I am a “good enough parent,” but I am a really crappy tooth fairy.
I forgot, again, last night. I think I have remembered once. Thank god it’s the older girl, and she knows it’s me, and she knows that I’ve had a lot on my mind. Oh, who am I kidding? She knows that I have no short-term memory anymore. I have been on Topamax for two years for headache prevention, and my medical friends jokingly refer to this as “dope-amax” because it makes you “stoopid.” I would have had to put a post-it on my bedroom door, and I didn’t.
But judging from some of the Facebook feeds I have seen from all of the other negligent fairies, I know it’s not just the medicine that affects me: it’s parenthood. It is freakin’ complicated, and our brains are on overload. When I was first pregnant and working full-time as a nurse, the memory dullness was just starting to affect me on the job. One of the older nurses said, “Oh honey, that’s just placenta brain. You’ll get used it.”
“When does it go away?”
I don’t think it has anything to do with chemistry, rather, it has to do with the sheer amount of information that we need to cram into our brains now that we have ourselves and dependent people to manage. With each added dependent, it gets worse. Medical and dental appointments, field trip forms, haircuts, favorite flavors of chips, favorite colors, birthday parties, science fair projects, the list goes on and on. Add to that, reminders to keep good posture, drink enough fluids, not twist their arms around in their sockets, wear their orthotics, do their PT, take collagen supplements, wash their face and use moisturizer, floss, and 1,000 other things that we have to say and do to get these creatures socially acceptable by the time they are 18, and you’re fried.
When I first started taking the horrible drug, (can you believe some people take this for weight loss?) Life was very, very rough. When Mommy goes down, everybody goes down with her. I was a zombie for months, and I had to develop external coping skills really fast. The first thing I did was use my smart phone for everything: I used my calendar, and set reminders and alarms for all appointments. My iPhone screams at me all day long now. I also use a lot of physical reminders: there are post-its all around, and I painted a giant blackboard wall in my kitchen that my children call “Mommy’s brain.”
If we’re out of food, “put it on the wall.” If it’s not on the wall, it doesn’t happen. (Green tip: take a photo of your shopping list so you don’t have to write it down). I made sure to reserve a section of the wall that I call “Caught being Awesome” where I note things they did well, because many days I feel like all I do is nag and yell (but none of you know what that’s like, right?
In spite of all of these coping mechanisms, teeth are left under pillows. Forms are not signed. Appointments are missed. Relatives’ birthdays are missed (that was fun…) I have had to learn to do two very important things:
1. Learn how to give a really good apology. If you don’t know how to do this, there is actually a formula. In The Last Lecture, (also available as a book) Randy Pausch describes “proper apologies have three parts: 1) What I did was wrong. 2) I’m sorry that I hurt you. 3) How do I make it better? It’s the third part that people tend to forget…. Apologize when you mess up and focus on other people, not on yourself.” I make my kids give good apologies every time – as Randy puts it, “a bad apology is like rubbing salt in the wound.” And I model it by giving good apologies to them as fast as I can. Learning humility has been a hard, but rewarding, lesson for me.
2. Know that the mess ups are probably making your kids better people. This goes beyond forgiving yourself for messing up: it means embracing the mistakes as a necessary part of your kid’s healthy development. That is what it means to be a “good enough parent” and not a “perfect parent.” I remember the first time I really lost it with my first child, because she had pushed my buttons and I yelled at her. I cried to my friend, and he said, “It’s better that she learn boundaries from the person who loves her more than anyone in the world, than from a world that doesn’t love her at all.” So, if you’re doing really well, and you have it all together, go screw up sometimes. It’s good for them.
(first published on Blogger on 4/3/14 7:46 AM Pacific Daylight Time)