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Making Ridiculous Mom Promises

Photograph by Getty Images

When I think back to the naive promises I made to myself before my kids were born, I laugh. Out loud. I remember vividly how I vowed I’d never go to McDonald’s for a meal or buy merchandise with licensed characters. Oh, the pacts I made with myself—most of which I broke as soon as I actually became a mother.

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I can see so clearly now how those early vows set me up for pain and failure. You can imagine my shame that first time I pulled into Mickey D’s for a Happy Meal so my kids could get the Disney movie prize. I never had enough resolve to live up to my own expectations, and life was always messier and more chaotic than I could have ever imagined.

So, I don’t do that to myself anymore. Except when I do.

The other day I told my husband that our kids will “never play video games.” I followed up that declaration with “and they’ll never have smartphones.” My husband responded with a nod and a look that conveyed how crazy he thought I was to make pronouncements about the future.

I would be better off if I tweaked my vision to include some gray area.

And I’m doing it again. Here I am, poised on the brink of kindergarten for my oldest child, and I have a developed an ever-growing laundry list of boundaries for my kids’ tween and teenager years. Even though I know better, I am forming absolute opinions about what will and will not happen under my roof, even though we are still a few years away from the implementation of these rules.

They will play team sports.

We will always have family dinner.

We will never eat meals in the car.

We won’t watch TV because we will be reading the classics.

I know better than to prescribe rules for some future period of parenting. But, still, I have this persistent, utopian vision of how I will stave off the evils that parents of older children are complaining about. I’ll do it differently! I will not succumb!

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It makes as much sense to say my son will never play Minecraft as it was to say I’d never use pacifiers or let my kids play with plastic toys. But, I cling to a future version of myself and my family, even though it ends up making me feel like a failure when reality hits. I would be better off if I tweaked my vision to include some gray area, but the appeal of visualizing future me who always acts in perfect accordance with her aspirations is just too alluring. And who knows? Maybe this time life will go exactly like I plan.

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