by Meika Rouda
I have never heard of a straight single man adopting a baby but that is exactly the situation my friend found herself in when she replied to a post for a nanny position. In all the seminars, chat groups, adoption books I have read, I really haven’t heard of men adopting alone. Women, yes but men? This guy is 55, handsome and wealthy and works out of his mansion in San Francisco. Apparently he recently broke up with a woman whom he had been with for many years that didn’t want children. Although he had always wanted a child, he had not started down the adoption road until he received a call from a woman who used to work for him saying she had a friend who had a teenage daughter that was pregnant and was he interested in adopting the baby? That is how he came to be a father.
The little girl is beautiful and he blogs about her everyday, snapping a photo and writing up a little post. But that is about all he does with the baby. He has a nanny there 24 hours a day 7 days a week. One for the day time shift of 8AM-8PM and one for the night time shift of 8PM-8AM. My friend has worked for him several times and said she has never seen him hold the baby (except for her blog photo) or feed the baby. He has never come to her comfort when she wakes up in the middle of the night crying, that is something the nanny does. Or change a diaper. He has no idea of the joy you feel holding a newborn child and feeding her a bottle while she looks up at you, amazed. The little girl is now 5 months old and is happy and thriving but she is missing out on having a parent. This man is totally dependent his crew of nannys. I wonder how much searching this guy did before he signed up to adopt, if he really could grasp what it means to be a parent and how vital bonding is. While the girl has lots of caregivers, she has no parent. Is this wrong? The man seems to love his daughter but he is totally disconnected from her. He just wants to buy her presents and enjoy her when she is happy and cooing. This little girl will probably always grow up with several nanny’s and maybe it is a guy thing but I know plenty of men who comfort their crying babies and change diapers, my husband being one of them.
My hope is that this fellow will come around, that someone will tell him that he needs to step it up sometimes and be the primary caregiver, even if he has a nanny there. This little girl needs to know he is there for her, that he can take care of her, that he is the constant in her life. That is what being a parent is about, not just buying gifts and posing for portraits.
By: Meika Rouda
I found my birthmom on Google the other day. It was not the first time I had Googled her but it was the first time anything came up. It was her wedding announcement published in a Pittsburgh paper 35 years ago, a few years after I had been born and given up for adoption.
The more I looked the more I discovered, including the names of her four children – my half siblings. So I Googled them and found their profiles on Facebook, their smiling faces posing with friends, their eyes the same as mine. I realized I could “friend” them and wondered what it would feel like to get an invitation from someone you don’t know but who looks like you. I was pretty sure I was a secret to them.
A few search results later, I found my birthmom’s current address and phone number, learned the name of the school where she was a French teacher for 10 years, and her income for the tax year 1998. I discovered the address of every house she had lived in for the past two decades, how much she and her husband paid for their current home as well as a real estate photo of its exterior: a white stucco two-story on the banks of the Savannah, Georgia river. The house was plain, neat, and modest –the type of house that doesn’t want to be noticed.
Several years ago I had considered hiring a private investigator to find this very house, to find my birth mom. I wanted to tell her that she had done the right thing giving me up, that I was fine, very loved by my parents and know her decision was the right one for her and also for me. That I felt she was brave and selfless and honorable and that I am grateful to her. That I hoped she had gone on to finish college, get married, and start a family of her own when she was ready. That I had hoped she was not living with regret. But I didn’t hire the detective, I can’t remember why.
And now I don’t need the detective. I had just exposed the majority of her life in one 10-minute Google binge. It was the first time in my life that she became a very real person with a job, a family, a home –and not some romantic character whose narrative I had composed in my mind. She became someone I could know.
I imagined her in her house on the Savannah river, sitting on a faded plaid sofa, watching an old movie on TV or maybe reading a favorite book in French. The photos of her smiling children lining the beige walls, maybe she had grandchildren or maybe she had a dog by her side like I do. I could dial her number right now and interrupt her reading or her movie watching and introduce myself and maybe there would be silence, maybe there would be tears, maybe it was a call she had been waiting for or maybe it was a call she was dreading would come.
