BUSY IN BRISTOW: Hey Hey, I’m Going to the Bathroom and the Gang’s All Here

| September 1, 2014 | 0 Comments | Busy in Bristow

A good friend of mine just announced that she’s going to be a Mom. Now, she’s “suffering” from First-Baby Euphoria – that condition that colors your perception and makes you believe that everything – just everything – is going to be baby bliss.

She has a great sense of humor and knows all about “the dark side” of having children, but a few minutes ago when I once more tried to get two minutes of peace and privacy, I thought of her – and of the younger Me – and how none of us are quite ready for the way our lives morph upon becoming parents.

When – really, was the last time I had any actual privacy when my kids were around? Take the bathroom, for example. All parents know what it’s like to get settled in on the porcelain throne to find the doorknob rattling and a little voice outside questioning their whereabouts. Children following you into the bathroom is so common, it’s the butt (pun intended) of jokes in movies. In our house, I’ve taken to locking the door when I remember; however, that doesn’t stop the little buggers from trying to get in – hence the rattling doorknob.

Privacy in the bathroom extends to showering. When our kids were little, it was hard enough to find the time TO shower. Infancy gave us appropriate restraining devices such as high chairs, vibrating chairs with seat belts, and exersaucers. Many a time, I’d drag one of these cumbersome items into the bathroom with me or place it right next to me in the master bedroom where I’d leave the door open so I could hear any baby emergency that might arise.

As the kids got older, it was actually more difficult to find a safe time I could shower. Even early morning was questionable unless Husband was home. Once the tiny tykes had outgrown their cribs, they were on the loose. After hearing about the mother of twins who thought her toddlers were fast asleep in their bedroom – only to discover they’d woken up, gone outside, and decided to play in the street, Husband and I began using the bolt and removing the key for safe-keeping.

I suppose this is where we give up our privacy as parents … once our children can no longer be contained and are exploring their confines ad nauseum. Better to take them everywhere with us than to find they’ve wandered into the neighbor’s yard.

As with so many things, we have to learn when to change from the “old way of doing things” to the “new.” Our kids are no longer infants, toddlers, or pre-schoolers. In fact, we only have one in the lower elementary school, and not long ago, we came to grips with the reality (and hard won wonder) that the oldest can now watch the younger ones, and the middle ones can stay at home alone for a short period of time.

If they can do that, I’ll wager they can live without me for the few minutes it takes me to take care of my personal hygiene needs in the bathroom.

For those of you who have young children, I advise establishing some boundries early on. While it is comforting for all parties to slumber together, on occasion, it is a hard habit to break. When staying at grandmas, if there’s limited space, you may have to bunk together, and having little feet stab your shoulder blades all night can lead to poor sleep, but just remember there’s a price to pay for letting the wee ones crawl into bed with you when they’ve had a bad dream or can’t fall asleep on their own.

Take it from me, I know. We had very strict rules about the children sleeping in their own beds – without us – when they were little. As a result, I thought they’d learned to self-soothe and fall asleep without having Mom or Dad beside them.  As it turns out, they substituted the comfort of their siblings for that of their parents. Now that Youngest Son has his own room, he likes it because he can have his own space for Lego-creating and changing clothes, but after a month and a half, he still has trouble falling asleep and regularly wakes up in someone else’s bed.

There’s something precarious about our children’s need for independence. They usually exert their desire for autonomy when we least expect and desire it. Like that first day of school when I want to hug them all the way up the bus steps and they won’t even let me step foot out of the car or that first sleepover when I want to call and tell them goodnight but end up talking to their friend’s mom instead because my daughter’s “too busy” to come to the phone.

I guess the key is to welcome the small steps they take even when it hurts to let go and to find some strong middle ground at home when it is I who need some distance from them. We can’t be like the family cat, after all, who comes brushing up against our legs and purring for attention when it suits her but goes hiding under beds when she just wants to be left alone. Rather, we need to develop clear and consistent signals to our children that now isn’t the time to interrupt Mommy, and then we need to help our children create similar clues for us so we encourage their growth … even when it seems like time’s gone too fast and we’re not quite sure we want our privacy anymore now that our children want theirs.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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