It's a pretty big day in our house. The kids are up even earlier than usual - and when 6am is a lie in these days, that's saying something! We've been counting down the days for weeks, and the level of excitement is at screeching level.
No it's not Christmas... My two-year-old is about to meet her idol - he's big, he's blue and yes his "name is IgglePiggle". For those not familiar with tune or cult toddler TV show In the Night Garden, he is to one- to four-yearolds what Rob Lowe was to my teenage self (and perhaps still might be?!)
We've been living with Igglepiggle mania for seven years now, and for my husband and I, the day had an eerie feeling of déjà vu. Packing up and heading off in the car on a two hour round trip to the O2, arriving to be greeted by hoards of hyper pre schoolers desperate for their first glimpse of the man in blue, the tinkling music, the magical set and the mountains of in the night garden merchandise on display. It's not that surprising it all felt a bit familiar, given this was the third time we've seen the show in six years!
Our eldest became hooked age one, and has passed the habit onto his younger brother and sister. As I sat watching Igglepiggle search for his missing red blanket yet again - apart from thinking he really should learn to take better care of his belongings, I started to consider why I was there?
Was it really because my daughter is such a fan and simply had to see the show, or was it more to do with the fact I felt she shouldn't miss out because we had taken her brothers when they were the same age and it was "only fair".
It was then I realised how much of my parenting, of my precious little girl, was focused on making sure she was treated exactly the same as her brothers. I breast fed her for (nearly) as long, I weaned her on the same food, I took her for her foot and hand print to be cast in clay at four months (the same age her brothers were when they did the same) - on and on the list goes.
I insisted on giving her a first birthday party despite the fact she didn't have any little friends to invite and would clearly never know the difference. She goes to the same play groups they did, and will go to the same nursery. She, like her brothers has her own personalized picture album for each of her two years. I even have her name down to start the same Sunday morning football classes that her brothers previously attended!
So why am I doing all this? I've come to the conclusion I along with many parents I know are afflicted by a condition - " Obsessively Repetitive Parenting Syndrome or ORPS".
I dedicated so much time to my first born and did so many things with and for him that by the time my second son came along I felt guilty if I didn't do the same for him. Even though I didn't have the luxury of the time I had with my first son, I made sure my second child didn't miss out.
So off I trundled to the same baby yoga and massage classes, music and play groups. I was fully aware "HE" would never know the difference, but I would, and that's what spurred me on! What if when he was an adult he asked me if he had done baby yoga like his brother and I would have to confess, no he hadn't.
And what if, although clearly very unlikely, somehow that baby yoga gave him some sort of advantage or skill that my second born didn't have by not having had the same experience? Heaven forbid my daughter or her brothers - are one day flipping through old photo albums and trace the source of ANY ADULT malcontent back to having been denied the chance to see Igglepiggle in action.....aged two!
And so with the arrival of my third child, I found myself doing exactly the same things, with the aim of giving each of them the same foundation for their early life. No matter if sometimes I feel like I'm living in Groundhog Day or if occasionally I think that if I have to sing the wheels on the bus go round and round one more time, I am literally going to stand up sit down and scream!
Of course I realize they are entirely different people with different needs and unique personalities. But as we obsess about being the perfect parent I find myself becoming equally determined to provide the same of literally everything to each of my children.
As a generation of parents we know we are obsessed with our children and the ever present blight of helicopter parenting... striving to be the perfect parents. My generation frets about every aspect of our parenting and everything to do with our children. What they are eating/ learning/ playing with. We want to know every tiny detail of their lives.
Many parents I know with children slightly older than mine spend their entire evenings and weekends doing homework with, or in some cases for, their children. And the Guilt - wow - these days parenting and guilt seem to go hand in hand.
We constantly worry we aren't doing a good enough job; giving them enough time and asking ourselves if we are in fact to blame for their behavior? We angst over how we talk to them, and become upset if we shout or lose our temper with them. And now I find myself obsessively repetitively parenting as well, ensuring each child is afforded exactly the same opportunity as the other(s) and treated the same way.
There is obviously nothing wrong with wanting to be a good parent. It's arguably the most important job we will have. But I wonder why my generation parents so differently to that of our parents. On the whole my parents and their friends, no matter how overprotective (and mine
really, really were!) just left us to get on with it.
They guided us and protected us, but with a far more laissez faire attitude. Within reason we were left to make our own mistakes, and pick ourselves up and carry on. Even if Bagpuss was playing live at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, I doubt my parents would have been too concerned if one of their three daughters didn't get to see it.
It's not as if we have more time on our hands to indulge in all this micro managing of our progeny. Far from it, we are constantly being told how time poor we are. When I was growing up few mothers worked and most were "housewives". Now it's the other way round - most mums I know do work. Nevertheless for me -it would have to be quite an extraordinary Breaking News story to come between me my daughter and IgglePiggle and Friends.
We all know there's no such thing as the perfect parent! We need to take a breath and stop being so hard on ourselves. I know how difficult this is - I'm as guilty as anyone of feeling that constant nagging self doubt. But parenting is a learn-as-you-go kind of thing. There is no right or wrong. Thinking about it now - just because my parents never took me to see Annie in the West End having previously taken my older sister, didn't mark me out for a Hard Knock Life. Tomorrow came and went but I know deep down as long as our kids feel secure and loved they should turn out ok. After all, most of us did ......didn't we?