Parenting today has never been so easy.
That’s what all the parenting experts would have us believe as they write yet another book detailing yet another way of parenting our children. If we just simply follow their strict routines, guidelines and wisdom (largely with no actual child rearing experience I find too) then all will be well but due to the subjective nature of offering generic guidelines and wisdom and applying it to the very individual nature of each child this doesn’t always work. My child doesn’t fit into their box so the answer is that we find another box (book) to latch onto and hope that this will give us that magic answer to sleepless nights, fussy eating and temper tantrums but, invariably, they don’t.
Growth charts and developmental stages are based around the ‘average’ child and if it’s one thing I have now learned about my children it’s that none of them are average. This isn’t a boast about how far on they are in reading, how much they don’t tantrum or even whether we’ve got rid of pull up pants and are having dry nights. No, this is about knowing that no child is the exact average child that all charts and developmental stages are based on. One of my sons was very behind in his physical development, one didn’t talk until he was 2 (he’s made up for it now though and occasionally we even harp back to those pre-verbal days when the house was a lot quieter!) but one has a reading age 3 years above his age, one is ambidextrous (Yeah! Beat that developmental charts!!) and one is way to canny for the age, and size, that he is. My children certainly haven’t been average and I don’t think yours are either…
There are those days though when it all goes wrong. When the noise is just that little too loud, the mess is just that little bit too dangerous and you’ve come to the end of your tether. What strategies do you use? Which parental method do you fall back on? Is it ‘by the skin of your teeth?’ or ‘Shut the door and make a cup of tea and face it after a 10 min break?’ or is it like us, Hubbie and I, what we call (I quote Miranda too much it seems these days) the ‘Tag team’ method.
Hubbie and I realised early on that neither of us have the endless pit of patience that you need for having children. The barrage of repeated questions by monotone little people that never stops actually begins to make your head hurt after a while and what do you do then? The 5th tantrum of the day with your little person lying on the floor shouting ‘I HATE YOU!!!!’ in a local supermarket (and it’s not even lunch time) can have you reaching for the metaphorical gin bottle or at the very least counting 10 and beyond very slowly.
There are those times when you’ve just had enough. When you’ve shouted the wrong thing, when you want 5 minutes peace and when you actually want to throw the parenting books away and have a bit of time out yourself. You may want to visit the naughty step and sit on it for a while just to see if anyone would notice, hey – maybe that’s a new method I could invent. I think I could have a bestseller there…
Hubbie and I have a little secret code. If one of us seems to be losing the plot and is becoming slightly irrational we say ‘can I have a word/ask you something in the kitchen?’ This code is the secret words that gets us both to stop and think a little and then we do go and have a word in the kitchen. We can then talk about what’s happening and form a plan and even if this means we pretend to have the answer it’s better than carrying on the way we were. It gives us a breather too but above all it does help that someone else is regulating me/him that just before the end of the tether is reached, before I/he has jumped off into the deep end that someone stops us both and gently says ‘hey, you need to walk away for 5 minutes’.
On Sunday Henry had whined a little bit too much (4 days of the whinny voice coupled with a snotty nose was enough I found) and I left the breakfast table saying ‘I need to leave the room as I just can’t take it at the moment’ Hubbie was great and said ‘go and write for a bit and I’ll bring you in a cuppa’ The office is as far away from anyone as you can get in the cottage and when I sit behind the computer screen I can block out most things as I get lost in my thoughts and typing. I find parenting hard and I don’t mind admitting it. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t mind admitting that too –sometimes even to the children. In the words of T.S. Elliott I ‘Try harder and fail better’ each time when I come across a new situation that I have to have an opinion on or make a decision to do with the boys. What I hope I do is listen to them, take on board what they think and feel, help them to make the right decisions for themselves and my ultimate goal is that they will make good decisions even when I’m not in the room but judging by how tea went a couple of days ago when I decided to put the washing away I think we’re quite far from that reality! (Food on the floor, the noise was horrendous and each one was complaining about the misdemeanours of the others)
Parenting today has never been so hard.
Generally because too many people are sticking their noses in, writing books to confuse us by giving totally contrasting advice and information. I really think that once you accept you won’t get it perfectly right that your children will eventually sleep, will eat, will get out of nappies and become fabulous human beings if you work with them in your parameters you decide as a family then I think everyone will be a lot happier.
I’m not an attachment parent, I don’t do ‘baby led weaning’, I breastfed for a bit with each of the boys I just simply work with my husband to raise our children the best we can. We are the ones on the side of the parental wrestling ring watching the other one deal with the boys and when it all gets too much will jump off the ropes, high five each other and give each other a break. That seems to be working for us…