Her phone number started to pulsate on my computer screen, the numbers weaving in and out, calling to me like sirens. My cell phone sat ominously by my side waiting for me to seize my fate. But my hands stayed still on my lap, folded, relaxed, resigned. The moment contacting her became easy, possible, just a phone call away, was the moment I knew I wouldn’t contact her. We would never have the conversation I had always imagined; it became obvious to me that we just didn’t need to.
By Meika Rouda
My son has a lot of energy. I know most 4-year-old boys have a lot of energy, everyone out there with one is going “oh, you should see MY son.” But my son has more than the average 4-year-old. He is loud, without even realizing how loud he is. And he talks or sings or chats constantly, a continuous stream of sound. Sometimes I feel like I am going mad and I realize it is because I live with noise pollution. It isn’t horrible, I love hearing his songs, how he makes up lyrics or asks insightful questions. He is exuberant, expressive, and lives life to the fullest…volume. He has no filter yet, no self consciousness to halt his feelings, he goes from happy to sad in an instant, celebrates the smallest things like getting hand me down shoes that have laces – laces! What a concept. He can have a full school day, ride his bike for an hour after school, and then go swimming for an hour and still NOT BE TIRED. He is also able to calm himself, playing legos quietly by himself in his room or looking at books but that is not his natural state and never lasts long. His natural state is excitable, high, and full of life.
And sometimes what we love the most about someone is also what drives us crazy. My husband and I struggle with managing this whirling dervish of a roommate, who runs through the house never walking, who has no volume control and has no autopilot switch. Many times we use a hand motion to remind him to lower his voice, I turn an imaginary knob and he will quiet down, from volume 10 to volume 7. He is like a race car always revving. And there are times when managing this bundle of energy, his natural mass of combustable excitement is too hard. I don’t want to squash his spirit, be the parent always yelling at him to be quiet. I love his enthusiasm even when it drives me crazy. But silence is nice too and knowing when to be loud and when to be quiet is actually a learned quality, not innate for everyone. So I try to help realize when to be more quiet, that telling me a story at the dinner table, at volume 9.5 isn’t necessary, I can hear it at volume 5 or even 4. That you don’t have to scream when you sing. That sometimes being quiet offers you a the ability to hear wonderful sounds like birds and crickets. But that isn’t my son, and when he is quiet, it actually makes me a little nervous. I always ask him “are you feeling OK” instead of enjoying the quiet. And ironically, the quiet is only nice for a little while before I start missing the noise.
By Meika Rouda
I got that call the other day, the one mothers hate to get, the one from the director of the school saying “Nothing urgent, your son is fine but do give me a call, there is something I would like to discuss with you.” This isn’t good. She isn’t calling to say what an amazing child you have, she is calling because your son did something inappropriate and it is worth bringing to your attention. I called her back and she told me what happened. She was calm and didn’t think it was a big deal, she knows my son well, but she thought it a good idea for me to know so I could talk to him about it at home.
Apparently during nap time, my son told a girl new to his class to “go pee in your bed.” There was no touching or anything physical just a mention of a bad idea. He is known to be full of bad ideas, like this one, usually to do with urine or flushing things like Barbies down the toilet. He told another friend to pee all over his sister’s bed and, well, the boy did it. Or another friend to pee on the slide at the park -again, the boy did it. My son never participates in the act of course, he just tells other people to do things they shouldn’t. I have spoken to him about it several times but he is mischievous and apparently likes to see what he can get his friends to do. I don’t know how I feel about this trait but I think he is just testing boundaries and seeing what he can and can’t get away with.
So he had this suggestion for the new girl who was upset by his request. So upset that she didn’t nap, avoided my son all day and told her mom after school who called the teacher and the director of the school. I don’t think my son is a bully but I am not sure. I think because he was so late to potty train, he has anxiety about his body functions (especially before nap) and was probably seeing if this girl wet the bed then he wouldn’t worry if he did.
Anyway, this girl was very, very upset and when I tried to talk to my son about what had happened -how we don’t ask other people to do things with their bodies, especially when they say they don’t want to -he just shut down and said ” I don’t want to talk about it.”
