Tuesday, 15 April 2014

It's not all bad!

No one ever said that being a parent would be easy.  And no amount of pre-game pep talk would ever have been enough to prepare us for life with a baby. There are books you can read, friends and family who give you advice, the internet, mummy groups and so on and so forth.  But none of it really means a damn thing until you've got your tiny little bundle of half-mum-half-dad loveliness home and are living in your new, unknown reality.  And it's in those first few days and nights on your own that you attempt to recall every morsel of information, every tidbit of advice people tried to spoon feed you.  And it's right then and there that you realise none and all of it helps.  Am I right?!

Recently I realised something, as I sat on the couch with a sleeping baby plonked on my chest, unable to eat when I wanted, pee when I wanted and smelling up the joint from three days of non-showering; new parents (and by new I mean every single parent of any child of any age) tend to get bogged down in what their kids SHOULD be doing instead of reveling in what they are doing.   It's easy to feel like you are achieving absolutely nothing when you've got kids. It's easy to wake up in the morning only to check your watch and find that it's five hours later and you're still in your PJs with your hair in the same old greasy ponytail and your breath stinks. It's easy to look around your home and become overwhelmed by the dishes  in the sink and the washing piled up in baskets.  It's easy to forget to get something out for dinner or that you ran out of milk two days ago and still haven't made the five minute trip up the road to the shops.  And it's easy for one bad night to turn into two or three, and for sleep deprivation (or zombie brain) to take over and you find yourself grinding your teeth, muttering under your breath about why you'd EVER want to have another baby, or just plain old sobbing into your cornflakes for dinner.  

But something that's hard to do is to make the connection between your stinky trackpants and unwashed hair and your child's happiness.  The fact that I haven't showered today or put on a load of washing isn't indicative of what I HAVE been doing.  In fact there is a direct correlation between my own personal dishevelment and the giant smile on my daughter's face (and not just because she thinks I'm hilarious)!  Because it means my day has been spent being her Mum first, above all other menial tasks around the house.  She is smiling because we have spent the day snuggling, playing, learning, eating, pooping, discovering.  She is smiling because I have put her first and she feels loved and protected and safe.  But you won't read too often about that in the parenting books.  Well, not in my experience anyway.

I have always taken parenting advice with a huge grain (or tablespoon) of salt.  I think anyone who cares to write a book and call themselves a "parenting expert" is more along the lines of a delirious moron.  How can you be an expert in parenting, or a "baby whisperer"?  Do they teach that at university now?  I have read a few parenting books with the hopes of learning a thing or two that I can use to help make my days a little easier.  But this is hard because despite the fact that ALL BABIES ARE DIFFERENT, each one of these experts claims to have the right way to discipline, the right way to schedule, the right way to calm.  And when your own baby doesn't respond to any of these methods these books also (for no extra cost) make you feel the right kind of inadequate and guilty.  Sounds fun, right?  Nope, no it's not!

I was having this conversation with two friends today, both with daughters in varying stages of toddler-dom, about which books we'd found helpful, what techniques we've tried for what, and what advice we wished we'd known.  And not surprisingly we all came to the same conclusion.  Yes, there may be days when we want to cry about the lack of sleep or how much one tiny creature can disrupt our lives, or the fact that you no longer have the time or energy required to kiss your husband on the mouth let alone get bizzy anymore.  But you also get a front row seat to the greatest show on earth! No one else gets to shape and mould your children the way you do. No one else gets to marvel in the ingenuity of the mind of a child as they mimic and discover how to do those things you're teaching and showing them.  I can quite literally spend hours watching my daughter's face as she figures out how to grasp her toys, reach for her dinner spoon, and use her baby language to ask for what she wants.  This month alone she has learned how to sit upright unassisted, pull herself up to standing position and begin crawling. And I got to be there for every second of it! 

So no, we don't have a cemented schedule yet, she doesn't go to sleep at the same time every night, and she still sometimes cries on car rides and throws tantrums when she's tired. But who cares?!  Because she is so incredibly smart and loving and affectionate. Every day is an adventure because you never know what to expect next.  And I wouldn't trade a second of it! 


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  1. This is a great post. I think we all just need to collect information and use what we think most makes sense to us. If Cooper wasn't on a flexible schedule I would personally go crazy, so I worked with him early on to learn some self-soothing and to expect some basic schedule. It's worked for us, but I can see that when it comes down to it, our babies are developing and growing into great kids regardless. The key for me is generally having a routine and a bedtime in place, but to adjust occasionally. If we want to go spend an evening with family Cooper will stay up later and fall asleep on the ride home and we have to hope he isn't upset to be woken up when we get home. You have to be flexible because some of what you try won't end up working for you or won't work well for your child.
    As long as you are happy with your daily lives and getting enough sleep to be a productive mom and person, don't worry much about techniques and schedules.

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  3. Wow. I am bookmarking this for later. Excellent post!!!!!