Amber's recent post about things she swore she would never do when she had children got me thinking about the same subject with regard to my own parenting. As well as doing some things with my sons I never thought I'd do, there are also things I definitely thought I *would* do that I didn't do, or at least haven't done so far.
For me, part of the difference between my ideal and my reality has had to do with the fact that I had twins instead of the one baby (or one-baby-at-a-time) I had envisioned. As I wrote about here recently, there are just some things that either don't work as well, or don't work at all, when you have two babies or toddlers who are the same age at the same time. So I attribute the fact of my having twins to my not "wearing" my sons more when they were infants; to my inability to breastfeed (though my premature delivery, preeclampsia, and postpartum/postoperative hemorrhage were certainly factors in that failure as well); and to my decision to put, and keep, my sons on a schedule, rather than letting them dictate their own schedules as infants.
Here are a few other areas where my real life has not squared with my imagined ideal.
FOOD: I have touched on the fact that I had planned to breastfeed my sons and was unable to do so. Instead, they spent their early days being sustained by formula. Oh well.
I also want my sons to develop better eating habits than their parents, and I believe that good nutrition in the early years is extremely important for a number of reasons. To that end, I had planned to feed my sons only wholesome, organic food. I also wanted to feed them a variety of foods, in the hope that they would grow up to have palettes more varied than their father's (who is a self-confessed, lifelong, "picky" and unhealthy eater).
I haven't done horribly in this regard--my sons have never tasted fast food; when offered a lollipop or other candy by someone, will throw it on the floor because they don't know what it is; and love fruits and some vegetables--but I have fallen far below the standard I had set for myself in this area in terms of providing them with a variety of healthy choices. There is still time to improve here, and I hope to do better. It is just a challenge to find the time to plan and prepare toddler-friendly meals on top of everything else I have going on.
MEDIA USAGE: Like Amber, I was wholly opposed to TV viewing--actually, the use of all media--before age 2, in line of the AAP's recommendations on the topic. I have never been a big TV watcher myself (and have lived without it entirely during several longish periods of my adulthood), and have a few friends who followed these recommendations, so I foresaw no problem with following them myself.
What changed was that my husband did not agree to a complete ban on media usage and would only agree to restrictions on screen time and content. So I have had to compromise in this area, and our sons now watch a few shows geared toward preschoolers, an occasional DVD for the same age group, and sometimes YouTube videos on my iPhone.
DISCIPLINE: I thought I would be patient and understanding and would guide our sons into correct behavior in age-appropriate ways. I have had extensive contact with young children through my 42 years, and I have also done quite a bit of reading on this topic, so I thought I had the necessary skills and knowledge to accomplish this goal.
Guess what? Most of the recommended behavior management strategies don't work nearly as well--or at all--when you are dealing with two same-aged toddlers at once. Good luck trying to gently correct one child while the other one is climbing the furniture, getting a knife out of a kitchen drawer, crawling out the dog door, or otherwise engaging in some type of dangerous behavior. Ditto for trying to get them to stay in bed. Before our sons were 2 years old, they had already decided it was a fun game to "double team" us--one would pick up with the prohibited behavior the moment his brother had been prevented from doing it.
You also can't effectively keep two toddlers in time-out at one time. Just sayin'. I don't know how the child care workers at day care centers keep order because it is chaos at our house much of the time these days.
Also, both my parents are yellers. My sister and I were yelled at many times during our childhood. I have worked hard over many years to control my temper, and I was determined not to yell at my children. I confess that, so far, I have failed in that regard. I don't yell at them a lot, but I do yell. I continue to work on this, but for those of you who have toddlers or older children, I think you can understand how trying it is to try and maintain patience with two misbehaving toddlers at one time.
READING/CRAFTS/ETC.: I thought I would spend a lot of time with my children reading books, coloring and doing various crafts. What I have discovered with my sons is that, in general, they don't have a lot of interest in these activities. They will occasionally sit and look at the pictures in books, but if I try to actually read a story, one or both of them will pull the book away and run off with it. They try to eat the crayons or playdough any time I offer it to them. They fight over the supplies if/when we try to make things together.
I am told that these things are partly due to their being boys and partly due to their age and may improve with time. We'll see.
Fortunately for me, most of my views about what kind of mother I would be were privately held vs. being broadcast to the wider world, so I doubt most people in my life would see these deviations from my ideal as failures. I guess even before my sons arrived I realized, at least to some degree, that the kind of mother I would be would depend in part on the kind of child(ren) I had.