Looking back from my vintage old age of 25 years, I realize that I had a lot of unidentified ideals in my younger days. Very few had to do with a husband, which seems to be common among most ladies. No, mine had to do with children. I always knew I was going to have kids... a husband as well, presumably. These kids of mine were quite the bunch! To begin with, they were very well-behaved. They acted as my siblings and I had to act in church for fear of my Dad. Which was very well-behaved. We never left church without someone commenting on what good kids we were. They never hit other kids, were always polite to adults, were interesting, intelligent, and most of all, helpful to their mother. I can still see it... all eight or ten of these imaginary children helped out with the house work and the farm chores while their benevolent mother oversaw it all and nursed the latest installment. They always did as they were asked and never said "no." These wonderful children lived in a clean house. Everything was always where it was supposed to go. The good children always put their toys away, always cleaned up after themselves, and their mother moved through her days in peace and tranquility. My imaginary children never put their mother through what my 5 siblings and I put our long-suffering mother through. She hounded us all day to finish our chores, threatened us with "no play time!" if we didn't, and despite her best efforts, our house was far from tidy on most days.
Needless to say, my imaginary children are something a thing of the past now that I have actual children. My actual children... now that is another story! I learned very early on that children love to do what you are doing. Greta is happiest when she is rearranging my pantry, meticulously moving canned goods from the pantry to the shelf under the table. Her day is not complete if she has not taken out all the pots and pans and inspected their lack of contents. The tupperware is not exempt, either. Who, if not Greta, would match them with their lids? The bookshelf is another thing of joy for Greta. She delights in "reading" books, but not as much in returning them to the shelf. Yet her greatest pleasure lies in emptying dresser drawers. Really, such an undertaking is one that my imaginary children would never have dreamed of! Oh no, those angels would have been putting their clothes neatly in the drawers. Greta, on the other hand, can spend an entire morning "organizing" her clothes. It's actually quite impressive to watch her dress her dolls in them.
So Mommy has learned to adapt. I never bother to fold Greta's clothes and make only the loosest attempt at organizing them. Dresses in the top drawer, pants and jammies in the next one, and shirts and sweaters on the bottom. Nor need you look for order in any of the lower drawers in the kitchen. There is one for "pots," one for "containers," and one for bowls. But no tidy stacks of variating sizes for us. What is the point?
Obedience is another place where my ideals led me astray. Surprise, surprise! Greta loves to say "no!" Sometimes, it's a sweet, cajoling kind of "no." At other times, it is very firmly and definitively "no!" Either way, you get the point. Again, Mommy is wizening up. When Greta does something now that she isn't supposed to do - for example, poke eyes - I give her something positive to do, such as "point to your ears, Greta." This distracts her from poking her eyes and has the added benefit of preventing her from telling me "no." This has about a 70% success rate.
At any rate, I think that the most important thing that I've learned about children since having my own is that all children are naughty and messy and disobedient at some point. Following from that, I am learning to temper my hasty judgments about other people's children. Discipline is a lot of work. I have yet to learn how to put Greta in her crib (her "time out" place) and nurse Joseph at the same time. Don't they say something about effective discipline being quick in order to be effective? Well, try waiting to finish nursing before disciplining your toddler. If I was the proverbial fly on the wall, I would be laughing at myself.