You would think after almost five years, I would have pretty much nailed parenting, right?
There have been times over the past twelve to eighteen months where I have really questioned my abilities. Like, seriously. Children are challenging. There is no question about it. It starts as soon as they are born when you are meant to just know what their cry means. You’re meant to just know what they want when they can’t tell you. That in itself is the first hurdle to overcome. In time, for most, this does happen. Your parental intuition kicks in and you know what to do.
Then comes the toddler years when they can communicate with you better and you have had a substantial amount of time with them by now that you know them very well. But then there are the tantrums to deal with. They can’t tell you why they’re having a meltdown in the middle of a shopping centre; they can’t explain it and you can’t understand it. Yet another challenge to overcome.
It’s at times like these that you start to think, ‘when they’re older, it will be easier’. And no one would blame you for thinking this. We all do it. All of the time. But the other day, in the midst of a tricky few days of stroppy tantrums and outbursts, I caught myself saying to myself, I’ve been a mum for almost five years now, why do I still not know what to do?!
And all of a sudden it dawned on me. I have been a mother to a baby. I have been a mother to a toddler and yes, I think I can say now that I know what to do with children of that age. I know how to handle them and I know how to communicate with them. I’ve raised my child through those years. I have that experience. I’ve learnt along the way.
What I don’t have the experience of is bringing up a five-year-old. I’m not there yet. And that is where we are headed.
What I realised is that, with each age a child reaches, new challenges arise; new experiences and new emotions. What I also realised is that this will never change. Ever.
We will get through the reception years in school. We will get through the ‘tween’ period. We will reach the teenage years and with each stage of his life, there will be fresh parenting challenges. I get it.
But these kids didn’t come with a Haynes Manual when they were born did they? If only! We weren’t given on the job training and we didn’t have to sit an exam before we were told we were qualified to take on the role. It seems crazy when you think about it. The most important job in the world. The most challenging job in the world and you are given no training whatsoever. You just get on with it like you know what you’re doing. When really, do any of us really know?
I don’t think we do. We go with that powerful gut instinct and do the best we can. Sometimes though, our best isn’t always good enough. Sometimes, hard as we try and with the best intentions, we need to ask for help. This is when we need to decide if we should perhaps learn how to parent.
The stroppy tantrums we’ve experienced recently have eased somewhat because I decided to do just that. I decided to look into different ways to approach certain situations. How to talk to the Little Man, not just when he’s upset, but all the time. All of these things make a difference and I realise that now. I was surprised by how big a difference small changes can make.
It’s so important to be open to learning how to parent. No child is the same and no parent is either. We all do things differently to each other and we all have different patience thresholds. And not one of us is perfect. Far from it.
Children are little for such a short time. We all talk about how fast they grow up and I want to make this time as memorable and stress-free as possible. If that means I have to learn how to parent in different ways, change my approach when necessary and handle situations differently to what comes naturally, then that is what I will do.
To quote the old cliche: ’No one ever said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it”.
A version of this post originally featured on jakijellz.com, my Lifestyle and Family blog.