Near the end of our 13-hour drive home from West Virginia for the holidays, having just carried two grease-and-chocolate covered children out of several big box stores in search of a portable dvd player, my husband observed, "I never thought we'd be a two-dvd-car kind of family. Boy, parenting is just one long serving of humble pie, isn't it."
It's so true. It was so much easier to be a perfect parent before we had kids. We had all kinds of idealistic ideas like that our kids would sleep in cribs and not watch tv and be easily potty-trained and all. It was really easy to look down my nose at other parents making very different choises than I would. One of parenting's biggest lessons is that it's never safe to judge another parent. Because the minute you're feeling the tiniest bit smug because someone else's child is being carried kicking and screaming out of the library instead of yours and the librarian has just complimented your child's excellent vocabulary, your three-year-old will use her excellent vocabulary to announce loudly, "I want to poop in a diaper." After her steadfast refusal to poop in the diaper in a normal place like a public restroom, she will station herself in a little nook by the grown-up dvd shelves and tell you, "Don't talk to me in my stinky place," while she proceeds to make various grunting noises, and you wager how far you can stand from her while pretending this is not actually your child, but still keeping an eye on her. You will be just far enough away to still hear her say in a straining sort of voice. "I'm pooping" in case anyone couldn't figure that out.
Or you might be feeling kind of proud because your kid is browsing the toy aisles at a store and not begging for everything in sight and then you turn around to find your child with their slightly-too-large-pants down around their thighs, scratching an itch, and then they announce, "Mom, I have a big hole in my underpants." These are the moments when a humble parent is made.
Since it's January, I've been spending some time looking back on the last year and what goals I reached like learning to bake bread and grow a garden and preserve our garden produce, which feels pretty good. But I also must admit, there are a few things I've failed at. I realized that the surest way for me to fail at something is to announce my goal on my blog before I actually do it. There's that humble thing again.
So it is that I must admit that I am a cloth-diaper failure. My one-week vacation over the 4th of July has somehow turned into a six-month vacation and really shows no signs of becoming temporary at all. I really don't have a good excuse except to say that I have a strong streak of laziness, there was an awful lot of laundry, and I couldn't ever quite get the rhythm right of how often to change the baby. Oh and I am way more motivated by the smell of baking bread than by the smell of poop. I applaud all of you who are doing the hard work of cloth diapering. You rock. I guess a radical, eco-housewife, I will never be.
As I get older, the I am discovering that even though there are things that I think are really important things to do and that ideally, in my head, I should be able to do, in reality, it really doesn't work for me. That was true when I used to think I wanted to be a teacher and then spent a summer teaching small children and proved myself very wrong. It was also true of being a church-planter and being a working mom. And I guess it's true with using cloth diapers too. Overall with parenting, we've found that there is a delicate benefit to misery ratio and if the misery is outweighing the benefit to our family, we're usually quick to choose a little bit of extra happiness per family member to guilt and misery for the sake of an ideal.On the upside it's kind of a relief to let those things go and start exploring the things God has gifted me to do and I enjoy like baking from scratch and writing and reading and learning old-fashioned skills. So I've come up with some new goals for 2010, but I hope you won't mind that I don't announce them until the year is over.