I'm feeling wise today, which is funny because most of the time I feel pretty clueless. But I had a two two-hour chunks of sleep last night (the most I've had in weeks) and I feel lively so, as with most things, if the opportunity arises I always think it's best to grab it.
I've been a parent for almost five-and-a-half years now, and in that time I've learnt a thing or two. I'd like to share with you what I've learnt. Do with it what you will.
This is the number one item in my parenting tool box. Kids respond to music, it's no secret why The Wiggles are multi-bagillionaires. I use music to get my kids to do things (brush their teeth, tidy their rooms) to cheer them up, distract them, calm them down, pep them up, get them to sleep, entertain them, whatever. So, it's no great surprise to me that Lil-lil lives her life like a musical and sings her way through life.
It can be me singing songs I like or making up silly songs (usually works best if you include them or include wee or poo). I will also throw on the iPod or the laptop. I always use music in the car to keep them from getting bored or fighting.
I'm certain my neighbours are sick of my singing but it's better than screeching like a fish monger's wife, which happens from time-to-time too.
It doesn't have to be cheesy kids music either, I have been known to sing The Violent Femmes' Blister in the Sun to my kids as a lullaby (I change the words and slow it down).
Before I put my kids to bed I always sang the same song. Babies/kids love cues and knowing what's about to happen. I think of it like the soundtrack to a movie, from the music we know that the axe murderer is about to jump out or that the couple is falling in love. Singing the same song before D goes to bed and he knows exactly what's about to happen and is happy to go to sleep (even if he doesn't stay asleep for very long).
Always have a plan. Although, never expect to pull it off, because with kids, plans inevitably go awry. They get sick, they miss a sleep, they sleep too early, the lose the plot, something always happens. Having vague idea about what is going to happen helps everyone though.
A good night's sleep and you're halfway there
I have non-sleeping children. All of them. It's something we've battled and battled and battled. D started off a brilliant sleeper and during that time I was the best mum in the history of the world. Seriously. I couldn't believe what a difference it made. When you are rested, being a good parent is so much easier. When you're sleep deprived it's hard to even construct a sentence. If you're sleep deprived, don't be hard on yourself. If you're not, make the most of it.
If someone offers help, take it
Don't be a mummy martyr. You don't get extra brownie points for doing it all yourself, so if someone offers, say: "Yes, please". Delegating is the most important skill you can have in any of life's situations. Remember it takes a village and all that stuff. Your kids will benefit from being with grandma/aunty/whoever for a while, and so will you.
When it all goes to hell, make sure you keep laughing. While parenting is serious, it doesn't have to be serious all the time. Keep your sense of humour or you'll lose your mind.
But it's OK to cry from time to time
I remember when Lil-lil was a couple of months old. I had barely slept the whole time she was alive. I made myself a bowl of Sultana Bran and poured OJ all over it instead of milk. It was enough to set me off on a crying jag. I sat, sobbed for a while, thought about the injustice of it all, felt miserably self-pitying for a moment, tipped the cereal in the bin and felt much better. With that out of the way, I could move on.
Even the crap parts. It will be over before you know it. If you can't enjoy it, think of all the tales you can tell once the pain has subsided.
It's not revolutionary stuff, but I wish I known it five-and-a-half years ago.