Sept. 3, 2013 06:00

Like you, I was the perfect parent of perfect kids.

Before I had kids, I was one of those judgy types (you know who you are). I'd look about in abject horror at moms who dressed their kids in light-up shoes and T-shirts emblazoned with the Disney or Nickelodeon character du jour. And I swore my children's lips would never touch a fast food chicken nugget or - (gasp!) - a hot dog. My perfect, imaginary children would never play with handheld electronic devices or watch hours of cartoons every Saturday morning.

I used to watch toddlers throw tantrums and think, "My child would NEVER..." or "Why can't he/she just control their child?"

I was the perfect parent with perfect children - before I had kids.

I now watch my 2-year-old's eyes light up at her blinky, every-shade-of-pink and white princess sandals, Mickey Mouse T-shirt and

Dora socks. And while she's yet to throw a conniption in public (thank God), I no longer pass judgment on parents who aren't so fortunate.

I've learned to make games out of washing her hair, clipping her fingernails, bath time and brushing her teeth.

When you become a parent, it's apparent that you do whatever it takes to keep the peace.

I make ice cream promises to get my kid to take a nap.

I bribe her with my iPad to take her breathing treatments when she's sick.

And I'm making a list of what works so I can use it when my infant son is a toddler.

Do I give in too much, too often? Probably so. But I've learned that, with children, you have to live to fight another day. When my toddler wants to eat bananas and peanut butter on toast instead of whatever I cooked for dinner, I've learned to just let go. We've fought that fight too many times. I sneak in vegetables when I can, and I'm thrilled that she loves yogurt. She eats bologna sandwiches and chicken nuggets, and her compulsion for Goldfish crackers could surely rival any fiend's need for crack.

On Saturday mornings, Disney Junior is king, so the queen of the house can do chores. We sometimes run to the grocery store without brushing my daughter's hair, and I'll take the baby out barefoot wearing a onesie adorned with an impressive amount of spit-up. I've learned that none of those things really matter.

Does all this make me a crappy parent? Not really. Do I use whatever it takes to make it through the day? Absolutely.

But through all the chaos and "time outs," love and affection, hopefully we're teaching discipline and respect, and working our way toward confidence and independence as we pray they become happy, functional adults. None of us are "Super Mom," but we all do our personal best to be super moms.

So instead of judging that lady in the grocery store with the screaming child, just give her a big smile - either because you've been there before or because you will be one day.

Patricia Thompson is wife to Mark, mom to Eleanor (who will be 3 in November) and 5-month-old Thatcher Joseph and public affairs specialist at Cox Communications. The ultimate planner at home and work, she has a healthy obsession with red lipstick and hip-hop music and knows every lyric to every '90s song.

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