’re doing something right. Everyday. It may be as simple as getting your kid to dress himself in the morning. Or maybe it’s that you locked yourself in the closet to check your Facebook in peace for 5 minutes instead of giving in to the constant urge to run away to a beach somewhere and live like Tom Hanks in Castaway (but let’s be real – the lack of internet on a remote island was the real deal breaker here).

Being a mom or dad can be so hectic that you may not notice all the small wins, but rest assured that your kid does. And every single day, he sees you trying to be the best parent/person you can be. And you know what, he’s going to be just fine.

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The 7th Grade Science of Parenting

One of the last things my OBGYN said to me before discharging me to embark on this glorious world of parenting was this:  “I like to call the first child the great American experiment.” Thanks, Dr. B.

But after 19+ months, I’ve realized he’s right. Here’s how it goes. You get all this advice from family, friends, doctors, and Google, then you have to figure out what is going to work for your family.

• You create a hypothesis.
• You test it.
• You evaluate the results.
• You adjust accordingly based on your conclusion.

And you thought you’d never use the scientific method in real life. 

I’ve been doing this cycle for longer than I want to admit, with a full night’s sleep as the goal. Lately, my observations led me to begin a trial during which we do not turn the tv on until after the nugget is in bed. And so far, it had been working pretty well.

Enter March Madness. If you know me, you know I really like MM. And my son has inherited this from me. The kid LOVES “backey ball”. So I had to make a decision.

Stick to my experiment and miss a couple of games.
Give in and turn on the tube.

You can probably guess which option I chose by the mere fact that I’m writing this. We put the game on, and I proceeded to become a human basketball goal for my tiny tot for the next hour. When the tv would catch his eye, he’d turn around and snuggle into my lap to watch approximately 90 seconds before he would be back up and staring in his own game. Those moments of holding him and seeing how intently he was watching the game are moments I will cherish.

I realized I needed to savor that moment of happiness because I would probably need it in the middle of the night when he was crying and kicking Adam in the face. But the eternal optimist in me still hoped that maybe tv wasn’t the variable that was affecting his sleep. Maybe he’s just getting better at it. WRONG.

Maybe it is the tv being on. Or maybe it’s the stuffy nose. Or maybe there is zero correlation and it’s all dumb luck. But after last night, I just don’t have the energy to try and figure out if my experimental deviation was a failure or not.


Bath time backey ball