I know he was talked to at school and probably rehashing what had happened wasn’t what he wanted to do but I was hoping to get to the root of why he asked the girl to do this. Was it because he needed to go to the bathroom before nap but didn’t want to ask the teacher? Did he just want to see if she would do it? Did he wet his bed? But when I brought it up again, he told me the teacher had already talked to him and he didn’t want to talk about it.
So when does something like this, which I think was innocent testing, become bullying? When the intention is to hurt someone or force them to do something they don’t want to as opposed to bringing up a bad idea and letting them decide to do it or not? Is it if there is a threat involved? Does bullying start this young, at age 4? I am really hoping this isn’t a continuous theme, that the more comfortable my son is with his own body functions and using the potty, this issue will go away but maybe it won’t. Maybe it will be something else. How do we manage bullies, especially if you love and adore them and know they are good kids who just happen to have bad ideas sometimes?
By: Meika Rouda
I always hated that saying, that what you dislike in others is what you see in yourself. But while I was on vacation last week I was confronted with exactly that.
I was at a pool in Lake Tahoe with my kids and my dad. It is the pool my dad was a life guard at sixty years ago (when he was in high school) and we return every summer so he can take a swim and reminiscence. There is a kiddie pool and my kids jumped in as soon as we got there, wading in the two-foot deep water and playing with a girl who was already swimming in the pool. The girl was named Olive and she was the same age as my son but was more interested in playing with my toddler daughter. Olive gave Asha a swim floaty and was happily chatting and showing us her floppy dog paddle. Her mother came by to tell her she had five minutes left before they had to go. The mother was my age, stylish and pretty and looked like someone I would know. Olive was delightful and my kids and I were enjoying her company. She was outgoing, funny, and friendly. A great kid. Her mother finished packing up and came over again to warn Olive that there were “two minutes left.” Olive protested, she didn’t want to leave, but her mother ignored her and put her baby brother in the stroller along with their bag. Olive continued to swim so I said calmly, “Olive, I think your mom is ready to go, maybe you should get out of the pool. We are going to leave soon too.” She just looked at me and kept swimming. Olive’s mom started to walk toward us and lost her patience along the way from the chaise lounge to the kiddie pool. Her gait became quick and agitated, her face puckered with annoyance. I recognized that face immediately, it was the face of someone on the verge. “OLIVE” she yelled “NOW”. “No Mom, I don’t want to go.” Olive kept swimming. And that is when her mom lost it .
“OLIVE GET OUT OF THE POOL NOW!” she screamed. It made me uncomfortable, like I was witnessing a private moment in a very public space. My kids stopped swimming and stared at Olive’s mom.
“I MEAN IT! I WILL NEVER TAKE YOU TO THE POOL AGAIN-EVER!” Her voice was getting louder, I felt embarrassed for her. This was definitely not her best moment. I wondered if she would look back on the day and feel some sadness at her behavior. Now everyone at the pool was looking at her but she didn’t seem to notice or if she did, she didn’t care. Her hands were on her hips, she was in a stand-off with Olive.
She then bent down and got into the pool fully clothed, walking toward Olive, her black terry cloth dress skimming the water. She grabbed Olive’s arm and yanked her out of the pool as she continued to scream “YOU WILL NEVER GO TO THE POOL AGAIN!” Olive was crying hysterically. She smacked Olive on the butt and Olive wailed. It was a scene. I felt bad for Olive and I felt bad for her mom.
I know what it is like to try and wrangle two kids to leave somewhere when they don’t want to. Often I am the mom at the park thinking up ways to make leaving fun. “I’ll race you to the car!” or up the ante with incentive to make it easier -”We can make cookies when we get home!” But it can be frustrating, especially when you get into a power struggle. I have learned, by being the mom who has yelled and screamed and been utterly furious that my child(ren) won’t listen, LISTEN! that once I get into the power struggle realm, it is over, I always lose, even if I get my way, I still lose because I have gotten to an ugly place where I don’t like myself as a parent. Where I am yelling at a four-year-old who really doesn’t understand why I am so mad and just wants to continue playing. Most of the time, my yelling is confined to the house; I have yet to have a huge public outburst (thankfully) but when I watched Olive’s mom, I did see myself and I didn’t like it. Olive didn’t deserve that much anger just for wanting to swim and have fun, just as my kids don’t deserve it when I lose it on them for not brushing their teeth, when I asked them five time- FIVE TIMES!!
