When I had a dog — and it was just Nick, me, and our jobs — I was an incredible parent. My “kids” were respectful, didn’t set me off and never made me question my ability to raise them. Our house was a place of tranquility and calm.
I was a perfect parent … because my sweet crew of boys did not yet exist.
It pains me to admit that I used to judge other parents for longer into my parenthood journey than I should have.
And now I don’t.
In March, when I was about 35 weeks pregnant, I potty trained my oldest son. I needed to commit myself to bed rest for the sake of my varicose veins and hip pain, so Nick took care of our youngest while I barricaded myself inside with a naked 3-year-old for three whole days.
We did stickers, sang the Daniel Tiger song, the whole lot.
At 3 p.m. on our second day of training, my husband took our younger son on a walk while I waited for our potty trainee to wake up from his nap. I caught him walking out of his bedroom and pounced on him to use the bathroom before snack time.
He lost his 3-year-old mind and screamed.
“I’M NOT GOING ON THE BIG BOY POTTY.”
I was done. I promptly joined him in the meltdown. Between the compression tights and the afternoon heat, coupled with feeling that I hadn’t seen civilization in years (it had been a day and a half), I yelled. I just couldn’t rise to adulthood. I looked and sounded like a toddler — yelling at my son to pee in the potty before some pretzels.
And then, it went next level.
He yelled back. “Stop yelling at me, Mom!”
It hit me in that moment. All that perfectionism — all that harbored judgment of how I could be the perfect mom, have the perfect kids, raise them up in a perfect environment. It all went down the toilet. Pun intended.
I picked up my massively pregnant self and marched outside. I needed backup, and a nap. I caught my husband’s eye as he talked to our neighbor, and I screamed down the street with my third trimester belly hanging out of my sloppy Saturday attire.
“I’m done. You need to get back here now. WRAP IT UP!”
Every time I remember potty training, I realize that weekend marked my arrival as a parent. Every day since is now a day in the parenthood club of acceptance. Yes, I used to judge other parents. And now, I have kids who give me a million opportunities to give other parents grace and empathy instead.