I have a confession to make.
I used to be one of those mums. You know the ones – you see them at baby and toddler groups, sat with their one and only child*, looking sympathetic but a little bit smug whilst watching another mum attempting to reason with her toddler or preschooler. She feels smug, because she is utterly convinced that her impeccably behaved child would never hit another, shout at it’s mother to go away, run around screaming excitedly and refusing to be caught, repeatedly snatch toys from a baby or throw an epic fit because they aren’t allowed any more chocolate buttons. She is utterly convinced that now, having reached the benchmark age of 2 without much to write home about – maybe one or two scary tantrums, but nothing she couldn’t handle – that she and her precious babe have entirely escaped the stressful and sometimes downright frightening attitude makeover that most kids seem to go through at some point in their first four years.
Yeah, my 2-year-old was pretty incredible. We had maybe four tantrums that whole year. And there was me, armed with all of my new-found knowledge on how to deal with tantrums empathetically and kindly without raising a beast of a child or effectively sealing their fate of paying £35 a week on therapy for their entire adult life. I couldn’t wait to try all my Clever Gentle Parenting Techniques. And when those epic tantrums failed to materialise, I couldn’t help but think that it was because of all the research I’d done and how hard I tried to be a gentle and empathetic parent (cue smug smile and content glow).
Well, I’ve got news for you, lovely readers. I have a 3-year-old now. Well, a 3-and-a-half-year-old to be precise. He is amazing, funny, gorgeous, infuriating and fantastic – and he has shown me what a self-congratulatory so-and-so I used to be. It is 12.20pm at present. He is watching Balamory, and we are having a rare moment of calm (and by ‘calm’, I mean I am attempting to write whilst he tries to climb on me and demands the food that he didn’t want before I sat down at the computer to work). Since we got up, I have heard:
“Go away mummy.”
“I don’t want to share!”
“I want my daddy. I don’t like you mummy.”
“I love you so much mummy. You’re my best mummy ever.”
“NO, LITTLE TINY**! DON’T PLAY WITH ME! NOOOOO”
I have also been kicked, slapped and pushed (all in excitable jest, I might add, rather than anger) and have intercepted some rather hard pokes to Squish’s head. Squish has also been hit in the face with a pillow (although he actually kind of liked it). Yeah, it’s been a great morning.
I like to think of myself as a fairly good mum, as far as mums go. I have my moments, of course – I’ve got a pretty short temper, and I often have to apologise for my own outbursts – but I am usually pretty good at instigating problem-solving rather than punishing, keeping an open dialogue within our family and generally treating my children as equals. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, I’d just like to let you know that none of this means shit when you have a preschooler. Well, it means something, obviously. It just doesn’t mean that your kid won’t act like mine does sometimes. I have to remind myself often (on a sometimes-hourly basis at present) that loving guidance is not The Goal – it is a means to an end.
On that note, I’d like to run you through a list of what I think are the Universal Truths of Parenting.
Universal Truth #1 – No matter how you parent your kids, they will inevitably go through a stage within which they’ll more closely resemble small terrorists than children.
Universal Truth #2 – You will always know a bunch of breastfed kids who are always sick, and a bunch of formula fed kids who are as strong as an ox.
Universal Truth #3 – Similarly, there will always be a bunch of breastfed kids who are in perfect health, and a bunch of formula fed kids who always have runny noses. And you will also notice that once your kids reach the age of three, nobody really gives a shit about the breast vs formula thing any more.
Universal Truth #4 – If your child hasn’t gone through one of these stages – hitting, kicking, yelling, being rude, running off in the supermarket, throwing epic tantrums, repetitive and incessant snatching – don’t be too smug. They’ll get there, trust me.
Universal Truth #5 – There will always be a sanctimonious bitch waiting in the wings to make you feel bad about your parenting. And sometimes, you will be that sanctimonious bitch, making somebody else feel bad – probably without even realising it.
Universal Truth #6 – Thinking you know everything about children and parenting is a sure-fire way to know that, actually, that isn’t the case at all.
Universal Truth #7 – Every child really is different. And not every parenting style suits every kid. Yeah, I used to think that was mostly a crock of shit, and just an excuse for what I view as shoddy, lazy parenting, but it’s really not. They really are all different, I swear.
Universal Truth #8 – Your parenting style is not the goal – it’s the means to an end. Just because you don’t see “results” straight away doesn’t mean that UR doin’ it rong.
Universal Truth #9 – The baby will always wake up as soon as Coronation Street starts/you fall asleep/you’re about to have an orgasm.
Universal Truth #10 – Your children will surprise you. All the time. Even when you’re utterly convinced that they will act a a certain way in a certain situation, they can and will totally shock you sometimes.
Universal Truth #11 – Your kids will probably be fine, as long as you feed them, love them wholeheartedly and do your very best for them – whatever that might look like for your family.
What have you learnt since having kids? Did you have certain beliefs before that you now see were flawed? What are your Universal Truths? Please share in the comments below!
*sometimes these mums have more than one child. Occasionally it takes three kids to show you just how little you really know about parenting.
**’Little Tiny’ is Monkey’s nickname for Squish. Very cute indeed. In fact, we’ve all started calling him Little Tiny a lot more than we call him Squish.