But seeing that interaction did give me a chance to reflect. I never feel good after I yell at my kids, no one does. But now when I get that feeling, of complete frustration, when I am on the verge, I am going to take a breath and remember Olive and her mom and what losing it on a four-year-old looks like.
By: Meika Rouda
I have been trying to talk to my 4-year-old about adoption. Any time we see a pregnant woman I point her out and say “that mommy is pregnant with a baby. You were once a baby in someone’s belly too but it wasn’t my belly it was Shannon’s belly…” I briefly explain how Shannon wanted him to come and live with us and that is how I became his mommy. Usually my son just stares at me and doesn’t respond. He shows no interest. But the other day I brought it up again, this time in reference to airplane travel. My husband and I were going on a trip and I was telling my son early to help him prepare for our absence. “Mommy and Daddy are going on a trip. Remember when we went on the airplane to pick up your sister..” and on I went about the pregnant other mommy who carried his sister and wanted her to come live with us so that is how Asha became a part of our family. I keep it simple, basic, just the facts.
This time he had questions. “Did you come and pick me up too?” “Yes” I answered, “You grew in Shannon’s belly and then when you were born Daddy and I flew on the airplane to pick you up.”
Kaden thought for awhile and then said “I don’t want to grow in Shannon’s belly. I want to grow in Daddy’s belly.”
I didn’t know how to respond so I said, “Daddies can’t have babies but if Daddy could grow you in his belly he would.”
I wasn’t sure if this was true, I never asked my husband if he were able to be pregnant and give birth would he but I felt confident that in the context of this conversation, it was safe to say he would. And that was that. Kaden went back to singing a song and looking out the window. Conversation over.
I often struggle with talking to my kids about adoption. It is ironic since I grew up knowing I was adopted and it never seemed to be a big deal in my family. But this was the first time Kaden actually acknowledged something about birth, about being born, about how families become families. I know this is all about keeping the lines of communication open and not having any secrets and when he is ready to ask questions he will but birth is very abstract to a 4 year old. The fact that he recognizes that he grew somewhere that wasn’t my belly (or his daddy’s) feels like a breakthrough. Maybe next time he will have questions about Shannon or why he didn’t grow in my belly but for now I am happy that at least the notion of adoption is out there and not something to be afraid of talking about. Since we are not in contact with the birthmothers directly, I also need to prepare myself for the idea that my children may feel differently about their adoptions than I did. They may want to contact their birth families. And that will be their choice but I know this is the first of many conversations I will have them about where they came from and how we became a family, grown in Daddy’s belly or not.
Interview with Meika Rouda by The Next Family
TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?
This is my first time blogging and it has been wonderful writing for TNF. The community is vibrant and active and I have learned many insights from readers. It has also provided a safe place to discuss all aspects of adoption, from finding my birthmom on Google to difficulties parenting my own two adopted children. I appreciate the common ground and ability to say what I want unedited in a community forum.
TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?
I like to tease my husband that he is the odd man out because he is the only person in our immediate family not adopted. We are a regular nuclear family with a mom, dad, daughter, and son; we just don’t have a biological connection.
TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.
I am grateful that as an adoptee, I have always felt very loved by my family both nuclear and extended. I have never felt any different than the members of my family, like cousins and aunts, who are biologically connected. As adoptive parents, we have never confronted any judgment about our decision to adopt. It has always been a very happy and loving choice and embraced by our family and friends. That said I have been confronted with little mishaps that have stopped me in my tracks. Like when I had a friend ask me what it is like to mother “somebody else’s baby.” So although everyone is happy for us, there are still some misconceptions and stigmas attached. I have also had a family friend tell me how wonderful it is “what we are doing for those children.” The truth is “those children” made us a family, which was our dream. While these comments are rare, they do happen.
TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?
Being a working mom was one of the hardest things I did. I felt like a spinning wheel twenty-four hours a day. My job was stressful and I was not able to be the parent I wanted to be. It was hard to admit that working full time and mothering was too much for me. I wanted to be the super mom who can handle it all but I was depressed, moody, and strung out. I work freelance now so it is job to job and the stress is more manageable and the gigs are short term so I can be a mom most of the time. We have a lot less money because of it and have had to make some adjustments to our lifestyle but the sacrifice is worth it for us. I am also fortunate to have my mom and sister nearby who can help when we need child care support.
TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should unlearn?
Children have an amazing ability to forgive one another quickly. If they can hold on to that ability to forgive it will serve them well in life. Forgiveness is one of the hardest lessons to truly learn but one that can have a great impact on how you see the world and how to keep your brain and soul happy. We don’t realize how much we as adults hold on to things that really aren’t important anymore but weigh us down emotionally.
I think parents should unlearn the need to have everything be perfect all the time. Sometimes family life is very challenging and that is OK too, you don’t have to blame yourself or feel that you are failing because your two-year-old refuses to eat or wear clothes. The idea of the perfect, well behaved family is a fallacy. The truth is, parenting is about compromise, negotiation, and reaching deep to find strength when you feel helpless. And when you are trying to rationalize with your dictator of a two-year-old, you sometimes see how perfect those moments of imperfection can be too.
TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?
To remember that families are something we choose to be a part of. Family takes work and is not to be taken for granted. It is something created and held together by love and commitment and you may find yourself having to fight for those relationships. Whether it is getting through a rough patch with your partner or fighting with your teenage daughter, family is a little microcosm of the world order and it is important to work through problems and keep peace. I know many people who don’t speak to their parents or have strained relationships with their siblings and I find that really sad.
TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family?
As an adoptive parent, I feel that because we went through so much to become parents, I need to enjoy every minute of parenthood. Well sometimes I don’t enjoy it, sometimes I am pulling my hair out while trying to get my 4-year-old to stop hitting his sister. It is the way family is and you don’t have to feel badly about struggling sometimes. You get through the hard times and there are so many wonderful moments to balance it out that it is all worth it. But I try to remember that life is about how you navigate the bumps in the road, not how you drive on the freeway.
By: Meika Rouda
“How many of you are adopted?” the keynote speaker asked. I raised my hand. The auditorium was packed with people. Who were they? I wondered. Social workers, adoptees, adoptive families, birthmothers? All of the above. “How many of you have adopted children?” I raised my hand again. The woman next to me, a petite blonde in her late twenties wearing uncomfortable business attire turned to me and said “well you are sure in this aren’t you?” I smiled at her. “How many of you are birthmothers?” The woman next to me raised her hand. She had also raised her hand as an adoptee. I found it fascinating that she was an adoptee and a birth mom. She found it fascinating I was an adoptee and an adoptive mom with no biological children of my own.
Last weekend I attended my first adoption conference. I went there expecting to feel like an outsider, the girl who doesn’t want to know her birthmother, the one who isn’t in touch with her children’s biological families. I ended up finding a lot of people there who felt underrepresented. There were several adoptive fathers who I spoke to that were offended that the common idea is that men are the ones who have to be convinced to adopt when that wasn’t their story at all. They had to convince their wives! These were men who didn’t care about passing on their DNA but had to wait for their wives to come around before they could adopt. This was the norm for them, but not the norm for the data.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard the phrase, “The data says…” People love to rely on data. But where does this data come from? Where do they find the people to interview, to do case studies on? There is a lot of data that state it’s better for a child to know their birthparents. To have a concise story with mementos about their birth family. The idea of this makes my skin crawl and I can’t say exactly why. I guess because it feels so unnatural to me. One of the seminars I attended was about how to talk to your child if you have no contact with your child’s birthmother. Most of the people in the seminar had International Adoptions, situations where it was impossible to know who the birthmother was. Their baby was left in a park in China and taken to an orphanage. They wanted to know how to make that story into something positive. “You can tell them that their birthmother left them somewhere that she knew they would be found quickly. That she waited in the bushes in the park to make sure the baby was picked up by the adoption agency. That she wanted a good life for the baby.” It is nice to create a story for the adoptee although at some point, the girl is going to learn about the Chinese government’s one child per couple law and the fact that girls are not valued in that country which led to her being left in the park.
