While not an original idea by any means, I was definitely a better parent before I had children.
I’d see a child misbehaving in public and watch how his awful parent handled it, knowing that my child would NEVER act that way and if they did I’d handle it SO much better than his terrible mother. There was a whole list of things of things I definitely would or wouldn’t do as a parent. Among them, my child would never wear anything with a character on it, would never order off the children’s menu, and would never misbehave in public. Cut to a few years later when I’m ordering mac and cheese for my screaming toddler who’s wearing a “Toy Story” shirt.
I think everyone has certain ideas of what is most important to them as a parent. I’m not talking about big things like religion–more the little weird things that we think will make us exceptional parents, not just average ones. Things we get to be all sanctimommious about. Some people refuse to feed their child anything jarred. Some insist on their kid listening only to Mozart. I’ve heard of one woman who is so anti-processed food that she even makes her own ketchup. Her own KETCHUP, people. In the end, I don’t think most of these make the huge difference that we like to think they do.
I’m not without my own set of parenting idiosyncrasies, though I’d never go so far as to make ketchup. (Now I’m curious. Wow, this sounds delicious. I might have to backtrack on that ketchup comment.)
One of my big things before I had kids was TV. Surely, when I had kids, my precious puppykins would never watch any TV until they were at least 3 years old. For the boy, we held out until he was a bit closer to 2 years old before he was watching anything on a regular basis, and even then never saw a full length movie until he was closer to 3. The only way that we made it this long is because I’m not a stay-at-home mom. If I was, the kids would have had their daily TV hour starting in infancy to provide me with some sanity. The girl was corrupted much younger and already runs around asking, “Watch teebee? Nemo? Shaaks? Scaow me!” (Translation: “Can I watch ‘Finding Nemo’ in its entirety? Those sharks are somewhat frightening but brilliant representations of how we all face our own demons.” God, she’s bright.)
Still, I never quite understood the need for having a television in the car. I HATE televisions in cars. I don’t understand why children need constant entertainment, and electronic at that. What’s wrong with talking to other people in the car, looking out the window, reading books or even (gasp!) being bored for a few moments and letting your mind wander? Usually my kids grab a book to read in the car or we have some nice chats.
Recently, though, my ideal was tested. I drove from Denver to Moab by myself with both children. I’d rented a minivan so that my parents, who were vacationing there, could ride back with us.
It’s one thing to be able to go for short car ride with small kids without resorting to television, but would I make it for 7 hours?
My first plan was to not even let on that there was any TV capability in the car. This lasted all of two minutes before the boy checked out the car and started pushing on panels and yelped, “There’s a TV!! Can we watch TV?!”
Sigh. I said that we don’t watch TV in the car–we look around, we talk to each other, we read books, we listen to music. Disappointed, the boy strapped himself into his carseat and we took off. Truthfully, I fully expected to play a movie, but wanted to see how long they’d make it first. Or how long I’d make it.
The first hour and a half was fine–they read books, played with a few toys, and looked for bighorn sheep on the side of the highway. We stopped in Vail for food, which ended unceremoniously with us racing through Vail village to get back to our car while holding the girl away from me as far as I could. In a moment of great parenting brilliance I’d decided not to bring a spare diaper. She pooped once and I figured she could go commando because surely, she wouldn’t poop a second time. I was wrong. Considering how different we look, I half expect some people thought I was kidnapping a little blond girl and was waiting for someone to call the cops.
The rest of the trip was dotted with a few stops for bathroom breaks and gas. Glenwood springs is beautiful to drive through. Then we crossed into Utah and hit 2 hours of the most boring drive I’ve seen. It almost rivals Kansas in lack of interest.
I kept waiting for the inevitable, “Can we watch TV now?” from the back seat.
But it never came–we made the entire way there (and later the entire way back) without once popping in a video.
Unbelieveable. And you know what? The ride was actually fun. We listened to a few science podcasts, sang along to Dan Zanes and the Dino5, and had some good conversations. (As my Facebook friends know, my favorite one began with the boy asking me, “Hey, Mom, could we get a dead body sometime to make a mummy out of it?”)
More importantly, I now have one pre-parenting ideal that I’ve been able to carry through with, which clearly makes me an exceptional parent.
And now I have to go watch TV. 30 Rock is on!