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As a parent, I am constantly making the right decision or the wrong one. For instance, every morning, bleary-eyed, I bring my 21-month-old son into bed and try to get a little cuddle and a few more minutes sleep before yet another day starts all over again. And, every morning, I am reminded that my son doesn’t want to cuddle or let me sleep in. He wants to fidget, kick, and cry … and then he sees it: my iPhone. “Ahoa,” he says, because he can’t say phone. Over and over and over again he whines, “ahoa!” until I unplug it from beside my bed and hand it over. Sure, I get that extra five minutes of sleep while he’s playing Monkey Preschool Lunchbox, but the dude is obsessed. So, yeah. When it comes to my phone, I now realize that I have repeatedly made the wrong decision. I brought it on myself. We go to the playground and inevitably at some point I reach into my bag and whip it out. Maybe I’m checking the time or replying to a text or an email. Maybe I want to take a picture of something adorable my kids are doing. But, without fail, as soon as my toddler spies the shiny thin slab of magic, he drops whatever he’s doing and rushes over for his beloved “ahoa!” much to my chagrin.

My son’s phone addiction is clearly my fault, and so I’ve decided to do something about it. I am going to turn back time. My husband has a PhD in physics so I’m sure he can whip up a time machine easily enough. I think I’ll set the dial back about six years — back before my daughter was born, back when I had no f*cking idea what parenting was actually going to be like. In addition to never using my iPhone around them, here are all the ways I would raise my kids differently.

I would…

1. Be a snack Nazi. As in, no snacks. Advertising lures us in with the organic animal shapes and oh-so-convenient tubes of veggie O’s, but it’s still junk. As long as there is a box of Cheddar Bunnies in a drawer somewhere, my kids will not touch a well balanced meal.

2. Explain (not just enforce) manners. It’s all well and good if I can get my daughter to say “please” and “thank you” but I want her to understand why she’s saying it. It is my pet peeve when a kid says, “sorry,” and you can clearly tell in his voice that he doesn’t actually give a f*ck.  

3. Enforce nap time. I’ve never been good with the nap schedule. When I am nursing I selfishly let my son fall asleep on the boob, happily cuddling him for an hour or two while he sleeps. The result? A defiant toddler who screams bloody murder when I try to put him in the crib mid-day. 

4. Be more diligent about new foods. Basically, my kids would live off hot dogs and fish sticks if I let them. I’ve tried them on various veggies and meats, but kids are stubborn…. Sometimes I overhear moms swapping kale-bite recipes and I shed a silent tear. 

5. Do more kegels during pregnancy. Not so much to do with raising my kids, but as long as I’ve got the time machine…. 

6. Recalibrate the friend-o-meter. My 5-year-old daughter has hundreds of friends (okay, dozens). When she was a baby I was pretty zealous about “getting out there” and meeting people, but, now her social life is demanding as hell, and all the playdates and birthday parties don’t leave a whole lot of time for me to procure buddies for her little brother, and I feel bad for him.

7. Shout less often. Okay, that sounds bad. Generally I am a zen buddha practicing my lotus pose, but occasionally I get tired of asking the same question, or expecting to see shoes on when all I see are bare feet. Mama needs to practice counting to ten.

8. Let them get dirtier. If you’ve seen my house it will surprise you to hear that I don’t like mess, but damn it, I did not paint my walls white in order to have them streaked with muddy, paint-splattered hand prints! 

9. Wait a little longer to have a second kid. My kids are four years apart but, to be honest, sometimes I wish they were six or seven. I understand the benefits to having kids close in age, but I think my daughter could have benefited from more time as an only child with fewer responsibilities. 

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