The seminar leader continued coaching the parent. “And usually these women leave a memento with the child, a piece of cloth or a coin. If they did, make sure you give that to your child. Adoptees cherish mementos from their birthmother. ”
Say what? I have no mementos from my birthmother. Oh, actually I do, I have the correspondence she wrote to the attorney handling my adoption. I suppose it is nice to have these letters but do I cherish them? No. I don’t even know where they are. I think in a box maybe in my garage. What is the memento supposed to represent? That they cared for me?
Another group of the underrepresented were birthmothers who don’t want contact with the children they have placed. These were young women, not older ones who may have suffered the “primal wound” or placed babies unwillingly. These young women feel badly that they don’t want contact because the data says… You get what I am saying.
My main takeaway from the conference was that each adoption is different just as each person is different. Just because I don’t want to know my birthmother or birth family, doesn’t make me wrong or make my experience any less valuable than those who are in touch with their birth families and benefit from that. There really is no right or wrong in adoption except of course secrecy and lies which is harmful in any situation, not just adoption. I admit that there was a point during the day that I was sure I would reach out to my children’s birthmothers. That I would keep tabs on them and make sure they were doing well so I could update my kids on their status. The data had convinced me that this would be good for them. But it feels uncomfortable for me. Should I put my feelings aside to do what the data shows is positive for my kids? I decided at the end of the day not to. To just keep their information for my kids for if/when they want to contact them. That is part of their story, not mine. That should be their choice, not mine.
To me the important part is having access to information. To be able to have the choice to be in touch for all parties involved in the triad. It is their choice and the option is there but I don’t think I need to refer to my son’s birthmother as “Mommy Shannon” in order for him to have a good sense of self and strong identity. She is not someone who is a constant in his life at this moment. I know what the data says and I know what my heart and experience say too.
I wanted to talk to the woman who sat next to me at the conference. I wanted to find out her story, how she came to place a child, whether she was in touch with her own birthmother. It felt good to be in a room with other people who have stories either like mine or different from mine but that we are all touched by how powerful adoption is. The woman left before I could talk to her but as I saw her exit the building. I felt a kinship with her. Our stories may be different but our feelings about adoption being a positive experience are the same.
By Meika Rouda
I had something shocking happen yesterday. Asha and I were in music class, happily singing “Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care” in a circle with the other moms and toddlers. Asha usually meanders during class, dancing around in the center of the circle, walking over to sit on other moms’ laps, or to hug other children. During the middle of the song, just as we were getting into the crescendo chorus, Asha walks over to a little boy, younger than she, and gives him a big hug. I felt a surge of joy in my heart watching her love this little boy. Her hug kept going and she started to squeeze tighter. The little boy was no longer enjoying the hug. Our song continued “Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care…” and by now Asha had wrestled the boy to the ground and he is lying on top of her. She would not let go of him. He was crying now but her hug continued; she was unphased by his discomfort. His mom and I jumped up, attempting to release Asha’s iron grip and just as I was prying her arms off him, she turns her face to his cheek and bites him. Yes BITES HIM. The boy started to cry. His cheek was bleeding. I was in shock. “Did she just bite him?” I ask the other mom, as the song continues in the background, “Yes” she says matter of factly.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Asha is crying, livid that I have released the boy from her grip. I take her out of the class and into the lobby. The other mom is in the bathroom cleaning the boy’s wound. I tell Asha, NO BITING. She stares at me blankly. She is 16 months old and expressing emotion in any way is a top priority, even if it means biting. I calm her down and check on the little boy. The mom is nice and reassuring “These things happen, I know she was just trying to love him.” I sort of felt better but I was also embarrassed and I had to go back into the class with my daughter, the biter, and finish singing. Yikes.
