A favorite parenting cliche is “Babies don’t arrive with a manual”. I’m not sure if this is used more to excuse a parenting decision that you’ve already made and may be feeling less than stellar about, or as a soothing reassurance at the beginning of it all, like, hey, if I f@#% this kid up it’s not my fault. It didn’t come with a manual. And really, thank heavens they don’t. Each new human (And, yes ladies, you really did grow a human being. Super power? I say, yes.) is unique, and they deserve to have their own unique hands-on manual that develops with their individual needs and style. The love we can have for our children is the purest form. To love them for who they truly are and let them shine is so important. The truth is though, you can never be truly prepared for all the magical insanity that children can induce in us. We want to, no, need to, no, HAVE to get this right, right? This is the human I grew, and it needs me to do my best, whatever the hell that means! The worry of falling short can feel as overwhelming as being drowned in a sea of used Huggies. Fortunately there are those wise-with-worn moms that go before us. Those who have tried and failed miserably and have the parenting scars to prove it. Make notes in your manuals, my friends.
My son’s father and I had always agreed on one thing – private school for our children. Looking back I’m quite uncertain why we were so adamant about the point considering these were hypothetical children (little known fact: the most well behaved child is the hypothetical child) we were discussing at the time. None the less, one camping trip and a broken condom later I was growing our human after only 6 months of marriage. Both of us being transformed into parents at 24 (things happen faster in the south, it’s the heat) we would have settled for some hasty scrawl on the umbilical that read “I never stop crying, eating or pooping. P.S. Your life is over.”, let alone a manual. Yet we managed to keep him alive, and to our utter astonishment he became the most amazing human on the planet, just like everyone else’s human.
By age three it was time for full day Montessori school from 8:30 am to 3 pm (hell ya, best money ever spent). Eventually the decision was made to transition into a local Catholic school for 1st grade. Fear, dread, worry……was a Catholic school as bad as everyone said? What if he gets in a fight? What if he hears or sees horrible things that float around Catholic schools, like pages from a nudie magazine? What if he starts smoking?! I could feel the Huggies piling up on top of me. Extreme? Yes, but we all know there’s no human like your first human. So when the day finally came, and I was so certain it would, I did what the best of us do. I went into my mental phone booth and became Super Mom as quick as toddler can destroy an iPhone. Only once fully suited could I truly process the question that the most amazing 6-year-old on the planet had just asked me, “Mom, what’s a pussy?” (audience gasps) With consciously controlled breathing I began to calmly give all the definitions of the word “pussy” in words and phases that were appropriate for a six year old, starting with it being a word some boys call other boys as a put down; a word used to call someone a wimp or a chicken. My confidence level was high that such an exchange was how this horrific word had made it’s way to my son’s ears. After that I explained the word “pussy” was also sometimes used as a name for a lady’s private parts. Super Mom doesn’t back down from the truth, people. We have to be honest with our kids. Finally wrapping it up with a brief note about how it was actually sexist for boys to use the word in such a way, I was wishing I had visual aid to really bring all the points together. I nailed it. And this is when the future president of the universe asked his second question, “Then, what’s a pussycat?” That’s what he meant?! There really are no words to describe my exact feeling at that moment. The mental Super Mom suit disintegrated.
Written By Ashley Graves