I’ve read loads of blogs about parenting and I want to write one myself, because, to be completely honest, I find most of them a bit smug, or self-satisfying, or over-instructive or…forgiving.
I hate these forgiving blogs:
“It’s OK to sometimes feel stressed and take a moment for yourself – it doesn’t make you a bad parent”
“Leaving them to cry a little bit can be character building. Have a cup of
wine tea, and don’t fret about it!
“Yes, sometimes it’s fine to feed them sweetcorn sandwiches and a Yorkie – all parents need time off”
And so on. What qualifies someone to judge or not judge? What qualifies an internet stranger to soothe your fears, when you were at the end of your tether and you…dan dan daaaaah…resorted to the dummy that you vowed NEVER to use, and tell you that it’s OK? It’s OK if you think it is. It’s not, if you don’t. The reality is, if you do something a bit iffy and you feel a bit guilty, chances are that it wasn’t the best choice that you’ve ever made. The chances are also that it wasn’t the worse thing that you’ll ever do. As people often quote: “kids don’t come with an instruction manual” and even after a few of them (kids, not instruction manuals), nobody is really qualified to tell you what is going to work best for your set-up. Why does everyone in this high-technology, information-garnering, computer-dependent world, need validation from someone they’ve never met, and who has no more clout on the subject than anyone else?
See, the thing is, it’s not the content of these blogs and columns that annoys me, as I’m sure there is plenty of practical and emotional advice and support that will reassure and comfort lots of people, which can’t be a bad thing. What annoys me is this: who set the author up as a guru or expert? What do I care what a random person who has had 5, 10 or 100 children thinks? Your experience and my experience are worlds apart, because unless you had a child at exactly the same age that I did, and unless that child has the same personality as mine, and unless you have the same job and working hours as me and my husband, and unless you own a crazy dog and a house that needs a new kitchen and unless you’re me – you have no idea what I need.
I am a really laidback kind of a parent. I often use laughter in place of discipline, and I’m a massive advocate of picking my battles. I am fully aware that my son may (or may not) struggle with issued instruction when he starts school, as a result of my parenting. I am also aware that he is healthy, robust, funny, well-rounded, bright as a button and happy. It works for us, and we’ll deal with the other stuff as and when it happens. It might not work for you.
I am an expert in parenting my own child. No one else’s just my own. And when I say “expert” I mean that I am an expert at doing it, because I am doing it all the time. I don’t mean that I’m really good at it.
I might be, for all I know. I might be the best parent in the whole entire world, but really that doesn’t give me the status required to tell other people what is OK and what isn’t, because all I do is what’s best for me, the husband and the son, and what we’re happiest with, and I imagine that has little bearing on your set-up.
For instance, let me tell you that my child is a wonderful sleeper. He always has been, right from day one. He loves his sleep, drifts off easily, rarely wakes up in the night, and when he does, he self-settles. He’s 3 and a half now, and we have had it easy. I mean, sure – there has been the odd spate of time where it hasn’t been quite so smooth. I have sung depressing renditions of “Golden Slumbers” “”Lullaby” and even “Sweet Child O’ Mine” at stupid O’ Clock in the morning. I vividly recall putting him in his cot, singing ever more softly and slowly and then creeping out, one socked-foot at a time, avoiding the 4 creaking floorboard obstacle course between his bed and the bedroom door. I remember going downstairs in our stupid aged house, wincing with every creak. I remember standing in his bedroom trying anything…ANYTHING to send him to sleep – closing the curtains, opening the curtains, switching the light on, switching it off, putting lullabies on, turning them off, trying white noise CDs, reading stories, fetching milk, warming it up, cooling it down, voices at whispering level for 4 hours after bedtime just in case, going to bed when he went to bed in case he decided to wake up, getting everything ready for the next morning because I had no clue what time my wake-up call would be, bringing him into my bed, despite promising I wouldn’t, because you pick your battles, plugging lavender-scented fresheners into every available socket…oh, hold on a minute. Maybe he wasn’t such a great sleeper after all.
Because, that’s the point, isn’t it? You forget. With children, things pass so quickly and time and development move on in the blink of an eye, so you forget the minutiae, and remember the bigger picture. I recall speaking to a friend of mine with a child the similar age. I had always said how great my son was at sleeping, she had always said how terrible her son was at sleeping, and I SO sympathised with her – she was SO tired all the time, and had no joy in the day with him. Until we actually broke down how the nights worked out for us both. It turned out that our children had a very similar pattern of sleeping and waking – but she and I viewed it in very different ways.
So I’ll stand by my declaration that my son was a wonderful sleeper, and no doubt my friend still thinks that her son was Damian in a Duvet, but the point is, neither one of us is qualified to tell the other what’s right. I remember far more good nights than bad, and so my overall memory of the experience was positive. Hers, the opposite. So, neither of us are really in a position to advise the other.
Look, I understand – sometimes you do want a bit of advice, and sometimes you do want someone to tell you that it really is all OK, but equally, all that is, is someone else’s opinion. They might not have got it right!
I reckon that parenting is a lottery. Chuck a dice in the air, and base a judgement on the number that is on the top. I can’t give any advice, because I have no clue what’s going on half the time, and I generally bumble through each day, and somehow we all seem OK at the end of it. If I ever want advice, I will almost probably definitely consult Dr Google, and I will no doubt feel vindicated (eventually) when I find a comment written by someone who feels a bit similar to me.
But please don’t tell me that “every parent has a bad day – tomorrow is a new dawn” or that you were smacked and it did you no harm. I wouldn’t get advice on my mortgage from someone who blogs about it, and that’s much less important than my son.