I’ve been pondering my style of parenting recently – historical and present – as my lovely, beautiful children grow.
I always felt that I had something to prove as a pregnant 18 year old and subsequent mother at 19. I was never quite sure if it was because of my age or because I felt that my own parenting was sub-par, every decision I made had to be perfect. I was one of those parents. You know exactly what I mean.
I remember falling out with my sister for MONTHS when she took Findlay to McDonalds. He was probably around two years old? I went absolutely ballistic. How could she taint my baby’s gut with that processed crap! My beautiful baby ate only homecooked meals. No sweets, ever. I think he had cake for the first time on his first birthday, but he always had lots of fruit. Apricots were a particular favourite as I recall. I carried him in a sling although it was a very basic Tomy one rather than the fabulous Moby wraps that I used with the later babies. I breastfed exclusively until solids and we did look at cloth nappies although when I had Findlay in 2001 the internet was still a bit of a novelty and getting information wasn’t particularly easy. I didn’t (and even now, rarely) smack, I preferred to use reasoning than yelling. Best of all? I judged everyone who did not parent as I did which when you think about it is HILARIOUS given that I chose all of these methods so that I could be judged as better than the average.
So what about now? Well I’ve relaxed hugely on pretty much all of it – especially the judgementalism part! I think having Nairn and Erica as such challenging babies woke me up to the fact that I was exceptionally lucky with Findlay. Nairn had such bad reflux that if I moved him or picked him up within an hour of being fed, he would vomit his entire feed all over me. I managed 14 weeks of exhausting non-stop breastfeeding before I switched him onto bottles so that his feed could be medicated. We moved straight onto chunks of food bypassing puree altogether, not because we were pioneering the baby-led weaning method but because to be honest, he was a grubber and was already trying to swipe whatever Findlay was eating. Did this mean that he occasionally ate junk food – shock horror, yes! Is he forever damaged by the occasional fish finger? I highly doubt it.
It’s only now as my lovely friends are having babies and I find myself in the position that I HATED in others when I was a new Mum – I am BRIMMING with advice. Pain relief in labour? Gas & air amazing but trippy, Diamorphine bad, epidural wonderful at the time but did you know you’ll need a catheter? Windy baby? Cycle the legs, it’ll help them fart. Exhausted Mum? Don’t get up to feed the baby, bring them into bed and practice breastfeeding lying down so you can go back to sleep. Ask me about cloth nappies or slings or attachment parenting or labour and I will BORE YOU TO DEATH with it. Lord, save us from ourselves.
Although, I think I’ve earned the right
I like to think I’m a far more laid back parent these days. I am still morally opposed to smacking – I just don’t think it’s ever right for an adult to inflict their world view on a child by using violence – however I have found myself offering that as a threat. I am a big shouter though, I’m not sure how I couldn’t be with four extremely loud children. With one fussy eater who doesn’t like bread or pasta, I’m FINE if they want to eat just a plate of cheese with ham slices for dinner because I know they’ll eat fruit/vegetables later.
We talk. About absolutely everything, at any point in time and I’m really glad that we can. Don’t get me wrong there have been some toe-curlingly excrutiating conversations like when the nursery told Erica she had to stop using the word “vagina” (I still don’t know what she was saying, I suspect she was telling her compatriots how babies are born), or explaining how two men have sex but I will do anything to avoid the situation I found myself in age 9, when my best friend Suzanne told me that when girls turn 13 they start bleeding from between the legs and it doesn’t stop until you die.
Have I made parenting mistakes? Of course! We all have, haven’t we? Massive clangers at times. What gives me comfort is that my children are all growing, they’re all healthy, they’re all super intelligent and even when they are driving me bananas I know that they are very much loved.
Given that – as a Mum, what is the best advice I can give to a new parent? It’s this. From this moment on, a huge chunk of your heart will be out living in the world outside where bad things happen and people aren’t always nice. Be the best protector of your heart by remembering all the things you hated as a kid and making sure they don’t happen.
Also? Don’t ever take advice from other parents.
(Christmas Eve, scattering reindeer food. Findlay was at his Dad’s.)
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This post was written by Vonnie on February 7, 2012