Before I was a parent, it was easy to say, "When I am a parent, I will be like this... and I will do things this way... and my child will be like this." And all was going to be right in the world because I had the situation fully under control... before I was a parent. Learning to lose that control was not easy, but when you have a kid like Cheech, unless you want to royally fuck yourself over, you do learn and you learn quickly. Every day my kid challenges me, and as a result, every day I take in and I grow. And for that, I will never be able to thank her enough. Simply put, Cheech has a mind of her own. She is FIRM when it comes to her likes and dislikes, she is constantly challenging authority, she practically laughs in the face of danger, and she is EXCELLENT at saying no. However, surprisingly enough, she is rarely bratty, and if and when she is, a little distraction always does the trick. She's just a girl who knows what she wants. Period.
The one thing I never realized was how much trying is involved in parenting. Truthfully, I was always certain I would take the oh-so-popular "because I told you so" approach. It made sense that I, as the parent, would be the authority in the household and therefore, would always know what's best. Certainly, being older and of course, wiser, I would be aware of how to handle any given situation and would always have the right answers. Wrong! So, so WRONG. As the end of her first few months of life started to approach, and as her personality really began to come through, I came to understand that I didn't know shit from shit... turns out, I had ZERO answers.
Everything becomes a guessing game when you're dealing with a little person who has yet to learn how to formulate sentences and who doesn't exactly understand the concept of complex thoughts. She can't tell me why wiping her face off after a meal pisses her off so bad, but she can certainly communicate that she has absolutely no interest in having any sort of napkin anywhere near her face. And so now I'm that parent and she's that kid. She's that kid that always has a messy face, and I'm that parent that doesn't bother doing anything about it. I'm that parent that I used to so very easily ridicule and roll my eyes at. I'm that parent that would make me quietly think to myself, "that person has NO CLUE what they're doing." I'm THAT PARENT. And you know what? It's FINE. It's more than fine, actually. I've learned to pick my battles and pick them wisely. I want to teach my girl to be kind and to be giving. I want her to understand how to be safe. I want her to be healthy. If I can get all those things, even with a face that is forever covered in oatmeal/avocado/peanut butter/all of the above, then I can't ask for a single thing more.
About three or four months ago, Cheech decided that she hated baths (obviously, my girl has some sort of issue with cleanliness). We were still using an infant tub at the time, and I assumed that she was just uncomfortable and needed more space. So, I got rid of the tub and started her on regular baths in the full bathtub. The situation got much worse. I knew she wasn't afraid of water because she would HAPPILY go in any pool (kiddie or adult sized). What was once a nightly ritual, soon became an every-other-night anxiety ridden event. She would run away from me as soon as she heard the faucet turn on. She would cry in the water and hold out her arms, and scream, "MAMA, MAMA!" She would jump up and try to escape every chance she got. I would quickly scrub her down and rinse her off and I'd tell her through a shaky and teary voice, "It's Ok... it's just water... I'm not trying to hurt you." And so the trying began. I tried giving her showers instead. I tried using one of those removable shower heads that she could hold herself. I tried getting in the bath with her. Each attempt resulted in a massive failure that made me question my parenting skills. Eventually, I became a master of the 30 second baby bath. Every other night turned into three times a week, and quite soon after it got to the point that I would only bathe her when she was so disgustingly filthy and grimy. Again, I was THAT PARENT.
We came home from an incredibly messy afternoon at the park earlier today. Cheech had found her way into a muddy patch of sand, and had a face covered in deviled eggs and cupcake as a result of celebrating a friend's birthday. I knew that tonight HAD to be a bath night, and I dreaded it the whole way home. Not wanting her to walk her dirty self through our new and very clean home, I carried her in and sat her on our kitchen counter while I quickly got myself a glass of water. She leaned into the sink and started cheerfully playing with the trickling water. And then it hit me. Yes, I had tried, but I had not tried EVERYTHING. I got her undressed and cautiously sat her in the sink, waiting for a massive meltdown to commence. But what I got instead was a happy and LAUGHING little girl. She reached up and let the water run down her finger tips, and squealed in delight. She played, clapped and babbled to herself for ten minutes straight. I spent the entire time staring at her in excitement and complete amazement. Finally, FINALLY, something worked.
I can't help but look back and laugh at the old childless me. The one who thought she knew it all. The one whose child would one day teach her that she truly knows nothing.