The Mellowing of Mama Kate


Photo by Merelymel 13, via Flickr

Conventional wisdom takes one of two arguments. Some say the transition from one to two is the hardest; others say the real change comes at three, when the kids outnumber the parents for the first time. But everyone agrees after that, it doesn’t make any difference. Four or eight, it’s all the same.

I beg to differ.

I was the most serious of mothers out there. Total breastfeeding, cloth diapers, attachment parenting, homemade baby food–cereal, vegetables, meats, the whole works. Boxed cereal, begone! Low carbon footprint. No TV till age two. No stupid useless toys whose only purpose is to pad the pockets of toy makers and battery operators, no irritating characters who do everything twice. I’d waited three years for the privilege of motherhood, pondering, planning, visioning, and choking on opinions I wasn’t allowed to share because I didn’t have the experience. When the time came, I was ready.

Alex was parented that way. Julianna threw a huge wrench in the gears, starting in the OR when she was born with low blood sugar, and they gave her a bottle of formula. But even through illness after illness, and medical personnel freaking out because they wanted to know how much she was taking in, basically she was breastfed. They learned quickly that she couldn’t take from a bottle.

As Alex got older, we inherited some toys we would rather not have had, but by and large I have kept my parenting philosophies intact. By the time Nicholas came along, we gave up on the TV prohibition and just tried to keep it in control. (How do you keep the younger kids from watching age-inappropriate material when their older brother gets to watch it?)

But Michael? Adding the fourth child pitched our household from “chaotic” to “complete and utter madhouse.” I can’t even get the diapers washed sometimes; if I didn’t feel so passionately about the environment, I might chuck the whole works. It takes massive amounts of brainpower and focus to make sure I have the kids practice the piano, do homework, do their chores (the middle two are supposed to clear the table, Alex to sweep the floor). Alex keeps taking things away from Michael, like, I don’t know, puzzle pieces, and I wave a hand and say, “Let him chew on it! I don’t like that puzzle anyway!”

I absolutely dreaded the onset of solid food. The idea of preparing all those food cubes, cooking that rice cereal, having to think through a balanced diet separate from the rest of the family, just gave me the willies, especially now that we’re packing lunches for two older kids to take to school. (Who likes which cold lunch option? Is there something not sweet in this lunch bag?)

When we were packing for Mackinac, I caved and bought a box of rice cereal. I couldn’t see any way around it while we were on vacation.

The first time I prepared a meal using that box, I was flabbergasted. No microwave? No stove top? No crusted pan to scrub afterward? Where have you been, O Boxed Cereal, for the last seven years of my life? This is so easy!

That’s it, I decided. No more cooking meats, grinding them in the food processor, freezing them in cubes and fighting the baby on texture (because the texture never comes out right). No more battling rice cereal. I’m still doing vegetables, fruits and finger foods myself (mostly), but there now resides on the canned food shelf a small supply of Gerber and Beechwood bottles with beef and chicken meals inside. And let me tell you, pulling them out is like a breath of fresh air. I don’t have to wrap my brain around a meal with multiple components to be prepared? GREAT!

I may be copping out, but you know what? At this point, I don’t care. I’m mellowing. I’ve got more important places to expend emotional energy.

9 thoughts on “The Mellowing of Mama Kate

  1. You are not copping out. You’re mothering four children. Perhaps growing up in a single parent home watching my mom do the best she could while going to nursing school full time and raising the five of us made me considerably more open to the idea that you just do what you have got to do. Feed the kids — make it basically healthy. Bathe the kids, even if you use the johnson and johnson baby wash…it gets them clean and doesn’t sting their eyes. Let the kids watch a video or a tv show once in awhile — it gives mom a much-needed break for 30 minutes to start dinner or clean the kitchen or what have you.

    Everything in moderation…that is what I’ve done. I’m kind of having to go back a little bit because I think I am going to try to go gluten-free with one of my kids and myself….that should be interesting. I guess we’ll see how it works.

  2. Funny how each kid at my house got progressively less baby food (and I always used the stuff in jars). The youngest was rid of it by a year, eating what we eat –even if at first she did dip her green beans in ketchup. So, if you don’t want to cook separately, put a little of tonite’s dinner on a high chair tray and let M play with (eat) it at dinner. See how it goes.

    • I get to that as soon as I can–it’s just that we don’t cook the veggies enough for him to mash them with only front teeth. We’ve had maybe 2 or 3 meals so far where the texture makes it possible for him to eat what we’re eating. Nirvana. 🙂

  3. I think you’re doing a great job. You are 10x the mother I am, but, you know what? I don’t think I’m too terribly shabby. You know why? Because I’m focused on the kids being happy, healthy and loved. Same as you. I try not to sweat the rest, though I can’t say I’ve mastered the “don’t sweat the small stuff” ideal.

  4. I’m impressed, after an attempt or two with my first which were totally failures I’ve left pureeing meat to others. Glad you are finding a balance that works for you too.

  5. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: each child makes a difference. My parents used disposable diapers with baby #11 and my mother was oh-so-very happy for the ease. Sometimes it takes a lot to push one over the line, but it is rarely the child who actually cares.

    If you thought that there was no difference between 4 and 8 I’d think that you’d completely lost it. 😀

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