The Wilder Life: November 2015
11/03/2015 08:55AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier
Please Tell Me I’m Not Wasting Money On The Organic Blueberries
By Amanda Jean Harris
A dear friend, who is much further along in her journey, posted a funny viral quote on Facebook from a mother who says after an unmediated birth and EBF (that’s exclusively breastfed for you fortunate few that don’t know enough about BF to automatically know such a term) and cloth diapers and doing all the things that seem to matter, she’s got two kids of average intelligence that are decently behaved. “The moral of the story: Basically nothing you do as a mother actually matters except loving them and keeping them alive. Everything else is in your head.”
Hey, lady, you don’t live in my head. If only all the things in my head weren’t true — what a different world it would be. My son is four years old. Four. I’ve been at this for four years. Four years of trying to do more than just keep this kid alive.
Four years of reading articles. And then articles that refute that. Four years of reading labels. And allergy tests. And trying not to yell or be impatient. Four years of trying to do more than just survive. Four years of waking and working so that I can set the stage for this child to thrive. (Maybe win a Pulitzer. Maybe run for governor. President. Make that Pres. I mean if Bill Clinton’s mom could raise a president from Hope, Ark., surely this gal from a little town in Saline County, Ark. could make it happen. No pressure, Wilder.)
Please tell me all of this hard work is not for naught. Please tell me that reading the Baby Wise and the CIO (that’s Crying It Out for those fortunate few that don’t know enough about sleep training to know such a term. That’s him crying. Not me. Although, let’s get real — we were all crying when Wilder wasn’t sleeping.) And that buying and the organic strawberries that cost two dollars more was worth it, because organic matters. I believe it does and you can’t break me.
I believe there are a lot of things that don’t matter. I get the gist. There are many of us going overboard. Perhaps to the detriment of our children who are too sheltered or too catered to. But, here’s the truth — these are “problems” of the First World variety. How a mother barely able to feed her kids one decent meal would love to buy fresh fruit of any kind — organic or not.
They say a childhood sprinkled with adversity is one of the defining factors in how a child turns out. Turns out they need some push back. They need the struggle. But, how much struggle is too much struggle? When do you let them fall and when do you catch them? Where do you draw the line between helicopter parenting that creates weakness and mama bear brute force that protects them from the monsters?
I jest about the inconsequential things. But, there’s a lot of gray area in the raising of these little humans. While organic food or proper nap times may seem a silly thing, they’re all foundational efforts that this child I love so dearly has all the chances. Not all the things. And there is a difference.
We aren’t impoverished by any means. But, things are tight at times. The struggle is real. I don’t worry about Wilder missing out on yearly family vacations to the beach or cable. He may not have either. And that is all right. These are things that matter not, in my opinion. My concern is that he never miss out on the chance to be whatever it is he wants because of a lack of money or access.
Being an advocate for your child, for their education, for the things that matters — it matters. It’s more than keeping them alive. It’s ensuring they have every chance to thrive. It’s refusing to accept a status quo.
I don’t think I’m a Tiger Mom of the variety that will require he study for hours on end at the risk of missing out on life or obsess over the imperfections of his science project or that note he never nails on the piano. But, I do think of his future. Of where the money for a college fund will come from. I am not worried he won’t have a new car at 16. I’m concerned if he’s failing trig at 16 (do they still even take Trigonometry in high school?) I won’t have the time or the money to hire a tutor. See the difference?
There are certain things that I simply won’t be able to provide for this child. And so, it is with this reality that I approach motherhood. In the words of one of my wise friends, “some of the best adults I know had crappy childhoods.”
I find that truth pretty comforting. That out of adversity are born some of the best people you’ll ever meet. The Greatest Generation was an entire generation of such people. My grandmother and grandfather were a living, breathing example of that throughout my childhood. I heard their stories of work and of lack. Their stories of saving and value. When I think of how I want Wilder to turn out I would be wise to look to these of the Greatest Generation. They learned through adversity to be amazing humans. They learned from some of the things we try so desperately to shield our children.
I think that what we do matters. I think in some cases, what we don’t do for our children matters more. I may not be able to pay for Wilder’s college with a check. But, I hope he knows I’m trying every step of the way to show him how he can make it there (or wherever he wants) and do more than survive. I hope he sees that a tax bracket doesn’t define his future.
It is my prayer that this child thrives, even when I can’t provide him every single thing. In fact, I pray for the wisdom to know when to step back. Growth is hard in the shadows, after all.
What we do matters. Sometimes what we do is catch them. Sometimes what we do is let them fall. And what we should always do is love these children enough to know when to do each.