Before I was a mom, I had a very distinct idea of the type of mom I would be:
- I would be super fun, obviously.
- I would be my child’s partner and guide in finding their passion.
- I’d offer the very best in educational opportunities.
- I would NOT go over the top with pink princesses if I had a girl.
- I would teach him or her to be kind.
- I’d always give good, honest answers to his or her questions.
- I’d provide an active life, focused on trying a bunch of different sports (without specializing at too young an age, no burnout in our house!).
- I would not over-schedule, making sure there was downtime for him or her to just relax and be a kid.
- I’d be ok with a little rough and tumble play and bumps and bruises in the name of fun and play. My kids would get bikes. (I didn’t learn to ride a bike until college.)
- I would provide healthy AND delicious food, and would learn to cook it myself.
After Sienna was born, I stayed mostly on track with my parenting vision. She was happy and we had fun together. #’s 1 & 2, check!
Her toys were all educational. #3, check!
I had decorated her baby room with blue elephants and used gender-neutral colors for the other baby gear. #4, check!
I was a little surprised when Sienna immediately gravitated towards accessories – as soon as she could reach, she reached for purses, shoes, hats and sunglasses. But then once, when Sienna had just learned to stand on her own, a little boy at the playground pushed her down. She stood back up and hit him with her purse. I thought “Great use of accessories to stand up for yourself!” Parenting win! (add another check to #2!)
At age one, Sienna was walking over a mile a day – to the playground and back, all over the neighborhood. She lived at that playground. She was always clumsier than other kids her age, but I had always figured it was because she’s off the charts in height. My everyday worry was whether she had gotten enough exercise and I figured she’d have less falls as she got more practice.
Shortly after age 2, after months of unexplained swellings, Sienna was diagnosed with FOP. (For new friends reading this, FOP – Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva – is an extremely rare disorder in which muscles and other soft tissue turn to bone, progressively restricting movement and essentially locking patients in place). We learned that any fall, even a minor one, could trigger a devastating flare-up that could result in new bone growth.
NO falls allowed?! Not even minor bumps and bruises?! How on earth can you get a 2 year old to agree to that!? I had no idea what to do. It turned my entire parenting philosophy on its head. #7 and #9, off the table…
The new plan
For lack of better ideas, we embraced girly-girl culture because those activities are generally safer. So we took a break from the playground, the little gym, and random walks all over the neighborhood. Out came a helmet. And out came the pink princesses… (#4, remove that check)
I tried to explain to Sienna that her bumps don’t heal like other kids, but it was a little over her 2-year-old head. Heck, it was over MY head! So I found myself making up answers like the below:
Sienna, pointing at a karate studio: What’s that place?
Me: A karate studio
Sienna: Who goes there?
Me: Boys. Only boys
We see a girl walk out in her karate uniform.
Me: Interesting, I guess some girls are allowed.
Sienna: Can I go there?
Me: No. It’s only for fighters. And we’re not fighters, we’re snugglers. And swimmers! We can swim! Are you hungry? Let’s go get bagels.
Or there are all the times we witness someone else’s kid falling and I make an example of them (just to Sienna)…
We saw a little boy riding recklessly through a parking lot on his scooter, and he fell off.
Sienna: Look! That boy fell!
Me: Oh no! He was being VERY dangerous. Scooters are VERY dangerous. NO ONE should EVER ride a scooter. He wasn’t even wearing a helmet.
Sienna: Will he have to go to the hospital?
Me: Yes. Definitely. He will have to go to the hospital and will likely have to get a full body cast. He won’t be able to move for weeks. That means he won’t be allowed to go swimming.
Sienna asked a lot of questions about hospitals and casts and swimming. In the meantime, the boy had gotten back up on his scooter and scooted away.
Luckily she didn’t call me out on that.
Pre-diagnosis me is totally ashamed. Present day me is pleased I was able to at least form a coherent thought so soon after her diagnosis. But as an accurate grade: #6, fail…
Finding my groove
With the help of good friends, Sienna’s nanny, and art classes, I’m finding my new parenting groove. We’ve found great fun in artwork, crafts, glue, paints, stringing beads, puzzles, magnets, growing our own flowers, pretend games with stuffed animals, board games, blocks, musical instruments, catching and studying bugs, growing caterpillars into butterflies and growing ladybug larvae into ladybugs. Bugs and noise and artistic messes help me feel like we are making up for some of the active play we’ve tried to cut out. (#2, add another check!!)
We’ve started to make sure we provide Experiences (with a capital “E”) on the weekends. Fun, quality time that we can spend together as a family. Sometimes we just go to her favorite park and push her in her favorite swing (for hours…), and often it’s educational – the arboretum, the children’s museum, the aquarium, the zoo. Once, we went to the drive through zoo at Fossil Rim. Amazing!
I’m adding a number here: #11 – provide Experiences with a capital E – check!
What about #10, you ask? That’s a story for another day.
Overall, I’m not the mom I thought I’d be, because life isn’t what I thought it would be.
But I think I still have the same mom spirit I planned to have and when I add it all up, I think I still come out with a passing grade on my original report card.
How many of you are the mom (or dad, or person) you thought you’d be?