After I got married, I had this vision of family life – a little girl and then a little boy. But then I had my daughter, and could not envisage having another child. I had endured horrible all-day sickness during my pregnancy, and then had a c-section. I didn’t want to go through that again. And we were happy. Our family of three was perfect. I loved my daughter so much, and I couldn’t imagine loving another child as much. ‘But your vision’, Husband said. ‘What about that boy?’
There were many reasons, but really, I was scared of having a son. Now, I didn’t actually know I would have a boy. But I felt fairly confident. I had been certain I would have a girl first, and I did. And for some reason, I felt quite sure I would have a boy next. And I was terrified. I was afraid of cleaning little boy genitals. I was frightened of having one of those crazy out-of-control boys that one sees terrorising playgrounds. And I was worried that I could not love a naughty son as much as my angelic daughter.
Now you are nine.
You used to be eight,
And the numbers before that,
And before that, you were nothing,
Just a hope and a wonder,
And I made you and brought you to the world.
Daily tantrums. Over. Nothing. The wrong colour cup. They don’t want to wear shoes. That dog looked at them funny. From the time my son was two, until a couple of months after his fourth birthday, our life was filled with constant tantrums. Sometimes they were small, and could be eased with a cuddle. Sometimes they were epic meltdowns that only subsided after mummy was bitten and whacked into submission. And by submission, I mean I would be curled up in a corner sobbing my eyes out.
But then things got easier. And I don’t mean that I became better adept at dealing with the tantrums. Or that I became tougher at dealing with the public shamings and smackings. I probably did get better at handling them, but then the tantrums just eased. Considerably. My son no longer needed to fight about every decision. Dubz no longer needed to shout and scream whenever he disagreed with me. We could leave a park without floods of tears. All of a sudden, he seemed to gain some sense.
When my big girl started school, I felt all the usual emotions – nervousness, excitement, worry and sadness. Four years later, my baby boy had his first day of Reception. And while I was a bit nervous that he would be scared, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and happiness. I was happy to finally have a little bit of freedom. And of course, being a mother, I felt guilt. Ah, there’s always some guilt.
I made the decision to become a Stay-At-Home-Mum over three years ago. Doesn’t that mean that I should want to be with my children at all times? Maybe there are some mothers out there who want to be with their kids 24/7. But I am not one of those mums. It doesn’t mean that I don’t adore my children. It just means that I want, no, that I need time on my own.
Although I don’t watch This Morning (sorry), parenting forums have been buzzing with today’s interview by Bea Marshall. Bea is a parenting coach – I expect she tells parents what to do rather than offering encouraging words like ‘you got this’ and ‘you are definitely not screwing up your child’. Anyway, Bea doesn’t think children should be punished as ‘any form of punishment puts the parent in a position of power over their child’. Wait, what?! Isn’t that the point of being a parent? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones in charge? Surely I’m not the only one who uses the line ‘If you don’t like my rules, then get a job and a family and make your own rules’.
What is wrong with having power over your children as long as you use the power to guide them and help them turn out into happy, caring, responsible adults? My daughter is eight and my son is four. I cannot imagine letting them decide whether they should do their homework, see the dentist or what time they should go to bed. I am an adult. With that comes years of wisdom and learning. I have learned some things the hard way, which everyone must go through. But some things have been learnt through listening to the recommendation of professionals. For instance, I know how important sleep is to children’s growing bodies and minds. Letting my kids get six or seven hours of sleep a night is not going to do them any favours.
But I am not saying that we should blindly follow childcare experts. I sincerely believe in a parent’s intuition. Many of us are taught to ignore our hearts, but there is something that tells many of us what is best for our own child. Obviously if your instinct says to give your six-month old some Coca-Cola, then maybe ignore those instincts. I also don’t believe we should be hitting our children or punishing them in any way that is humiliating or physical. Kids need to feel safe and loved at home, more than anywhere else. A parent should be the one person who you know will always love you and take care of you and never inflict harm or pain on you.
Eight years ago, on this exact day, I became a mother. But the mother I was on that very first day is much different to who I am today. In the beginning, you go in ‘all guns blazing’, armed with your baby books and a heady sense of excitement mixed with equal measures of fear. But each day you learn, you grow. The fear sometimes lessen, and sometimes increases. You look at the books less, and you trust yourself more. So I thought I would share some of the things I have learned in the past eight years.
The last few weeks have been tough. Dubz, who is two months shy of his fourth birthday, has been more of a handful than ever. In January, he began being afraid of sleeping alone and started sneaking to his sister’s bed throughout the night and waking up early. He had always slept through the night, until about 7.30am. So waking up at 6am began taking a toll on him. In the past few weeks, he has started waking up at 5am. He cannot handle the lack of sleep, physically and mentally. He has been falling asleep in the afternoons, on the sofa or in the car. He wakes up angry and cranky. But if he doesn’t sleep, he is much worse.
Eight years ago today, I was in the third trimester of my first pregnancy, seven weeks from giving birth. I was reading pregnancy books and magazines, preparing to be the ‘perfect mother’. *cue howls of laughter* But nothing truly prepares you for parenthood. While I feel that I spent the first few months of motherhood playing by the book, it did not take long for me to find my own way of being a mother. You could even say that I’ve become a maverick mum. Read more
It has happened to us all. You are out and about with your children, minding your own business, when an unknown voice intrudes into your space. This kindly, well-meaning person goes on to tell you how to best take care of your children. Perhaps your child is not dressed warmly enough. Perhaps your child is dressed too warmly. Is your child particularly small or big for his/her age? Maybe your child is hungry or thirsty. Could your child need a haircut? Or does our child not look enough like his or her own gender? Is that a boy wearing a princess dress? *gasp*
I used to think I was a good mum. But then I had a second child, and was so busy focusing on keeping us all alive that I stopped thinking about being a good mother. But recently, as I seem to have gotten the knack of parenting two children, my thoughts have turned to parenting. My youngest is now three and a half and he is better able to communicate his needs and to engage in conversation. At home, things are mostly okay. The problems arise when we leave the house.
Yesterday I took Dubz out for a rare treat after his speech and language therapy appointment – a chocolate biscuit and juice at a cafe in our local Tesco Extra. After scoffing the biscuit in two minutes, he wanted to run around the cafe, then he begged for more biscuits and then he ran off to look at Star Wars clothing. I manged half my tea before giving up. It is easier just staying home.
Dubz argues about wearing socks, which shoes to wear and how many toys to take into the car. Once in the car, he argues about where he is sitting and whether he can put on his car seatbelt on. Then there are the arguments about where we are, what we are doing and whether he can have a chocolate muffin. I am okay until about noon. Then my patience is all gone. And by the time we pick up Moozles from school at 3.30pm, I am on the edge. Ready to erupt.
And erupt I do. Every afternoon I start shouting at my children. Yes, they’re annoying. But I don’t actually think they can help it (most of the time anyway). But I tell myself, ‘don’t worry, you’re not a bad mum, you’re okay’. But is it acceptable being an ‘okay mum’? Should I not be striving to be the best mum I can be? I’m not talking about being perfect. Just being better than okay.
But I’ve decided that okay is the best I can be right now. Beating myself up will not make me a better mother. I let my children know that they are loved. I kiss and cuddle them. I take care of their needs, I clothe and feed them, read to them everyday. I do not lock them in the cupboard under the stairs. Okay, this latter point is basic human dignity, but sometimes you need an extra win. Sometimes I shout. But that doesn’t make me a bad mother. So, I’m not the best, most patient mother. But I’m the most okayest mum I can be.