I was completely aware of the disaster that would follow as I spread apricot jam on toast and cut it up for my daughter’s breakfast the other day. I knew I wasn’t going to feed her in the high chair, but allow her to “eat on the go” while watching Sesame Street. This always ensures she will eat more in the morning but my hang up for food variety forced me to make this bad decision. I got yelled at later by my husband as he cleaned off the sticky remote and about a dozen of her toys. A fine example of how I am often aware I’m in the process of making a bad parenting choice.
So what prompted me to make this and many other bad choices in the past 13 months? Maybe it was the hope that my initial instinct could be wrong. I think that just this once, maybe she will sleep through the night if I tip toe in and dust her entire room, maybe she will learn what “table” means and obey my request to keep her yogurt off the floor. Or maybe I’m just indeed, kidding myself. But in the words of my pediatrician, “consistency is key” and so I continue to consistently make poor decisions that result in my mind replaying the words “you should’ve known better.”
The decisions that we make as parents are within a wide spectrum. It starts with the benign ones that result with a hit to the head and exclamation of “stupid Mommy!” and end with the ones you read in news headlines and Facebook comments that say “How can that mother be so stupid?! People don’t deserve to have kids!!” It’s the really bad, life threatening decisions that you never think as a parent you are going to make, but as I have come to realize, I have. These are what I’ll refer to as the “decisions you aren’t really aware you are making.”
So a decision I didn’t know I was making was when I put my daughter down at her birthday party, assumed her father and grandfather were watching her when she walked passed them and turned and talked to someone else. My husband asked me a few minutes later if I was watching her because she thankfully didn’t leave the backyard party and walk into the street, but wandered towards the present table. The guilt that followed me after that, along with imagining the horrible plots that could be seen on Without A Trace, make me cringe. I can only chalk it up to the fact that I was tired, overwhelmed with the party, and suffering from low blood sugar. But anyone knows that no matter what my excuse was, it was a bad decision whether it was subconscious or not. Should I beat myself up about it? No, because thankfully nothing happened, but even if it did, I know someone else has been there.
Someone else has been so sleep deprived in the beginning that they drove a good twenty miles only to realize at the end of the trip they didn’t buckle their little lovey into her car seat. Someone else's mind registered “go” when the green turning arrow in the lane next to them lite up and their lane was still staring at the red light. Luckily there were many people beeping and flipping them off to alert them of this oversight while they were in the middle of a busy intersection.
I’ve begun to ask myself what happened to the woman who was in such control of her thoughts and planner? How can she make such hasty decisions that put her little one at risk? And I soon realize that my mind is so much more full of concerns than it was before. I not only worry about myself, my job, finances, weight-loss, family, and whether or not I ate today, but I’ve got a ton of other things taking up space in my brain now. My daughter’s sleep patterns, food that she will possibly eat, things to do on the weekend to keep her busy, refilling her vitamin prescription, and what to do about her diaper rash are all flooding my ability to think clearly.
So in my and other parents’ defense, yes, we are allowed and inevitably going to make poor decisions. We can just hope that they end up being the right ones and if nothing else, the poor ones result in Cookie Monster enjoying a few more spin cycles to get rid of the jam in his fur.