I’ll admit it. Parenthood has flat-out humbled me. I’m sure it has for many other parents out there as well – it has to have. No one REALLY gets it until you are in the throws of it. I only too-late realized how many ignorant and inadvertent judgmental thoughts I had when I didn’t have a child of my own. “I’ll never do this when I have a baby!” “Why is she always doing that with her kid?” I apologize to you all. I had no idea what I was talking about.
But that being said, there are still a few beliefs and ideas of child-rearing that I had in my former life that I am really trying to stick to now. Even though I now know I don’t know very much, I’m honestly trying to be the Best Mother I can be by trying to make the best choices I can.
To let you in on one of our little “secrets” – my husband and I have never really been a big fan of Disney – particularly the ubiquitous Disney Princesses that we feel infect our consumer culture. My husband is afraid that after one princess-themed birthday party, before you know it we’ll be shelling out money for the costumes, the dolls, Cinderella backpacks, Ariel Band-Aids, and Snow White multi-vitamins. I gotta say, I’m not really crazy about it either. It seems, I don’t know – lazy. Easy. Like I should be more creative with my parenting than that. I owe it to her to open up her mind to broader views outside these unrealistic ideas of a handsome prince swooping in and making her dreams come true.
My 2 year old daughter and I were recently invited as a free guest of a friend who has a Silver Pass to Disneyland. Seriously – this is the way to do it. All the fun of Disneyland without the added pressure of feeling like you need to have an AMAZING time, because you’ve just paid the equivalent of a luxury car payment to get in. If we had the choice, it’s a place we probably wouldn’t pick to spend the day on our own, but we very excitedly and graciously accepted the invitation.
I know my daughter had a wonderful day at Disneyland, but I gotta tell you, I had the time of my life! Secretly. I don’t know if I could have admitted to some friends or maybe even my husband what a happy crazy person I became being there. I became the Best Worst Mother ever. I coerced my toddler into eating a lollipop for lunch – which she all too eagerly agreed was a great idea. And didn’t she need a Kermit doll too? Of course she did, the poor deprived child! Even though we have so many stuffed animals at home I consider launching some of them out into space just to get them off my living room floor? But we don’t have a Kermit the Frog doll! Oh, wait! She needed a Mickey Mouse balloon! The same balloons that we found out our cats like to nibble on the string and vomit for days, you ask? Yup. Did that give me pause for a moment? Nope. “One $7 balloon, please.”
What happened to me? I’m a rational, logical, frugal person who barely recognized myself that day. I was quickly becoming that enabling, lazy mother I was just thinking judgmental thoughts about a few paragraphs ago!
As we stood in line for the merry-go-round, I told my gracious friend with the Disney Silver pass how much fun I was having at the aptly-named Happiest Place on Earth. He said – “Yeah, I’ve invited other people to Disneyland before, but they never want to come. I think they don’t even want to expose their kids to it for fear that it will just create princess-loving Disney consumers out of them.” Uhh…who would think THAT, I sheepishly thought, not making direct eye contact. But it hit me in the wake of hearing about another person’s similar judgmental thought – we weren’t taking our kids to a firing range, or an opium den, or any other grossly inappropriate place for them. We are taking them to Disneyland! Where a kid can be a kid, as I believe the old commercial sang. And all of us were having fun. A LOT of fun. What was so bad about that, that people purposely avoided it?
I don’t think that keeping your kid away from a consumerism-heavy theme park is necessarily being the Best Mother – because they are missing out on a truly magical, fun experience. I also don’t think that exposing them to it makes you the Worst Mother either – because that certainly doesn’t mean I have to buy every toy, t-shirt, or fruit snack with princesses on them. Can’t I find a middle-ground and just be the Best Worst Mother I can possibly be? Isn’t THAT what it’s all about?
Letting her watch ONE MORE episode of Dora The Explorer – not only because I have to get one of a million things done in those 23 minutes, but because she loves it. Picking up a Happy Meal for dinner one night – because I can’t deal with cooking, and frankly, she loves French Fries! Buying her a “Belle” gold lame’ princess ball gown to play dress-up – because she loves looking at herself in the mirror with it on, it makes her feel special, and it puts a smile on that luminous little face. These are things that society makes us believe we are bad, lazy parents if we give in to them. I cannot believe that’s true.
I told my friend while in line waiting for the merry-go-round at Disneyland, “You know, if you only feed a kid carob, they are going to find chocolate somewhere eventually.” And it’s true – we are responsible for our children, but ultimately, as they grow up, we can’t control what they love, what they do, or even what they eat. I was a changed woman and a changed parent that day, humbled once again. I had a great time at Disneyland, and officially took one step closer to becoming the Best Worst Mother I really hope to be. And I’m positive my daughter will be better off for it.
On a final note, the next morning, still basking in the glow of our trip to Disneyland, my daughter refused to eat her breakfast. I did sink to a new manipulative parental low by actually hiding behind the giant Mickey Mouse balloon and asking her in a falsetto voice to “Please eat your yogurt!” It worked like a charm. Best Worst $7 I ever spent…