Updated: Mar 8, 2021
I used to think that parenting babies and toddlers was hard (and tbh, it was at the time). I spent hours, weeks, months, in tears because I was trying so hard to be ‘perfect’. I was regularly an arse to my husband and felt shitty about myself most of the time. I was definitely not prepared.
I went through months of excruciating pain ‘battling through’ breast feeding because if I didn’t breastfeed until they were at least able to drive (maybe not quite that old, but you get my drift), then I considered myself to have failed as a mother (I only managed a year btw - don’t judge me).
I never gave them sweets, handmade everything from scratch, organic or nothing. Goat’s milk, not cow’s. Gluten free. No TV. Wooden toys. No plastic. Audio books. No devices. Story AND a lullaby every night for YEARS. No alcohol (me obviously, not the kids). Baby massage. Gymberoo. Baby music classes. Blah. Blah. Blah. You know the drill.
Fast forward a few years and I realised after all that time and effort, I couldn’t ‘control’ them anymore. Regardless of what I’d done, they only went and started getting minds, tastes and ideas of their own - rude - no one briefed me about that phase.
Then my life swiftly descended into a series of oxymorons and juxtapositions (likely none of those, I've just always wanted to somehow use those words in a piece of writing)!
Communicate but don’t over communicate.
Give them boundaries but give them freedom.
Lead by example but be yourself.
Be yourself but be perfect.
Listen but don’t give too much advice.
Be there but make sure they don’t know you’re there.
Tell them you love them but don’t over love them.
Tell them you’re proud of them and they can be, do and have anything they want in the world but tell them not to dream too big or they’ll be disappointed.
Stand up for them but don’t get involved.
Be their parent, not their friend but sometimes, be a friend.
Show them who’s boss but never raise your voice.
Do what you can for them but don't do too much.
Have your own life but be there for them.
Go back to work but drop them off and pick them up from school every day and go to all their after school activities.
Help them but let them learn for themselves.
Give them life lessons but don’t expect them to listen or take anything you say on board.
The list goes on!
Then it finally dawned on me during their pre-teens when they upped the anti even more and they began making their own choices and decisions (I know, right?), that instead of trying to get parenting ‘right’ (whatever the hell that means anyway!), I went back to basics, stripped it all back and started focussing on being a decent human being. What that looked like for me, included:
Speaking my mind, being honest, following my dreams despite the (extremely) bumpy journey.
Showing up imperfect
Admitting my mistakes, sharing my dark and my light, my highs and lows, wins and losses.
Talking about my feelings
Communicating how I felt, why I felt it, where I felt it and how I was attempting to harness/change/grow/sit with them. Being vulnerable.
Taking responsibility for my actions
Admitting when I was wrong, apologising when and where necessary. Self reflecting.
Not just paying lip service but actually stopping what I was doing and showing up, being present.
No more monologues in a bid to get my point across, instead getting their buy in to a conversation first and respecting when they say they’ve had enough. Knowing when to stop.
“Nailing’ parenting suddenly didn’t matter anymore. Genuine, respectful, open communication was where it was at. It became hugely apparent that the clock was ticking. I only had a small window of opportunity left and if I didn’t find a way to impart what pearls of wisdom I did have, in a way that I believed would empower my kids to make better choices and become the best versions of themselves then it didn’t matter how many organic meals I’d cooked or how many television free hours they’d been denied, I really would have failed them.
So whenever I saw the opportunity to do so, I introduced true, uncensored stories about our family. A family riddled with mental health issues, addictions, depression and suicide. A family with a long standing history of affairs, divorce, domestic violence, terrible role models, the inability to show and give love.
This created the opportunity for discussions about how that impacted people around them, how my kids may have reacted or behaved or felt in those situations and the signs they could look for so that they might one day be able to empathise with and help their friends in similar scenarios.
Side note: we also talk about flying cars, how many hairs we think are on our dog’s body and why, no matter how hard I try can I still cannot master the art of baking.
My point being that since I’ve chilled the $%*! out, stopped concerning myself with attempting to be perfect, being real, dropping into my heart and treating my kids with the respect they deserve, I’ve been able to have way more of an impact on them. We all feel seen, heard, validated and empathised with, which in turn creates a safe and trusting environment where nothing is taboo, no topic is untouchable and all blunders are shared and learned from.
I highly recommend it!