I thought I had a pretty good idea about what to expect from parenthood.
I have two younger sisters; I started babysitting for other families when I was twelve; I’ve worked in childcare; I’ve spent time looking after disabled children – often overnight; I’m trained as a nurse; and I like to think I’ve got a bit of common sense. But I’ve learnt a lot since becoming a mother.
My previous life experience saw me no stranger to changing nappies or crying babies. It taught me how to feed, bathe, and administer medication/medical attention to babies and children; and generally keep them alive and happy.
Motherhood came along and hit me with the obvious things like: sleep deprivation; a mothers instinct; breastfeeding; and all of those EMOTIONS.
So many emotions. (I’m looking right at you Mum-Guilt)
But blah blah blah – there are probably 50 billion articles on the big wide web which discuss all of the little (or extremely freaken’ large) secrets that parenthood is waiting to upper-cut you with when you have kids.
Instead, this is a list of things which I had encountered in my life pre-children, which I can finally make sense of; truly understand; empathise with; and often practice, now that I’m a mother:
The art of pretending to be asleep. I have vivid memories of trying to wake my parents after I’d had a bad dream. My parents have four kids; two of those are younger than me. I could never understand why my parents wouldn’t wake up when [in the early hours of the morning] I would “whisper” in their ears, poke, nudge or shake them.
It makes FAR more sense now.
I have TWO children – half the amount of my parents – and unless the house is on fire, or there are bodily fluids on the new carpet – I’m going to pretend to be asleep until they go back to bed. (Or at least, until they go around to the other side of the bed and try and wake MrJB instead.)
The true meaning of “I’ll think about it”. It means no. It’s always meant no. It’s never going to mean yes. It’s basically “I-really-can’t-deal-with-the-backlash-right-now” or “there’s-a-good-chance-they’ll-forget” or simply: “I’ll-just-say-no-later.”
The fix-it pile – the place toys go to die. The teddy with a ripped seam. The plastic pony who needs her head glued back on. The slinky which needs to be untangled… I’m going to go right ahead and put it in the cupboard and never look at it again.
Of course, it starts with good intentions – I’ll fix it when I get a few spare minutes. HA! Spare minutes are when you finally get to sit on the toilet long enough to poo; or when you brush your teeth; shave your legs; or you know, wink in the general direction of your cuddle-buddy. Spare minutes are far too precious to waste fixing toys.
Adult conversation addiction. Staying home with children is so much fun. Seriously. I feel extremely blessed to be able to stay home with my girls and nurture them while they grow. BUT sometimes I like to remind myself that I am an actual human; with the ability to have actual conversations which don’t involve Elsa, Anna, Ariel or “DONT EAT THAT!!”
Whether that means dragging two loud, uncooperative children to a small, echoing coffee shop to meet a friend. Or trying to spark up a deep and meaningful conversation with the person scanning my groceries. Listening to talkback radio (or my guilty pleasure; listening in on the UHF). Or merely MAKING EYE CONTACT with another parent and exchanging understanding glances.
Hey, if it means that I can then endure another five solid hours of baby/toddler chit-chat; or perform a [very unconvincing] rendition of Elsa’s ‘Let it Go’ for my three year old – I’ll take what I can get.
Stand strong on bedtime. I vividly remember begging to be allowed to stay up just half an hour later than my normal bedtime; more often than not, the answer was no. Because um, HELLO – if it’s good enough for the cartoons to cut off at 7pm, then it’s good enough for my brain too.
Silence is golden. I used to be of the opinion that everything a child says needs to be heard – you know:
“Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” – Catherine M. Wallace.
But it’s just not possible.
YES, we can have an in depth conversation about Humpty Dumpty’s recent scandalous behaviour. And YES I will repeatedly answer your questions about skeletons and whether or not we have bum-bones. But I really need you to be quiet while I’m reversing out of my park into traffic. Or when I’m making an important phone call. Or talking to the doctor. Or you know; GOING FREAKING INSANE.
Silence is not always golden; sometimes it’s a yellowy shade of brown. Silence is often the time that there are things happening in knickers. Or on lawns. Or basically anywhere but the toilet.
Silence is also the time when toothpaste tubes are emptied; nail polish is applied behind couches; expensive face creams wasted; and little sisters are decorated with stickers.
Diet is all about balance. There are days when I am prepared for parenting; those are the days that I pack lunch-boxes full of a wide variety of home-made, healthy, raw, fresh, colourful foods, cut into fun shapes. (Basically, as soon as the lunch-box is opened the salad starts making come-hither eyes at my 3yo.)
Other days; I will barely have the functioning capacity to navigate the drive-through.
when the baby sleeps whenever the hell you can. I remember being horribly embarrassed by my own mothers ability to fall asleep while standing in line at KFC. I am no longer embarrassed. I am envious.
Parenthood has taught me to close my eyes in an empty doctor’s waiting room; at the hairdresser; while breastfeeding; and on the toilet. But if my calculations are correct; I am two kids away from being able to fall asleep while standing up, in a fast food restaurant (while still maintain my place in the queue).
Although I could probably go on, there is a glass of wine waiting for me after these kids are in bed, so it’s time to wrap this up and get the tea/bath/bed ball into motion.
But tell me; what has parenthood taught you?