Thursday, May 15, 2014

Is it time to call Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle?

I am exhausted. Bedtime has dissolved from an organized routine to chaos and tears ever since my toddler learned how to propel her body out of her crib. We switched her to a toddler bed, and now her sole goal is to make it into bed with her sister. I wouldn't have a problem with this, except by the time they are done giggling they fall asleep VERY late.

This means that the morning routine of getting ready for school is now filled with tears. Which is why the other day I opted for letting my oldest eat Jello for breakfast instead of arguing over getting her to eat a cereal that contains this poison also known as "raisins."

This morning, we not only missed the bus, but we only made it to drop-off one minute before the tardy bell rang. After dropping the little one off at daycare, I sat in traffic cursing myself for not being that "perfect" mom that has bedtime and morning routines down. (I actually took a parenting style test and found out that I suffer from "perfect" parenting syndrome. I told my husband, and he just laughed and laughed and laughed.)

At this point, some of you may be thinking of very kind and helpful suggestions on things I can do to lull my kids to sleep or have them wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed (whatever that means). Well, I will be honest, whatever you have to say will be interpreted in my brain as this, "You are a bad mom, and you are doing it all wrong."
The other day I stumbled upon this TED talk about parenting and happiness shared by Bonnie Dani. Jennifer Senior's discussion about the problem about "parenting" is on point. Watch it.
This modern parenting role is daunting. I dread going to social functions because I know the conversation will be a point/counterpoint with all the parents comparing daycare philosophies, where they are zoned for school, what activities their kids do, and how they are trying a special diet for their kids. Now, don't get me wrong- I am guilty as the next person for participating in this parental fear mongering. If you don't do "this" your child will be a failure. And, I usually leave those events at an anxiety level 11 on a scale of 1 to 10.

It is funny though because this pretending to know it all in public is apparently not a new thing. Saint Augustine wrote well over a thousand years ago in his book Confessions:
"We were alike deceivers and deceived in all our different aims and ambitions, both publicly when we expounded our so-called liberal ideas, and in private through our service to what we called religion. In public we were cocksure, in private superstitious, and everywhere void and empty." 
And sadly, many of those same parents that appear completely confident in public, behind closed doors, confess that they do indeed feel void and empty, terrified that we are indeed doing it all wrong, not doing enough, or somehow causing harm.

This is where, if I lived inside a children's book, I would call Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle from the books of the same name by Betty MacDonald. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is this amazing old woman that lives in an upside-down house. She is adored by children everywhere, and she is the go-to person for any mom not knowing how to handle a parenting situation. The thing is, by today's standards, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle would have probably been arrested or at least investigated by child protective services. Her Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker Cure left the little boy Allen weak and emaciated. However, by the end of the story he did stop being a picky, slow eater and started eating like a normal person. Her cures are cruel, swift, but oddly effective.

The magic of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is that the stories are so absurd, kids see how ridiculous certain behaviors, like talking back, being selfish, and not wanting to go to bed, can be. I found humor in reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle because each of the moms start off by calling all their mom friends before turning to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. During these phone conversations, the moms engage in that judgmental parenting banter where one mom subtly tells the other mom their child would NEVER do something that horrible.

When I read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle with my oldest daughter, I found it hysterical how she would point out how absurd the kids in the book were acting even though she has engaged in most of those behaviors at some point. Somehow, we are able to see and recognize behaviors in others that we don't even know we exhibit ourselves. This is why reading children's books with your kids is so amazing. I could easily start a conversation about how the characters in the book that talked back to their parents were being disrespectful without making my child feel targeted.

So, that brings me back to tonight....again, I couldn't get both kids in bed without theatrics. Thankfully, there are just four days left of school and after that I don't have to worry about my oldest being late. There are no tardies in summer camp.

I know that pretty soon we will get a new bedtime routine down, and once again we won't be quite so sleep deprived. However, I also know that some new concern will come along and throw me totally off kilter. The problem is there is no Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle to call for advice. Maybe instead of looking to someone for advice on how to "parent," I should instead just let myself be the parent and spend more time reading great children's books with my kids. It does seem that reading with my kids is where I gain all my parenting knowledge anyway. And, look at this excerpt from a card I found in my daughter's folder today- priceless.


  1. I feel a kindred spirit in you when I read your posts! I can so relate to your struggles having weathered many a stormy bedtime and early morning preparations for school. Even though my resume lists me as a "Child Development Specialist" I often feel like a poser. Seriously, I was great in my area of expertise until I had my own children. You are a terrific mom, an amazing writer, and I am so lucky to have you in my circle of resources. I loved the feedback you found from your daughter's folder. It's those moments that let us know we're on the right track. Hope you have a wonderful summer ahead.

    1. Awww! Thank you Mary. You are an amazing child care provider, and an amazing mom. You are right though, we must focus on those moments of joy that show us we are on the right tract to get through those very difficult times. I enjoy reading your blog as well. ;-)

  2. The difficulty in raising kids is that it never stays done - you have to continually redo things! Life is so much like laundry. But cheer up, your bound to cycle away from the current difficulty soon! And really, is being almost late once *really* that bad? :)

    1. We were at our max for lates for the year, so almost adding another tardy could have gotten me in trouble. ;-)

  3. Jenny I'm right there with you on the parenting journey. I loved that Ted Talk as well , it is right on the mark. Currently I have a preschooler who sometimes naps during the day but then I can't seem to get her to bed until 10 or 11. I'm not tired she says and doesn't stay in her room. I have not heard of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle but it sounds great! Love reading with my kids and thank you for linking to me in your post. This is a fabulous post smoothly transitioning and connected together. I can learn a lot from you. Cheers!

    1. At the risk of giving advice where none was asked! (see above, I know, I know. I just can't resist.) My kids were the *exact* same way. What I found was that really they all gave up their naps early. *But* I found that rest time was important to their mood (and mine) during which they were allowed to read, on their beds. In truth, if they stayed in their rooms vewy, vewy quiet...heh, heh, heh so I basically didn't know if they were doing otherwise, it was fine. :) But it's also the period where I would check out 25 new library books a week and give them 5 or so new books a day to "read." :) My kids all love to read. Surely not the only cause, but a contributor.

    2. That is a good idea about checking out a whole bunch of new books. We are still adjusting to the new bed from the crib. But, it does seem to be getting a bit better. She was screaming alligators were eating her for a while to get attention. Oh, creative imaginations.


I would love to hear your thoughts.

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