|Lil-lil, my little screamer|
When Lil-lil was three weeks old, I dissolved into tears and looked at this tiny, screaming baby and thought: "I've broken her. It's only taken three weeks, but I've completely screwed her up. That must be some kind of record." And I truly believed every word I was telling myself.
Five-and-a-half years down the track, I now realise that as a mum all I can do is my best. So much of my kids' personalities and the way they handle and do things has so little to do with my influence. All I can do is love them, give them my all and keep my fingers crossed. Lil-lil didn't cry all the time because of something I did or didn't do, that is just one of many examples.
I've seen, read and heard a lot recently that preys on new mums' fears, promising the key to 'fixing' their baby. Making their baby the smartest, the best, the most content. On blogs, Twitter and Facebook, I have also heard a lot of mums wondering what they've done wrong. Why their child isn't doing what they're 'supposed to'.
So to all those mums out there, here are some things that I've worked out since having my three:
- Every pregnancy and every birth is different. They're both unpredictable, even if you've done it before. I've had both extremes of super easy and super hard. You never know what you're going to get and you can't plan for it.
- All babies are different, even if they've come from the same DNA. They may look alike and you can parent the same way but a baby will be whatever it will be, no matter what you do.
- All the things you worry about when they're babies will mean nothing in a few short years. When they roll, crawl, walk, talk, their first tooth, when they sleep through – all this will mean nothing. It has no impact on how smart, dumb, kind, sassy, sporty, articulate they will become. It may seem like the most important thing now, but you'll eventually even forget when they did what.
- Same goes for how they were fed or put to bed. I don't talk to the parents of my five-year-old's friends and ask: were they breastfed? Did you use control crying? Did you toilet train at one or four? The things that are all consuming at the time soon become irrelevant.
- Different babies respond to different things. People always seem surprised when something that has worked for one baby doesn't work for another. We're all different, I bet you're different from your brother/sister/friend. The hardest part of parenting is unearthing the key that works for your child.
- Trust your instincts they are usually right, but stay open to suggestion too. Sometimes a fresh perspective can be just what you need to solve a parenting problem. More often than not the answer to a parenting quandry will be easier than you think.
- Babies and kids don't need fancy or expensive educational toys. Your interaction is the most important thing. A set of keys, some pots and pans or a box can be just as fun. Looking at the garden and pointing things out. Singing and dancing. Reading to your child is the best thing you can do. After all, Einstein didn't become a genius because he watched Baby Einstein DVDs.
- Some kids will wake at 5am. There is not much you can do. I know, I've tried. One day they will sleep longer (hopefully). If you have a child that sleeps late, think yourself lucky.
- Kids are adaptable, they are resilient. All they really need to be fed, loved, appreciated and made to feel special. Funnily enough, they are just like us, only smaller.
I just ask Lil-lil what she thought the most important thing a mum can do to look after her kids, her response?
"To love them and to help them clean up their room." Says it all.