Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mommy Awards

"You did it! CONGRATULATIONS! World's Best Cup of Coffee! Great job everybody! It's great to be here." -Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf in Elf

One thing's certain: I won't be getting any "World's Best Mom" awards any time soon. "World's Most Embarrassing Mom," maybe - we're getting to that age.

Some people might even wonder - ESPECIALLY if you scour the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, or talk to parenting-book authors/readers - how conscientious I could possibly be as a physician when one considers that I have, at various times in the past,

-occasionally co-slept with my kids when they were babies (right in line, I must interject, with, like, 90% of the rest of the world's cultures)
-used Disney's Fantasia and the like as a babysitter when I had to cook dinner
-let my kids jump on backyard trampolines
-let my kids eat raw cookie dough
-skipped back-to-school night
-let them eat apple pie for breakfast (just once - and it was homemade and yummy and we all did it)
-made them memorize their times tables BEFORE explaining multiplication conceptually
-been physically and emotionally unavailable to them due to an excess of call
-let their father take them through a carnival house-of-horrors when they were WAY too little to laugh it off
-been way too permissive about TV-watching and video games/Wii playing
-missed some performances / special days
-failed to nurse at least one of them for the recommended period of time
-used phrases like "Because I said so" and "Don't do that"
-taken them out of school for trips
-required them to stick with certain academic or extracurricular activities against their wishes
-been impatient and snappish when tired or preoccupied
-let them eat a sickening amount of Halloween candy all at once.

Then I think, all those nitpicky little recommendations in the books and guidelines are nice, but they're not gonna make or break our parenting "success." I was sitting around comparing notes on the subject with some colleagues once when I was a resident.

"I watched TV all the time when I was a kid, " said one. "Violent stuff, too - martial arts movies and everything."

"We didn't even own a TV," said another

"We only ate food from local growers."

"We subsisted on chips and soda."

"I read TONS when I was younger."

"I barely read anything before college."

"And look - we all ended up in the same place, with 'M.D.' after our names, being fairly good people, for the most part, right?" someone finally pointed out.

That one conversation enabled me to avoid beating myself up too hard for all my faults and failings. Here's my bottom line: my kids are happy. They are healthy. They are curious. They have a sense of wonder. In general, they are kind. They read lots. They ask lots of questions. They know we expect them to work hard for their learning, to do not just "good enough" work but their best work always, and to accept the fact that they can't have every material thing they want. They have an abundance of what they need, and much more besides.

Most important, when they see our faces greeting theirs, they see us light up at the sight of them. They know they are immeasurably loved. They know we intend to be there for them no matter what.

And despite all those years of medical training, we have family memories to cherish. A brass band concert heard from a picnic blanket one balmy July night. Making s'mores in the wood stove one New Year's Eve. Dressing up as a medieval family with a Power Ranger to trick-or-treat one Halloween. Stolen moments, when I was either post-call or, miracle of miracles, actually off duty. Precious, warm, treasured moments.

So when the kids run to the door exclaiming "Mommy!" and throw their arms around me in big bear hugs every time I arrive home from work, or come home after a long night of call, I take heart. I may not be the world's best mom, or the world's best doc, for that matter, but I've had more than my share of the world's best moments.


  1. I love your line that you've had more than your share of the world's best moments.

    Am half-heartedly reading a book a friend gave me called "I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids" and I feel strangely guilty that I DON'T feel guilty/obsessive about all the little things that supposedly plague the "modern mother." Honestly? I've experienced everything on your list either as the parent or when I was a kid. And my 4-yo tells me daily that I'm his "favorite 30-year-old in the whole wide world." It still makes me as happy as the first time he said it.

  2. I guess I'm another data point for you. We watched TV constantly when I was growing up. There was always at least one TV in the house blaring, and often two. At one point, my brother and I were in a competition to see who could watch the entire Chevy Chase movie, Vacation, more than 100 times first. That's the level of TV I'm talking about. And we ate junk food galore. My mom used to go to the equivalent of Sam's Club and buy these cases of various types of candy when we went to the beach. She would literally remove all the silverware, etc out of the drawers of our rented beach house and fill the drawers with candy. We ate at least one fast food meal a day and often two, literally every day of my childhood life. Flash forward to me in budding adulthood. I became a vegetarian and very healthy eater at the age of 14 (remain so to this day, two decades later) and didn't even own a TV for 7 years. At this point, the only TV I watch is the news for about 2 weeks in advance of the Presidential and Congressional elections and occasional overheard snippets of the rare shows my kids watch on Noggin. You do your best and convey your values to your kids, then they choose who to become, which is exactly as it should be.

  3. "Here's my bottom line: my kids are happy." That's what matters to me. My paradigm has shifted with my own kids - the anxiety of living up to all of those guidelines necessitated medication - life is too short to try to live up to someone else's expectations. I'm not a text book pediatrician, now - guidelines are great, but we & insurance companies & the government (don't get me started)get carried away with the trees and sometimes fail to see the forest. MWAS

  4. I always felt that there was a huge industry out there designed to make mothers anxious and guilty under the guise of providing advice and support. My kids also watched a lot of TV and slept on their stomachs, and not one is an axe murderer or anything close.

  5. I love this post. (And Fantasia could be argued to be a positive thing...it isn't exactly the Saw series).

  6. Thanks for the reality check. I often get caught up in being" perfectly modern super mommy" and forget to enjoy the cuddles, giggles, and smiles my children give me through the day. All be it often while watching children's television programming.


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