Entering new phases in children’s lives is, I’m sure, nature’s way of saying ‘you think you’ve got this sussed, but I’m afraid your wrong’. Suddenly again the rules change and you don’t really know the game you are playing, let alone the perimeters.
You have a baby; your world turns upside down and you quickly learn how to keep another human being alive and cared for. You wonder how you will leave the house? You suss this out and the baby learns to crawl so you move things up a shelf, out of harms reach. Then, baby learns to walk, you re-baby proof and learn the new rules. Baby is now officially a toddler and can talk. You have arguments with a mini me. You learn what causes tantrums and how to avoid them, sometimes. Then they are potty trained; you must learn how to navigate this new area; how do you leave the house when your toddler may need a wee at any point? Its ever changing, and demanding, and this is just the early years! Not to mention starting school, entering pre-puberty, hitting puberty, managing exam stress, leaving home.
It is the most changing role I have ever had. Maybe it’s a way of keeping it fresh and making sure we don’t bore of parenting. However, at times it feels like a constant treadmill. I work out the speed, pick up the pace, only to be thrown off by a new speed. It’s a lifelong apprenticeship, one we can only really learn on the job. Even if you have several children they are all so different that they still teach you new things along the way.
We have entered the “WHY?” phase in my home. How do people deal with this? Those more seasoned parents have been there and got the T Shirt. At first I found this so cute, I couldn’t believe my baby is now able to question, understand and challenge through language. I must admit though, sometimes I don’t even know why! I don’t know why I asked her to do something, sometimes I think – ‘good question, I have no idea myself’ but then I think ‘I’m the parent’, I should at least pretend to have the answers. It’s a whole new area to navigate. I am doing everything I can not to yell ‘because I said so’ but then find myself going so far the other way, I am often explaining in more detail than I might need to.
It can feel that I am often getting more wrong than right, but I guess that’s parenting, isn’t it? Trial and error. I long to be the kind of mum I see on Pinterest, full of advice and tips on how to deal with sleep, or potty training, or challenging behaviour, but the truth is perhaps no one really knows?
These ever-changing stages and rules are at times testing, but arguably they also keep us at our best. If we had it all sussed we might become complacent, we might stop trying or not rise to the challenge. This way we are all making it up as we go along, but at least it’s always fresh and we are always learning. No-one can say raising children is boring!
*This post was first published in my column for etc magazine, March edition.