"I wish my child was more like yours..." - it's a horrible thing for a parent to think, isn't it?
And it's a horrible thing to say, but these words do creep into my head more often than I'd care to admit. To me they are very unwelcome words and do nothing to appease the general feeling of guilt that I'm a bad Mummy.
It's an awful feeling, but then I do have a very, shall we say, "adventurous" toddler - a toddler that to me always seems so much worse behaved than all the other toddlers I see out and about. The toddlers who sit nicely in their pram or high-chair, or walk along calmly with their parents instead of running away. The toddlers that don't stand on tables when out having a meal with their Mum and Dad...
Indeed my son can be an absolute darling and I absolutely adore him no matter what, but during the times he's in a less than savoury mood due to tiredness or hunger or boredom or whatever other reason I can't even begin to fathom, he can absolutely bring me to my knees. I've never known stress like it when he goes into out-of-control mode!! Am I the only one?
However this post was not inspired by our usual run-of-the-mill Mall breakdowns. No, it was actually inspired by a little holiday that my husband, son and I have just been on - seven wonderful days in the Maldives. We went to the same resort last year when my son was eight months old, and decided to return as we had such a great time and knew it would be perfect for a now 19 month old toddler.
And it was...
But what we failed to foresee was that a 19 month old would be much harder work for us!
Yes, unlike our eight month old baby, the 19 month old was literally into and onto EVERYTHING. Everything he could grab was his! Also, our plan to pop him into kids club for a couple of hours on a couple of days for a bit of "Mum and Dad chill and drink alone on the beach time" was a complete fail as he cried nonstop during the one and only time we dropped him there...he clearly knew our evil plan.
To put it bluntly...it was not quite as relaxing as we imagined. We were always on guard.
And I'm not going to lie - the unwelcome words crept into my head a fair bit during what I had imagined was going to be a perfectly idealistic family holiday. It was upsetting. And the words seemed most present during our evening meals when all other tots were either asleep in prams (as if), eating (overrated), or sat calmly on one of their parents' laps (hell no!)
Indeed, it seemed that it was only our child running around, pushing over lamps, lying on the floor in peoples' walk paths, retrieving peoples' wine bottles out of the ice boxes...and yes, on one occasion much to my horror, he did climb on a neighbouring table and hold his arms up in triumph!!!
So to my surprise on one such night, a lovely Mum who was sat on a neighboring table started chuckling at my son's behavior. She then said to me "your son is just absolutely adorable!" - I laughed and said thank you and that "it's a good thing they're cute at this age." She agreed, then nodded at her 10 and 11 year old and said "yes, it's why I only did it twice in close concession!" It really made me laugh and I said I had a lot of respect for her, the brave brave woman!
But on top of that, it was really nice to think that despite the fact I thought he was being a little bugger, other parents thought he was adorable.
On another such evening, a Mummy and her two-year-old tot came over to say hello and play with my son's toy cars. The little boy was sucking a dummy. He looked incredibly cute and he was so polite, saying "thank you" in the sweetest little voice to my son for showing him his cars.
The Mummy and I were chatting, and then she brought something to my attention that had not even crossed my mind - she said, "I know he shouldn't still be using a pacifier, but he loves it so much and I can't get him to give it up". I absolutely hadn't looked upon it as strange or bad - I just thought he looked adorable. In reply I said that I have a similar thing with my son on the breast - "I've tried to wean, but he won't let me - he loves Mummy milk and asks for it all the time, so I just let him as it makes him happy."
She then said something which surprised me and partially inspired this post. She said "I wish that was our problem - we had so much trouble feeding and he just didn't take to the breast - he always preferred bottle and pacifier."
That's right - she wished that her and her son were more like my son and I! I really want to wean but had never considered that the grass might seem greener on our side, or what guilt another Mummy might carry around in relation to something so little and cute as a dummy.
All Good Things Must Come To An End...
Our holiday, alas, eventually came to an end. We were sad to leave but excited to get home too - back to normality, to routine...to a toddler-proofed home.
We sat next to a nice couple on the flight home who had a lovely 17 month old boy, Charlie. He was an adorable little lad, but had a tough flight with lots of tears and intermittent tantrums. During one such tantrum, his Mother turned to me and said "your son is so well behaved! Charlie gives his Mummy a really hard time most of the time at the moment."
I really really felt for her in that second. I know all too well how she must have felt. She was clearly having an "I wish my child was more like yours" moment. And it was true - my son was incredibly well behaved the whole flight. No tears, no tantrums. He was a model toddler (if there's such a thing)!
But her comment really made me think about how we perceive other parents and other children. Indeed it made me wonder about all the other "bad moments" my son has had, and how many people might have looked on and thought his behavior wasn't naughty, but cute? It made me wonder how many parents worry more about what I am thinking about their child's behavior or habit, over what my child is doing? And it also made me wonder how many parents look on at my wonderfully behaved little boy during those good moments and good days and wish their tots were more like him?
I guess it's all about perspective.
We spend so much time together and I think I spend so long looking at the bad behavior that I sometimes forget to recognize or acknowledge all of the good behavior! Indeed he can stress me out to the brink of tears, but the fact is that overall, my son IS a good boy. He IS a very clever boy. And yes, he is also a VERY adventurous little soul - but this can only be positive in the long run.
So I guess we ought to celebrate our tots for their colourful characters. They may often give us a hard time but then they give us so many beautiful moments too, and that is what makes parenthood so completely and utterly worth it!
Thank you to the three lovely Mummies who opened my eyes and inspired this post x