I have been a parent now for over twenty years. In that time I have become a very different mother to the anxious, overly protective, young Mom I was to my first baby. Tonight as I reflect on that journey I thought I might share the many fails and successes I have experienced along the way.
Believing, even for a moment that my babies would love their beautifully decorated bedroom as much as I did.
They first entered that bedroom around the age of four months, only to exit it for the first time approximately two hours later.
Never imagining for a second, that a baby would be born without the knowledge of night and day.
Watching them sleep like nocturnal animals by day, while feeding, crying or gurgling all night is something even years later I have not forgotten.
Forgetting that two year old children are quick.
On one occasion I lost two two year olds. Having searched high and low, and even ran down the road looking for them, I discovered they had learned the game of hide and seek. Both were in the newly delivered dresser in the kitchen, hiding in the cupboards.
Believing my dyslexic sons inability to recite the alphabet or nursery rhymes was because he was a boy!
Whenever anxious family members wondered, I was not concerned. Did they not know that boys were not as quick as girls?
Having no doubt that no daughter of mine would ever wear a skirt that short.
I did a full turn on this one. It did not mean my girls were destined for a life walking the pavements or were soon to become teenage Moms. It was just a moment in time, which thankfully passed quickly.
Thinking that only bad parents don’t know where their children are at all times.
Children throughout time have mastered many methods of duping parents. My own little darlings were no exceptions, although it didn’t stop me using counter intelligence to try to thwart their plans!
Thinking that an eighteen year old is an adult.
How wrong can a person be? An eighteen year old is still on many occasions a lost soul looking for direction. Parenting, it would seem to me, is a job for a lifetime.
Learning that ‘spoiling’ a baby leads to a contented baby.
Having struggled with bedtime routines and rules with three children, I threw away the rule book on my fourth child. I fed her when she wanted, I picked her up when she cried, and I stopped watching the clock to ensure she went to bed at the right time. The result was a contented baby, who upset our days and nights so much less than any of my other children.
Understanding that all babies progress at a different rate, and all get there in the end.
After my first I stopped trying to fast forward their lives. By the time it got to my fourth child I found myself wondering ‘Wow when did she learn to do that?’. I also noted that they all caught up in the end.
Not being concerned by convention.
I allowed my daughter to go to school with three pony tails in her short hair, because she thought it was lovely. It most certainly wasn’t. I was also happy to buy boys school shoes for another daughter as she disliked girls shoes, and I was very relaxed watching my son wheel a doll in a pretty pink pram to the shops.
Trusting my own instinct as to what was best for my child.
Not all my children were outgoing. Many people thought that I should pull back, send them to school early and push them more. I did the opposite, believing my children needed a bit more time to become the confident children they would eventually become. Looking back I wouldn’t change a moment.
Discovering that ‘Good night time’ is very important.
Five minutes spent lying beside a child before they go to sleep often begins a conversation that might never have happened. Small worries may be shared, or happy moments enjoyed.
Learning to never react to any news.
As my children grew older I became an Oscar winning actress. No matter what secret or news they divulged I remained calm, head nodding, and bit my lip to ensure the “WHAT?” that was on the tip of my tongue, stayed there.
Organising ‘girls night’.
As my family expanded it became harder to spend time alone with them. We organised girls night so they knew that once a week we’d have time together. It was a simple night, usually involving a treat and a half hour viewing of ‘friends’ DVD, but it was a special time.
Remembering that even on the darkest of parenting days that ‘This too will pass’.
Sometimes our children hate us, and sometimes it is hard to like our children. These days are difficult but they are part of our children growing up. Thankfully in time just like so many other phases in their lives this too passes.
There are so many more lessons I’ve learned as I’m sure some of you reading have also. However if I were to share two things I learned above all else it would be these.
That parenting is a difficult job which we learn over time, and which involves a lot of trial and error.
My second nugget of advice is for those of you who have survived the many trying days of early motherhood and are now faced with the new challenge that is a teenager. To you I would say, ‘Pick your battles carefully’.
Parenting is not an easy job. As I look back on the past twenty years I remember that day I first discovered I was pregnant and how I imagined our future. I laugh now thinking back to those early days and first experiences as a mother. It has been a difficult road, but one I will always be happy I undertook. Would I go back again? Yes most definitely.
As a side note today I did the ice bucket challenge in memory of my Dad. If you would like to see it I reluctantly posted it on my facebook page here. It is not my finest hour.
And just in case you hear my comment at the end, Eejit can also be an affectionate term of endearment!