As a parent, can I just say, I have no clue what I'm doing
I have three kids aged 15, 13 and 11. From the outside, I appear to have it all in hand. My kids are polite, friendly and fun to be with. I have managed to get to this point without losing them (apart from that one time on Blackpool Pier), killing them in a stupidity accident or them hating me. I also write about life as a parent, apparently giving the public the illusion that I know what the fuck I am doing...
I get comments and messages from people who seem to think I am the Baby Whisperer crossed with Mary Poppins. That I have some magical gift or that I know the mythical answer to parenting. This post is to let you in on a secret. I have no clue what I am doing!
None of us do! Every day is a learning experience, I am just figuring it out day by day. This means sometimes I fluke it out and things go well, but other times, it all goes horribly wrong and I am left sat in a war zone wondering how much flights to the Maldives cost.
Parenting is bloody hard work. From the sleepless nights of newborns, through teething and weaning, onto the stage when they can move themselves about and suddenly every nice thing in your home goes up onto a higher level. Toddler tantrums as they discover their own voice through to starting school and suddenly having a different authority figure in their lives. Tween dramas give way to teen dramas and suddenly the issues become more expensive and more dangerous... It is scary stuff being responsible for another human being and all any of are trying to do is not fuck them up too badly.
The only way to get through is to have other honest parents to talk to, and honest is the key word here. Don't read social media posts of the perfect mums who have made an organic breakfast, are beautifully dressed and made up, whose children are little angels who say 'thank you mummy' as she passes them their mung bean and papaya oatmeal and then trot out to school so mum can start her day as a high flying business woman who has it all...
Seriously, ignore that shit.
Honest parents are the best. They will tell you about the time they saw the bin van coming as they had just finished breastfeeding and went to run to put the bins out and stood in a shitty nappy, skidding across the floor and then meeting the bin man with shit up their leg and one breast hanging out of their top.
They will tell you about the times when they lost their temper and shouted at their kids and then truly regretted it and cried outside on the doorstep until said child came and said 'don't cry mummy'.
They will tell you that sometimes they think their kids are dickheads and they occasionally daydream of running away from home.
They will tell you that random freezer dinners of one fishfinger, 2 mini sausage rolls, a pizza finger and some beans is totally acceptable if you stick a piece of cucumber on the side.
They will tell you that their heart aches when they try and deal with teenagers who are so angst filled and bubbling with hormones that you feel like different species. That when their kids make idiotic choices and take dangerous paths that they just wish they were toddlers again so that the parents could cuddle them and watch Finding Nemo in bed and keep them safe.
They will tell you that parenting is all practicing, that they don't have the answers and that it is hard work.
(All of these have happened to me...)
Honest parents are vital. Because when they've been honest about all the challenging parts of being a parent, you want to celebrate with them all the amazing parts. Because though I sound down on being a parent here, I'm really not. I love being a mum, it is literally the best thing I have ever done.
From the moment my first son was put in my arms, I felt purpose. I knew that my life had changed forever and that I would spend the rest of it protecting and loving this bundle of joy. I remember crying about the miracle of babies, how a little part of me and a little part of my partner had made an actual human being! Though that might have been the drugs...
Seeing your child grow and change is just magical, from the baby days where they are physically changing before your eyes every single day through to teens where you can see them maturing into wonderful young adults, the process is just beautiful.
The pride as you see them learn is wonderful, teaching them about the world around them and filling their minds with information and seeing them achieve is awesome. I feel a great privilege to be mum to my bambinos, and they are growing up so quickly, I feel like I am grasping onto the last moments of childhood, especially with my eldest. This week he came and laid on the sofa with me, head rested on my shoulder and watched TV. I wanted to hug him and squeeze him but instead, I nonchalantly stayed put, slowly creeping my arm over to rest on his shoulder and quietly enjoyed the moment like he was a butterfly who would flit off at any moment.
I adore being a mum, my kids mean everything to me and I wouldn't give this life up for the world. I am so proud of them all, the three of them are all completely different with different personalities, goals and desires, but they are all just the best. I can love them but still freely admit that I don't have a clue what I am doing.
People ask me for parenting advice often, I don't feel I can give it as all kids and families are so different. But if I am pushed, I say this:
- No child ever went bad from being loved too much. Tell them you love them. Often. Seriously every day. Yep, especially when you are arguing.
- If you fuck up, admit it and say sorry. You are teaching them that even their Mighty Grand High Parent sometimes gets it wrong and thats ok.
- Fill your home and your life with interesting things, people and experiences. Kids are little sponges of curiosity, teach them everything, give them culture, show them the world around them.
- Don't go it alone, speak to other (HONEST) parents. This shit is hard work, it is not failing to ask for help.
- Boost their self-esteem. Be genuine and when they are awesome, tell them.
- Give them the gift of art. Encourage their creativity and celebrate art and music. Whether it is cartoons or the Mona Lisa, finger painting or building cardboard dens. Art is vital for kids, I honestly believe this and I think it helps them with pretty much every part of their lives.
- Be interested in their lives, there will come a day when they won't want to share everything with you and you will miss it.
- Be honest with them. Be open and true and tell the truth about life, even if it is difficult.
- Enjoy them. They grow up so quickly. Someone once told me "you never know when it will be your last", the last time they kiss you in front of their pals, the last time they'll sit on your knee, the last time they will sleep in your bed... Cherish every moment.
- Take them outdoors. Mud pies, woodland walks, playing with sticks, building dens, laying in the sun, making daisy chains, playing games. These things really matter. Trust me.
- Be grateful. You have children when there are so many people in this world can't. Don't take them for granted, love them, revel in them and celebrate them.