Does anyone else remember how they felt upon becoming a parent? When my little boy, James, arrived into the world I was walking on air. Overwhelmed, over-the-moon, tired. And a little bit…what’s the word…oh yes, clueless. Does that sound familiar? It’s a crazy time but you know things will settle down eventually and you feel fairly sure you’ll be able to figure all this parenting stuff out.
Three and a half years later, it seems to me that every other parent in town has got it together. I see serene faces at the school gates; other mums calmly nurturing their offspring, carving out a stellar career, and perfecting the art of macaron-making on the side. I’m pretty good at playing that game too – hell, I baked cookies this morning, and I cleaned my house earlier this year.
Some good friends, strong coffee and the occasional vat of red wine helped me along the way.
James and I frequently ‘have our moments’, by which I mean the contents of a nappy often hit that metaphorical fan, and I thought it might be time to spill some parenting beans.
Let’s return to those early days with a baby. They eat, sleep, cry…what else? Oh, that’s it. And you can knock sleeping off my list. James wasn’t really a fan of closing his eyes, and I would curse those new mums with sleeping children. They would tell me they had established a routine. James had a routine too: rousing my partner and me several times every night for some quality family time. The early days (weeks, months…) can be rough. It gets easier, people told me. ‘When?” I would screech, in reply.
However, babies are clever wee things. They know when they’ve pushed you too hard, and will send you a little gummy smile that will melt your heart and stir your soul, reminding you why you began this journey in the first place. James and I were quick to embrace our new life together, and hit every babes and toddlers group we could find. Some good friends, strong coffee and the occasional vat of red wine helped me along the way.
Time flies when you’re running around after a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed infant, and a couple of years passed in a blur. Before I knew it, James was starting nursery. Great, I thought. Now things will get easier. I dropped him off on his first day, and littered social media with his charming, happy profile. I congratulated myself on his (and my) absence of tears. Job done, I reckoned. Fast-forward a couple of weeks, and I found myself abandoning a shrieking James at the nursery door, as the staff welcomed him and kindly shooed me away.
Recently, my rules for parenting have become…hmm, let’s say…flexible. I used to restrict screen-time, and I still try, but to be honest James is no stranger to YouTube. He has on occasion watched a whole series of Thomas in one go (isn’t that the beauty of YouTube? You don’t even have to change the channel!).
Sometimes I don’t know what he’s watching because, shame on me, I’ve gone into the next room for a cuppa. I also used to frown on unhealthy eating. I was quite pleased with myself when my child reached his second birthday pretty much unaware of chocolate. James still loves fruit, veg, pasta…but I can’t pretend he didn’t spend last summer eating his own weight in vanilla ice cream at the South Inch.
I can’t pretend James didn’t spend last summer eating his own weight in vanilla ice cream at the South Inch...
What else? Sometimes when I read to James I skip pages, or pretend we’ve reached the end when there’s still a third of the book to go. I dread the day James learns to tell the time…at the moment, I can tell him it’s bedtime when something I fancy watching starts on the telly. Lego is numbing my brain. I have used swear words in front of my child (and I don’t mean the wishy-washy ones) and I’ve certainly never read a parenting book. Unlike other mums, I never remember to pack a Mary Poppins bag full of spare clothes, wipes, and little tubs of chopped grapes - James thinks that breakfast is followed by pudding. And the funny thing about all my parenting fails? Well, as it turns out, James is doing just fine.
I find parenting much like the playpark: full of swings and roundabouts. I suspect we’re all just making it up as we go along, but perhaps doing our best is enough. Perhaps we could all put down that big stick we use to beat ourselves up. Despite all my worries and all my blunders, my son is healthy and happy. James can run, dance, sing songs and make friends; he laughs like a drain and eats like a horse. I think we’re going to be ok.
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