In the rush of making sure the kids had clothes for school tomorrow, scouring their room for socks to wash, etc., one of them asked me if they could have pop-tarts for breakfast. With no hesitation, I said yes. This wasn’t what I had planned for breakfast in the morning. I was going to make banana bread using the bananas we’ve yet to eat. I often use up our bananas this way because we usually don’t eat them in time. The bananas can wait another day and my son unknowingly gave my mommy heart and body a rest. I’m glad I was brave enough to take the break he was providing. The world of parenting can be a bitter place of judgement and ridicule along with a place of intense self-doubt. The rules of dos and don’ts seem to constantly change and every day, you could be doing it wrong while trying your best. For a while, especially during my time with postpartum depression, my motto was “fed and not dead”, because that was all I could offer. What I didn’t understand then that I better grasp now is that keeping a child fed and not dead is a monumental task. Then, I said those words in a self-deprecating manner, thinking that my weaknesses were on full display. I’m more aware now that no matter what efforts a parent makes, sometimes children die. I regret the times that I said those words aloud before, because not only was I degrading myself, I could have been hurting those near me. Infant and child loss is often not discussed and when it is, it’s likely to criticize parents for what they should or should not have done. In my harshness towards myself, I was unknowingly rubbing salt into the wounds of any parent near me. I don’t think a parent wakes up and thinks to themselves, “gee, how can I screw up my kid’s life today?” When a child dies, it’s an endless loop of what if’s for their parent. Unintentionally, I was ripping the sutures of those quietly hurting near me and continuing to perpetuate the unforgiving world that parenting can be. Saying yes to a request for a pop-tart is one moment of thousands of moments. Sometimes, I’ll say no. If I look past the food, look past the details to the larger picture, my child knows he can tell me what he wants without too much risk. He also knows that breakfast will be provided, in some capacity or another. This is stability and comfort. In the middle of a pandemic that has taken the life of their friends’ grandfather, made everyday a costume day, and has added illness to their morning prayers on a near daily basis, I think just being fed alone is more than reasonable to expect of myself and of any caregiver trying to raise children right now, especially during a pandemic that is taking children from us. If you’re feeling the pressures of those dos and don’ts, navigating what the pediatrician says and the consumer reports and friends and family members and random strangers who feel they can comment on whether your kid has socks on or not, it’s ok to trust your gut sometimes and say yes to a pop-tart. If a pop-tart helps you and your family make it through the day, say yes a lot. We only have so much emotional energy each day and it’s ok, more than ok really, to recognize the areas in your life that merit some wiggle room. Please think of me and remember that shaming yourself isn’t helping anyway and is probably doing harm. I might have a pop-tart too. They’re quite yummy dipped in milk. A morning eating pop-tarts with my kids seems like a fine way to start my tomorrow.
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