Raising Richmond: You’re doing it wrong

By “it” I mean “parenting.” And be “you” I mean “me”…I guess.

Hey, friends. After writing Raising Richmond for almost four years, it’s high time I hand the reins over to someone new. The smart, hilarious, and thoughtful Kelly Gerow–formally of 5 Things for Families–will be handling things now. Trust me, you’ll love her. (And thanks for reading.) — Val

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I’m worn out by articles shared by Internet friends about how we’re all doing great as mothers (seldom just as “parents”) and that the choices we make in our parenting styles are always the right ones and that it’s OK to fail, and also something about GMOs.

Clearly I stopped paying attention to these articles (those and the “all the other moms are doing this wrong” ones, too). Not because I didn’t find value in that kind of support in the past, but mostly because I have accepted some of my “bad” parenting. Here are some opportunities where I could certainly step up and be a better mom–and maybe I will consider it later.

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My child watches too much television

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children under two shouldn’t watch TV, but we felt that our daughter was ready at 18 months. She’d been watching Nick Jr. and PBS shows while at her sitter’s house, and it was nice that she had developed an interest in things independent of us, such as Bubble Guppies. It was cute to see her engaged with the shows and dance and sing along. Pulling up clips of those shows online was also a great way to get her to sit down for a few extra minutes when we needed it (fun fact: one of her favorite things to watch before she turned two was Singin’ In the Rain–there is nothing about Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly tearing it up during “Moses Supposes” that a kid wouldn’t like).

Now she’s three and watches up to 45 minutes of TV when she comes home on weekdays. It started as a sometimes treat, but now it’s an every night thing. She’ll watch one or two episodes of a show she likes on Netflix while her dad and I unwind, take care of the pets, and make dinner. On weekends she might watch more than that (by “might,” I mean “definitely”).

I should feel bad, but, as it turns out, TV is a great babysitter! I get a lot done while she’s watching the pirate princess episode of Jake and the Never Land Pirates on repeat.

I have given up on vegetables

We are lucky to have a quality produce stand in our neighborhood. During visits over the summer, my daughter bonded with the woman who ran the stand. They knew each other’s names and played games while I looked around. My daughter also helped pick out our vegetables and knew every item on the table. One of the last times we left to walk home, she and her friend hugged goodbye, and their embrace was so serious and sweet that it was like a daughter saying goodbye to her mother before leaving for college. Her relationship with the woman who runs the produce stand is especially funny to me since she hates vegetables.

She used to eat them, but that stopped around age two. She picks out all flecks of green, rejects all vegetables on her plate, and often just reminds me, even when we’re not eating, “I don’t like vegetables.” She used to eat a carrot sometimes, but even that’s off her radar now.

I can’t sneak vegetables in her food because she notices, and she wouldn’t stand for it. I’ve just given up, probably too early. Her parents eat vegetables daily, so she knows that’s what people do. I’m not interested in making anyone eat something they don’t want to, and I’m not going to waste any more time making something for her that she won’t try. I know she’ll turn eventually. I’ll see where she stands when she’s five.

We are “cry it out” parents

When we were transitioning her to her own crib before I went back to work at around eight weeks, we let her “cry it out” so she could learn to soothe and fall asleep on her own. We all started to sleep better. The tears before bedtime didn’t last long, and she was up to 10-12 hours of sleep at night by six months (our pediatrician told us not to tell other parents that because it was so unusual how well she was doing). Crying it out is not a popular method, and I get why. It was hard at first, but it worked for us. Of course her sleeping patterns have changed a lot, but so have our responses (it definitely was difficult to ignore when she got up during the night and cried for “Kelly”).

She sometimes gets up immediately after going to bed and will bang on the door and cry. Typically we go back in and put her back down to sleep. Unless it’s a Monday night and How I Met Your Mother is on. It’s the only show we watch when it’s on because we can’t stream it on our TV the next day like other shows. So a few times this season we’ve let her cry until 8:30, and if she’s not back in bed by then one of us goes back to sit with her. That sounds terrible. But in my defense: How I Met Your Mother has been really good this season.

I look at my phone constantly

“Mom/Dad, come here,” said every kid ever.

“Give me five minutes. I’m reading or reposting an article about how good of a parent I am,” replied most of the parents.

Everyone with a smartphone looks at their phone constantly and is rude to everyone around them in the process. But it’s a hard habit to curb. Personally, I have to have rules for myself: no phone at the dinner table, no phone in her room, etc. If we all cut down our time with our phones by half, we’re still spending too much time with the phones and not with our kids. I’ve been guilty of uploading a photo of her on Instagram instead of paying attention to her in real time, which is dumb. She’s here now, and the camera roll on my phone will be there later.

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There’s a whole slew of other bad parenting things I do: I let her eat too many sweets; I don’t want to sign her up for a weekend sport because I don’t want to spend my Saturday mornings doing a sport; she keeps getting her hands on knives in the kitchen; I don’t remember her measurements at birth; I take her into daycare when she has a cold (unless it’s the first day of the cold (don’t ask me what that logic is, but she gets her colds from there, anyway); I never really stopped swearing. I also bite my nails around her, which she has started to do.

But I think when she’s older, when asked about her parents, she’ll say that we were good. We are distracted and worn out, but we’re loving and supportive, and she’s healthy, happy, and kind. So I don’t care what the Internet says about us now.

(I should probably step up on that knife thing though.)

Photo by: Jack Zalium

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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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