Imagine with me, if you will, a fresh-faced mom-to-be. She's just graduated from college with an English and Theatre degree. She's living on a steady diet of mashed potatoes. She's got very strong opinions about the world, about corporate greed, about wooden handmade baby toys… and about children's clothing.
When she saw children playing together, clad in Dora the Explorer shirts and shoes, she thought, with great elegance and empathy:
"Um, PUKE. My kid will NEVER wear licensed character clothing. My child will not be a billboard."
She then went about her fresh motherly business with a smug look on her face before eating half a jar of pickles.
(You may have figured this out by now, but the fresh-faced pregnant lady was me. Just to be clear, I’m talking about the 2009 version of myself here.)
Let's flash forward a little bit to now. 2017. My son is running around practically covered in Pikachu. My daughter has a healthy collection of My Little Pony and Trolls shirts. The small, idealistic, wooden toy-obsessed, solids-and-stripes parent is trapped inside of me somewhere, crying while listening to a band full of banjos and accordions play haunting Appalachian ballads.
This is what parenting does to you.
I don't know what happened. I really don't. On the one hand, I know I'm giving in to "the man." The big corporations who make gazillions of dollars off of consumerism and parents who are just really, really tired of listening to whining.
On the other hand, I know how much I loved certain characters when I was a kid, and I also know how that love shaped me as I got older. I loved fiction, I loved fantasy, and I loved certain cartoons to the point of borderline obsession, and as I look back on it I'm okay with it. As an adult I STILL buy licensed paraphernalia for myself… how can I say "No, sorry, no Pikachu for you, kid" when I’m literally sitting next to a set of Doctor Who salt and pepper shakers?
Now, I'm not saying you have to give in to the licensed character phenomenon. But I am saying that, if you're a parent, you've probably changed your views on a handful of things. Maybe you swore you'd never use disposable diapers. Or maybe your kids would never eat processed sugar.
I'm here to tell you that that's okay.
Do you need my validation? Probably not. Maybe. Who knows?
Another thing I've learned about parenting is that it's no fun to be in the trenches by yourself. You begin to think some unpleasant thoughts… thoughts like:
"What happened to me? What happened to my ideals!?"
"I used to BELIEVE in things!"
"I wonder how long that candy bar has been on the floor… is it still good?"
Again, I reiterate: it's okay.
Someday, you're going to start getting a little bit more sleep at night. Someday, you'll be able to hear your own thoughts again. Someday, you'll get to explore the things you used to love and feel strongly about.
Right now, though? Right now, it's okay if your standards get a little lower. It's okay to choose white bread because it's the bag that's closest to your hand.
Give yourself a break. You deserve it.
(You should also totally eat that candy bar. If there's no hair stuck to it, it's fair game.)