I recently celebrated my eldest's birthday since then I have been reflecting on my journey over the last eight years as a parent. It has been a time of joy, of sadness, of frustration, of bewilderment and of immense pleasure. I never thought being a parent was going to be easy, it is hard, damned hard and it is all the time there is no walking away.
If you want it there is masses of advice available to parents. A quick search on amazon in books, parenting gave me over 64 000 results some of those may be duplicates of the same book, even so that is a lot of books. Why is it that there are so many available these days. Could it be because we live so differently now to fifty or hundred years ago. We live in very different communities. We have smaller families so the older siblings do not learn any parenting skills which are acquired by the younger members of the family observing older siblings as parents themselves. I had no older siblings to learn from, I remember my cousins as babies but did not spend long enough with them to remember what looking after a baby was like. I read no parenting books before my eldest was born and even if I had I cannot believe that they would have prepared me for the whirlwind that is the early days of becoming a parent. A baby is dependent on us to meet its every need, even when we have no idea as to what the need is that we are trying to meet, fitting our own needs into the day becomes hard. Life, as some would have you believe, does not return to normal, whatever normal is. I was working full time before my first child was born, I was under no illusion that I would ever return to that possibly part time, but never full time. Those parents who try to return to normal must feel like they are pushing a full cart up a hill, permanently.
As my baby grew older and started to explore the world away from me through crawling, toddling then walking I had to learn to trust, and I did right from the beginning. As a parent I believe that it is important to ensure that your child does not come to harm, but is allowed to explore. If a child is not trusted they are exploring the world through someone else's boundaries not their own. They cannot make sense of new situations as they do not know where the boundaries are so parents have to intervene. If more trust is given as the child gets older they may come to harm as they have not been able to make their own boundaries. I realised that I was able to trust my child as my mother had trusted me. If we are not trusted ourselves how can we place trust in our own children, we have not been able to learn these skills properly at the time in our lives that we needed to gain this vital skill.
As a parent I believe it is important to respect children, I have been shocked at how little respect children are given in our society. I am not taking about legislation to protect their rights or safeguarding them from harm, I am talking about treating them as individuals in the same way as you would adults. If my children are hurt or upset I don't deny them these feelings by saying oh you'll be alright or it's not that bad. How could I possibly know how they are feeling, to say this is to deny the child any feeling or lead them to question the feeling they are having and wonder if they are wrong to feel that way. If my children tell me they are hungry I believe them and give them something to eat, unless I am about to serve a meal. I don't say you can't be you've just eaten etc. I speak to my children as I would expect to be spoken to myself, or as I would speak to anyone else and how most parents speak just to other adults. I find this immensely disrespectful and it jars with me every time I hear a parent speak that way to a child. We seem to still expect our children to be seen and not heard, much like the Victorians. If you try to take a child out for a meal after 5pm in so many places it is not possible, if my children are quiet and sit still I am told they good, if my children are being noisy and boisterous I get withering or pitying looks. I want my children to be themselves, to work out for themselves when is the time for being quiet and still or noisy or boisterous not when the rest of society deems it appropriate.
Children have an immense capacity to learn. When I think back to what they learn in the first two years of their life alone it is remarkable. As a parent I am learning too, each and every day. It is a journey that never stops, it is exciting and exhausting. I am preparing my children to venture out into the world by themselves. We spend more of our lives away from the family home than we do in it, but they are some of the most important. They are the time when we are learning values which will shape us into who we are as adults, those foundation blocks give us a stable platform to go out and continue to learn. If there are gaps or cracks in the foundations we will struggle. One the biggest lessons I have learnt from my children is to relax. If I take my time and go at their pace I am a more relaxed mama. I don't try to do too much in one day as it leaves me frazzled especially if I have to be places at a specific time, for me life is too short for rushing.
This is not my advice, this what I do and what I believe in now, tomorrow that may change, in a year that may change. My parenting is fluid. I am not perfect, I have lots to learn and I look forward to the future because of this. I don't beat myself up when I have a bad day I try to work out why and change things if I can. I am enjoying it as I only get one chance.