When I was five years old, I watched Albert Peece (not his real name) eat glue at our kindergarten table.
I gagged uncontrollably the first time I witnessed it. As the child of a large-animal veterinarian, I had seen some pretty disgusting things in my young life by then (those medical rubber gloves go all the way up the arm for a reason, people). But for some reason, seeing this child eat glue unnerved me to no end.
Albert Peece would eat glue almost every day during art. He’d roll it in a ball between his fingers and then pop it in his mouth like a Cheeto. (I’m totally gagging as I type this, by the way.) But I loved art so much that I learned to tune out his nauseating habit and focus on my own paper, scissors and (appropriately used) glue stick.
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These days, you know what feels a lot like tuning out this behavior and staying focused on my own art? Parenting. Parenting in the midst of noise and chaos and nauseating behavior — and I’m not even talking about the actual kids.
I learned (and wrote about) pretty early on that staying in your own lane is an important key to happy parenting. But let’s be honest — it’s not easy. There are so many distractors from the outside world bringing us down, telling us what to do, how to do it, what to be angry about, what to agree with… It’s exhausting.
I’m a stepmom to a teenager and a mom of a three-year-old, and there is so much I don’t know and have yet to learn. But there is one thing that I am quite positive about: I can clearly identify the things that truly drain me as a parent and they have nothing to do with my kids.
1.) Chronic complainers. I’m not talking about those of us who need to vent. We all need to vent. That is completely healthy and therapeutic. I mean, where would we be if we held it in all of the time? (Rubber walls and meals slid under doors come to mind.) What I am talking about are the complainers who never stop telling us how bad they have it, and how busy they are, in parenting. Whether it be social media or in conversation, they do nothing but complain.
I don’t know if it’s because I have close friends who have gone through the ultimate pain of losing a child, or if it’s because of my own fertility struggles, but I have a low tolerance for chronic complainers, especially when it comes to their children. I’m all for commiserating together and venting while sharing our struggles, but when you choose to do it every five minutes, I lose compassion for you. And I think that’s the saddest part of this altogether, because I do have compassion for the struggles — just not when you constantly cry mama-wolf.
2.) “Studies show” reports. I admit when I became a new mom, I paid attention to every new “studies show” article I came upon. Learning about every new study made me feel informed and like a good parent. And then I quickly realized that the new study reported yesterday conflicted with the new, new study released today and before you knew it, I was locked in my closet with a bottle of vodka trying to decipher if pacifiers were or were not going to limit my child’s ability to get into Harvard.
Enough! Our parent’s parent’s parents somehow kept our gene pools going successfully without all of this information, so we can, too. I still read a few reports here and there and make thoughtful notations in my head, but I no longer give them as much weight (or importance) as I once did.
3.) Blind bags. Seriously, YouTube. I will never forgive you for this.
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4.) The comments section … of anything. I recently had a post published on a very public forum and I very hesitantly read the comments section (with one eye closed and a bottle of wine for proactive measures). Luckily, that particular piece was pretty mild, so I wasn’t verbally crucified, but I see it happen every day. And it’s frightening. Had it been one of my past posts on step-parenting, I’m sure I would have been tarred and feathered and I’d be doing an ugly cry right now.
The comments section of nearly everything these days usually ends up making me feel disheartened and disappointed. It reminds me there are some nasty people out there, which then makes me sad for my children and the nastiness they’ll eventually encounter in school, play and in life, in general.
5.) The click-bate mommy wars. I enjoy reading posts, blogs and articles from other moms. I love that there are some great conscious platforms out there that bring together so many different viewpoints. What I don’t love are some newer platforms that seem to be posting click-bate titled articles purely because they know it will initiate controversy and discord among moms. There is one network, in particular, that I recently unfollowed because it was clear they cared less about genuine varying viewpoints on parenting and more about starting fires for follows.
Differing opinions are good, healthy debate is good, sharing personal experiences is good. But please stop perpetuating mommy wars with your ridiculous hook lines and asinine subtitles. We are smarter than that and we are onto you.
So the Bottom Line Is …
Parenting can be exhausting. Life can be exhausting. I can’t control the outside world, but I can control how much of it I let in and allow to affect my parenting.
I love being a mom. I am not a perfect mom and it’s not all cupcakes and rainbows, but I love being a mom. So I’m going to focus on my own little piece of art over here and teach my kids to filter out the useless, unproductive noise of the world as much as possible.
Oh, and I am also going to teach them not to eat glue. Because, seriously, what were you doing, Albert?!
This article originally appeared in SheKnows and is used by permission.