I need to apologise to the universe for all the judgements and assumptions I made about parenting BEFORE becoming a parent. I’m ashamed to admit it, but there have been times in the past when I’ve thought “well, when I’M a parent…” And assumed that I would obviously be the best parent EVER, and my children would behave 100% of the time.
Little did I know that making judgements about parenting when you’re not a parent is kinda like packing a parachute when you’ve never been parachuting – you just shouldn’t do it.
The judgement I’m most ashamed of – breastfeeding at the dinner table. I used to think, ‘why wouldn’t she feed her baby before/after dinner? Why doesn’t she sit somewhere discrete?’ Obviously I realise now, babies get hungry. And sometimes they get hungry at inconvenient times (and when I say inconvenient, I mean inconvenient for the mother who now has to have her meal cut into manageable pieces so she can eat it one handed. NOT inconvenient for anyone who might catch a tiny glimpse of breast flesh while they’re carving up their parmigiana). Why should she leave the table – she has a seat, a meal of her own, refreshments perhaps – why must she forfeit these? And mothers of multiple children; what – drag her other children to the toilets too? “Here’s your fish and chips honey – mind the puddle on the floor.”
No. Why are we even having this conversation. Babies get hungry, end of story.
Another judgement of mine – children shouldn’t be bribed or rewarded with food. I remember SAYING OUT-LOUD once, “why would you reward a child with a Freddo Frog for pooping on the toilet? Let them press the flush button – that’s reward enough.”
Ha! Karma really kicked my butt with this one. (I say as K hops off the toilet and says “I’ve done a poo Mum, what yummy surprise can I have?”)
I remember when we were toilet training K; we were having lunch at a local restaurant and she started farting, alerting me to her need to poop. We had been up and down to the toilet three times – each time she’d sat on the toilet and despite dropping some deadly gas, was denying her need to poo. On the fourth trip to the toilets, my lunch was going cold and my patience wearing thin. I had already used every trick in the book to try and convince her to JUST DO THE POO. So I promised her an ice-cream – a nut sundae. With her choice of toppings. And sprinkles if she wanted. Do you want nuts, or no nuts? Chocolate topping? Strawberry perhaps? A wafer? I was making promises left, right and centre – we’ll go to the playground; we’ll buy something special from Coles; we’ll do craft when we get home. I was literally SECONDS from promising her a PONY when she FINALLY did her business.
What a proud moment that was. We strode out of the toilets grinning like the Cheshire Cat. I ordered her sundae which was only just smaller than her head; she ate two spoonfuls and sneezed on it (thus making it inedible for anyone else at the table) before deciding she had brain freeze and a full tum.
But seriously, a fucking PONY. I even briefly gave consideration to where we would house a pony, had I had to follow through with the bribe.
In summary – bribes are a legitimate parenting technique and practically the only way to ever get anything done. I store emergency bribe lollies in the console of my car for this exact reason.
Judgement was so easy; I was such a perfect Pinterest parent, before I was a parent. I would ‘pin’ all sorts of activity ideas, bedroom styling and quotes which summed up my parenting ideals. I remember one quote in particular –
“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.
It’s such a lovely quote. But it’s impossible. It is fucking impossible. And anyone that says otherwise has not met my daughter. There is not one second in her day, that she does not fill with chatter. My brain simply cannot compute it all. It hurts.
Don’t get me wrong, K and I have long, in-depth conversations on a regular basis. And we chat about silly things all the time. But I am only human, and sometimes, when she’s telling me for the seven billionth time, that she’s running away from home so that she doesn’t hurt her sister with her ice-magic powers – I give her an automated reply (‘mmmyeahp ok’), because I’m busy trying to use my brain for things. ACTUAL THINGS.
It’s easy to step into someone else’s life for five minutes and pick out everything they’re doing wrong; knowing you can leave five minutes later. But parenting isn’t like that, parenting isn’t an Ikea flat pack – just following the steps in the instruction leaflet. There are so many emotions intertwined and so many variables – the holes don’t line up; there’s not enough screws; the cupboard keeps you awake at night; you love the cupboard unconditionally but it also drives you crazy; you’re trying to raise the cupboard to be the best cupboard it can be; you feel debilitating guilt when you make the cupboard cry (don’t even get me started on ‘mum guilt’). Being a mum is freaken awesome, but it’s also HARD WORK. Harder even, than a flat pack.
And only when I had children of my own, did I realise that I still don’t know how to pack a parachute; and I’ve already jumped out of the plane.