Parenting hot tip: You have to rise to the occasion as a parent, even if you don’t feel like it.
So, sometimes I pretend I’m a really good parent. (If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of it, I pretend like I’m Mandy Moore’s character, Rebecca Pearson, from This is Us because she’s the best, most-fun, not-real Mom ever to exist.)
So, when I’m not feeling it, I think: WWRP do? (What Would Rebecca Pearson Do?) I don’t know much, but I do know she wouldn’t lock herself in the bathroom after work to scroll through Instagram, ya dig?
When Sam was first born, I would spend hours in our dark Brooklyn apartment with only the dog and ten seasons of Grey’s Anatomy for company. Nat would be gone, working long hours at the paper. Things would reach a fever-pitch around 7, when I would basically stare at the door, willing him to walk through it.
But he would be tired and cranky from working so much. I would be tired and cranky from being a hormonal cow-person. I knew that if those two energies came together (especially in a small, cramped apartment) nothing much good could come from it.
So, I would text him before he would come home, “I need you to pretend to be happy and well-rested when you walk through the door. And I will pretend like I’m not completely breaking down.”
And Nat would walk through the door in a grandiose fashion, with a huge smile plastered on his face.
“Hello beautiful family!” He would exclaim, sweeping us up in a giant hug. “Your handsome provider is home to take care of your every whim and desire.”
And I would fall into the act, covered in baby vomit and breast milk. “Hello dear! We’ve missed you so! May I fix you a drink? Please, tell me about your day. I would be remiss in my wifely duties if I did not immediately make you feel at ease and comfortable when you first walk through the door!”
On and on we would go, pretending to be something we most definitely weren’t. Until it became so ridiculous, we would start laughing. And all would be okay.
I still play pretend. If I had my druthers, I would spend entire weeks in bed, reading books and leaving piles of clothes on the floor and eating handfuls of Pirate’s Booty over the sink for sustenance. But I can’t do that (alas).
So, I pretend like I’m super interested in the insane game Sam has made up (you guys, 5-year-old’s and their made-up games. THEY MAKE NO SENSE). That it’s charming and fun and not all enraging when my toddler takes off her shoes I just put on. That it’s fine if they don’t eat the dinner we spent a lot of time and money making and they just eat yogurt instead.
Your energy is important. Kids feed off of energy; they respond to it. You approach them with good energy, they respond in kind. So, make your energy good. The only way to do it sometimes is to force it. And then, sometimes, like a weird magic, The Parenting Comes to You.
I am not delusional. I don’t wish I lived in a different reality. It’s not pathological. I think of “Playing Good Parent Pretend” as akin to lacing up your sneakers to force yourself to go for a run. Sometimes pretending to be a fictional character from a terribly manipulative prime-time dramedy, if just for five minutes, helps me get into a good mind-set. And engaged. And then I’m back to being me, Dorothy Robinson, a totally adequate, pretty-good parent.