Where Did "Fun Mom" Go?
I have often said that I could take my current skill set from 12+ years of motherhood, start over, and seriously rock it. One or two kids (instead of the five I have now) would be so easy. I'd be super mom.
But recently I had a wake-up call that made me think it might be the other way around. Last week, I asked readers on Instagram to share how they get kids to try new foods. My sister-in-law posted this:
"Most of my tricks come from you. 😊 We have contests of who can hurt mom’s ears the most with how loudly they crunch their veggies. Or we play ninjas and they have to sneak bites without me seeing. Or we’re giants and our food turns into trees (broccoli) or boulders ( meatballs) or snakes (noodles). I also tell them what super power they’re getting when they eat their food....when they eat their carrots they get super eye sight. We also eat with toothpicks or chopsticks or put our dinners in muffin trays....man no wonder I’m exhausted after dinner. My kids are getting a full on dinner and a show. 😊"
I was floored. It took me a few seconds to even remember which of those ideas were from me (loud crunching, toothpicks, muffin trays, maybe more). We used to encourage my two oldest boys to "dominate" their food, and chant their names until they did. I did voices for their food and gave a play-by-play as it slid down the dark tunnel of their esophaguses to rejoin the food friends in their stomachs.
Where did that fun mom go? Maybe that young, inexperienced mom was actually the super mom. In the same picky-eater scenario now, my youngest children are lucky if their fork turns into a choo-choo train or airplane. My go-tos are nagging, threatening, and scolding. I used to dance more. I used to spend hours making marble obstacle courses out of cardboard and paper cups.
What happened? Well, three more children, for one thing. I'm much busier and my attention is more divided. I may not be as sleep deprived as when I had babies, but I'm more mentally and emotionally exhausted by dinnertime.
But I think the real reason is triage. I know now that the little kids are eventually going to eat lasagna, whether or not I do voices. I'm conserving my energy for the next phase of the day: simultaneously putting little ones to bed and supervising homework for the big ones. There are just more demands on my time and energy.
In the scheme of things, the older children will inevitably get the lion's share of my time, because with them I'm always learning, and I'm always inexperienced. My two oldest had a mom who followed them around the playground making sure they didn't fall off anything. I overpacked and over-prepared for every outing. I micromanaged playdates, planned activities for maximum sensory stimulation, and read piles of books to them in the middle of the day. Now, I sit up with them doing school projects and sorting out issues with friends. I eventually kind of figured out the baby thing, the preschool thing, and the elementary school thing, but now I'm in Tweenland.
It's a timeless parenting paradox: who are the lucky ones? The oldest children benefit by getting more of my time in the long run, but the younger ones benefit from all the things I learned about parenting (mostly from the mistakes I made) along the way. The oldest ones had me to play with, but the youngest have lots of other kids to play with. Ask any adult with at least one sibling, and they'll tell you the same story. The big ones got all the attention; the younger ones got away with way more as teenagers and had later curfews.
I guess the best we can do is be aware of the inequity of it all--to remember to bring fun mom back for the little guys once in a while, and to chill out with the big ones. And, most importantly, to never stop dancing.