Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Humility on Parade

High five to anyone who can name that musician.

We took Dot to a birthday party last weekend. Her friend Stella turned 1 (which would have been quite an accomplishment in and of itself, but the showboat decided to take her first steps at her own first birthday party). It was a super cute book-themed party, and there was a baby pool full of beach balls, and Dot lost her mind.
Crazy over-stimulated I-might-eat-your-beard baby face.
This is the first birthday party we've taken Dot to in a couple of months, and it's the first one at which we didn't know the majority of the other parents. Sooooo I found myself acutely aware of my child's behavior and my parenting.

Dot's a baby, so really she's not responsible for anything. But my baby was smooshing watermelon into her hair, throwing Goldfish all over the floor, and generally being an adorable bull in a china shop. The baby across the table from us was daintily sipping applesauce from her GoGo squeeZ packet. No watermelon in her hair. I'm also pretty sure I'm the only parent at the party who whipped out her boob, and I'm 99% sure that while Dot was under Mitch's surveillance, she ate part of a ribbon attached to a balloon.

Anyway, I was so self-conscious the whole time I was there. Did people think I was being awful for doing baby-led weaning (hence the watermelon/pineapple hair)? Did people think I was being indulgent for giving my baby a muffin made with sugar? Were people uncomfortable when I breastfed my near ten-month-old baby? I thought about it for the past few days, and I came to the conclusion of yes. To all three. In a room of enough people, there are bound to be those who disagree with my parenting choices, just as I disagree with others' parenting choices. But that is to say, I disagree with them for my child in my family in our circumstances (well...let's not be too gentle, some parenting choices I simply disagree with in general, but that's neither here nor there). And honestly, I don't know how to stop wondering whether people are judging me. I am an incredibly insecure mother, and I feel like this is becoming a common thread in this blog. I worry constantly about how people view my parenting style. I mostly worry that people will think I'm harming my daughter in some way (cry-it-out while on vacation in a house full of family and friends was nothing short of torture), and that they question my fitness. I worry that I'm ruining Dot, and that other people can tell.

I wonder if some of this comes with my age. We waited a really. Long. Time to have kids. We got educated, bought a house, screwed around with our money and our lives, got more educated, and then had a baby. And I think it made me think too hard about everything. I wonder if we had had a baby when we were young (when we wanted to name a baby Cosby. Really.), if we wouldn't have worried as much. Ignorance is bliss, you know? When you're young, you just don't know as much. You haven't spent years watching your friends raise kids, and years working in juvenile detention, in a domestic violence shelter, in schools, in a child abuse center. You don't know just enough. Just enough to make you crazy.

And poor Dot. Poor poor Dot. Being the firstborn to a crazy mom who wants everyone to think she's got it all figured out. She bears a burden particular to the eldest children of aging hipsters. I act like I don't care, but I analyze every word that comes out of my mouth (have I mentioned I don't say "good job," but "nice work," to highlight her efforts rather than her accomplishments?). I avoid branded, gendered toys and books, and I never tell her she's a "good girl." I try to find the balance between being a helicopter and giving her control over her environment, which I think might ultimately be confusing. It's a good thing that she's ruthlessly independent. She's unapologetic and, if she could talk, she would never mince words. And, did I mention, she outlived her twin? That's for another day.

The point is Dot's a survivor. She's a fighter. And a beast who doesn't cry when she gets shots. I should realize that she'll be fine despite my best efforts. I should spend less time worrying about what I look like to other parents and spend more time living in the moments I spend with my daughter. And maybe this wine-soaked ramble is just to say I'm trying. I'm aware and I'm trying.