We moved to Brooklyn over a year and a half ago, and here’s the thing I learned quickly about parenting in the city: There are eyes everywhere. I’ve been through self-inflicted fires of feeling judged for my parenting or lack thereof. And I’ve been far too observant of how other people are doing things, when before moving to the city, I pretty much stuck with my mommy gut.
It’s only been in the past few months, probably as I’ve settled into the constant rush of the world around me, that I’ve decided to own my mothering style…even its flaws. Surely whatever I judge myself for severely, my children will always remember as the things that made me fun—particularly in these six instances.
- I let my 4-year-old stalk the streets like a pirate and my 2-year-old hit the playground in her princess dresses. Because they put on these costumes and suddenly the whole world is transformed to them. The Park Slope sidewalk is like walking the plank, and the patchy grass of Prospect Park is the sea. I once had a woman point at my girls, that particular day clad in tutus and rain boots, and ask, “Do you just let them leave the house in whatever they want?” Yes! Yes, I do! I’ll do anything to encourage imagination. And soon enough, with two daughters, the sartorial arguments will have far less to do with whether or not it’s too sparkly.
- I drop my kids in the gym babysitting room with some sort of cheesy crackers. Maybe it’s that I forget to order the groceries on the right day? Maybe it’s because I scan the cabinets and it seems everything we own has touched a peanut? But every Thursday I go to yoga, and every Thursday my girls are chomping down cheesy bunnies or goldfish amidst babies gnawing on pear slices. Don’t think the irony that we’re all at the gym is lost on me!
- If there’s a dirt pile, my girls will find it—and I generally roll in it. I’m trying to bide by the mind that, if my kid isn’t leaving the park dirty, she didn’t have a good time. Sure, perhaps city dirt is different than country dirt; but the way I see it, if we meet for a play date in the park and the kiddos are gravitating toward a giant mound of mud, we’ve bought ourselves at least 20 solid, golden minutes to drink iced coffee and chat.
- The girls think “Mommy needs a coffee” is code for “We get a chocolate milk.” It probably started when my oldest went to preschool and Monday mornings officially became a coffee date with my toddler. Whatever its origin, my need to fuel my days with caffeine has translated into related cravings for my kids. “Mom’s going to Connecticut Muffin for an iced vanilla hazelnut? Cool! We’re getting chocolate milk!” On the days when they’re following up Nutella-smeared toast with their coffee-shop go-to, I just insist on strawberry and call it good, consoling myself that this is the stuff of childhood (and offering up silent prayers that caffeine addiction isn’t hereditary).
- If I get two naps out of the deal, that’s okay by me. My 2-year-old is a solid napper, which is great. And I will admit that, on a lot of days, my 4-year-old still naps. I know it’s weird to be the Pre-K family with so rigid a schedule; and it may seem like it wrecks our bedtime routine (it doesn’t). But I love coming home after a long hard morning out and about, eating lunch together, and snuggling everyone in with books and blankets for a couple hours. There’s nothing sweeter than peeking in on your big kid and seeing her snooze like she’s still a baby, and is it too much to want her to feel rested and peaceful in life for as long as she can?
- Toddler scooters are the bane of my existence. And the reason you’ll find me constantly yelling down the street and around the corner. Who made these things cool? Can we have a conversation? To avoid being the lamest mom on the block, I caved and we got our girls scooters. How often do I let them use them? WHENEVER DADDY IS HOME. Otherwise I’m envisioning every grisly, tragic, nightmarish possibility while they weave in and out of angry businessmen on their way to work and try to hop over the disrupted sidewalk cracks like they’re in some sort of BMX competition. That mom screaming outside your bedroom living room window to “PLEASE SLOW DOWN AND WAIT FOR ME!”? That’s me.
Maybe these things make me a bad mommy. But when I think back on my happy childhood, a sturdy example of how I hope my girls reflect on their early lives, these are the things I relate to. I want them to remember feeling like a real princess; being treated to snacks and sweets; playing hard and getting dirty; feeling safe and comforted—even if that sometimes means seeing Mom’s crazy come out. Healthy, structured lives will nurture our kids into high-functioning adults, hopefully; but I want there to be plenty of “kids will be kids” tucked into their minds, filling them up with happy sweetness and tons of imagination.