The other mom returned to the room before me, with kleenex attached to her son’s cheek to stop the bleeding. After a few more minutes I return with Asha. I sit down, away from the little boy, and resume my singing, trying to contain Asha and keep her on my lap. She will not sit still; she needs to wander. She headed right back to the little boy. The mom picks him up to protect him from the biter -aka my child. Asha walks over to another little girl and the mom delicately picks up her daughter. “Shit”, I think to myself. Her reputation is ruined, no one wants their kid near the biter. I continue to sing and act as normal as possible. Whenever Asha wanders off I follow her and pick her up. I spend the rest of class monitoring her every move. After class I apologize again to the mom and boy. She is understanding but I also know she will never let her kid be near mine again. My only comfort is that the class ends in two weeks and I don’t think I will be signing up again. I see the teacher and apologize for the interruption. She assures me biting is a normal process of development and happens all the time. She reminds me that toddlers just don’t know what to do with all the emotions they feel. She also says Asha is a very smart girl and very loving and I shouldn’t worry at all. The bite was not malicious, it was just an emotional surge. I feel slightly better.
Our biggest job as parents is to protect our kids so how do we do that when you feel like they are being maligned? What makes it worse is that Asha can’t talk, she can’t tell me what she is feeling, she can’t directly apologize or acknowledge that what she did was wrong. I hope her biting isn’t a habit, it is hard to watch your amazing child physically hurt someone. But it wasn’t on purpose and I know in her heart she wants to express her love, she just needs more tools for that. I am not sure what music class will be like next week but I am not going to worry about what the other moms think. If they don’t want Asha near their kid that is fine, I can’t say I blame them but I also think as a group we can do a better job of helping one another teach our kids and act like a village instead of alienating a toddler for acting like a toddler.
By: Meika Rouda
I don’t know if my standards are lower but I find myself wondering if my parenting is “good enough”. When I say that I don’t mean am I striving to be a better parent, reaching for a higher bar, I mean is my parenting, on the lowest level, good enough. Are my kids safe, loved, fed, cared for. Is it OK if they don’t brush their teeth every night or only take a bath every other day. Is it OK that I let my 4-year-old son sometimes watch two movies in a row. Yes in a ROW. That sometimes he persuades me to feed him breakfast for dinner or eat a cookie before bed. That sometimes I don’t make the effort to be the happy, cheery, always positive role model I am supposed to be. That every now and then I count to 30 before I go into the room to comfort my crying daughter, hoping with all hope that during that countdown she will stop crying and go back to sleep. That last week my son had mac and cheese for dinner, then lunch, then dinner, then lunch and then dinner again. Why? Well he asked for it and I didn’t have the energy to fight it, to try and convince him to eat “one bite of chicken” or “broccoli because it makes your eyes brighter.” That good enough parenting is my standard some days and that is OK. I think I am a good parent, not just a good enough parent but actually a good parent most of the time. I have my faults, I don’t discipline well, I am easily coerced into eating sweets and don’t stick to schedules. But I am a full-time mom with two kids under age 4 and it can be difficult to meet everybody’s needs all of the time. This doesn’t include my dog who never gets walked anymore and has easily gained five pounds in the last year, or my husband who has taken to cooking dinner himself because I am not reliable. Usually I eat whatever mac and cheese my son leaves on his plate and end up going to bed at 8:30 with the kids.
It isn’t everyday I stoop to good enough, some days I am fantastic- I think up clever games to get my son to eat all his dinner and do craft projects and play magna-tiles for an hour. I read books and sing songs and take the kids for bike rides. Some days we bake cookies and have dance parties and I don’t get mad at the mess we made. Some days I am the most loving, fun, and patient parent I know. Every now and then my husband comes home to a delicious home cooked dinner and a cheery wife who asks about his day. Every now and then I even run my dog for an hour. I have actually made everything work out perfectly for everyone some days. And while I wish those perfect days were more frequent than they actually are, they do happen. And when they don’t, I am OK settling for good enough because no one has perfect days all the time. Do they?