Parenting

Parenting is a peculiar thing. When I was in the early stages of pregnancy with Chief, I have a clear memory of walking into a popular bookstore and perusing an aisle of advice books. Pregnancy advice. Entire books about babies sleeping through the night. Oodles of books on weaning babies. How to deal with a disruptive child. How to manage the teenage years. Calm parenting. Positive parenting. Gentle parenting. They were all there.

I believe that we all try our best. We bring up little, vulnerable humans and present to them an uncertain world through a combination of realism and joy, exploration and humour. We try to instil in them the idea of hope and love above all else, before they come face to face with some playground horror or another. Our mind abuzz with ideas of what we should be doing, what we could be doing, we balance plates of baked bean juice and fragments of fish cakes. Inwardly we curse that we should have encouraged our children to tidy up, outwardly we smile at the muddy little creatures exploring the garden and making a snail shelter or two.

When I was employed I would set out my development plan at the beginning of every year. This invariably consisted of events outside the working day, like evening or weekend workshops and reading up on innovative industry ideas and case law. I always wanted to be the best that I could be.

When I became a parent I stopped, or perhaps paused, my career. For one reason or another the idea of wiping noses, bottoms and eyes (not necessarily in that order of course) appealed to me more than a clean carpeted working office with warm cups of tea and adult conversation. Eager to please my little charges, I set about with the same determination that I had harnessed my professional career with. The advice books were read. Some with interest, others discarded when it was clear that my children had no interest in expensive developmental toys being pushed as the only thing to help your child master one skill or another. While pages, no doubt endorsed by some of the big players in the toy market, held up products like diamonds in the light, my children turned their backs and chewed on a Velcro style hair roller or a wooden spoon. They sported an almost constant food smudge at the corner of their mouth and they paid no attention to the need for volume control, especially when in public places.

I looked into parenting courses but was told by a somewhat weary consultant paediatrician that I wouldn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know. My insatiable desire to be the best that I could be began to wane. Self-doubt instead began to rear its head. The internet supplies a plethora of information if you ask the search engine nicely, but not always from identifiable sources. Was I using the right approach? Had I read real research?

I started to feel disheartened and anxious. That I might somehow miss a crucial milestone in childhood development. That my children might stray so far from the rails in their adolescence to make up for my shortcomings I might be met with a hefty counselling bill in later life. But then the most amazing thing happened. They started to eat solid food. They recognised colours, numbers and letters. They slept through the night. They even potty trained at which point any thoughts of a teenager unable to fathom a toilet disappeared (although I imagine they may resurface when I have three teenage boys living under my roof!).

I do believe that education and learning is a constant, and I continue to strive to do my best. I am always interested to learn about ideas new and old. To read and read again, over and over until my brain has definitely absorbed the latest concept in child rearing. My conclusion though, is that this has to be paired with a great deal of common sense, determination and experience. Neither one nor the other will suffice alone. The books have their place, but they don’t know me, or my children. Sometimes, as it turns out, trusting your own abilities is by far the best approach to take.

What do you do? Are your shelves lined with invaluable texts, or do you rely on gut instinct? Or perhaps a bit of both! I’d love to hear your thoughts πŸ™‚

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6th October 2017

12 comments

Ah I love the honestly in this Jo. I’m a terrible Google parent, I search the internet multiple times a day for information that I probably already know! I’m always worried that I’m not nailing this parenting game, but sometimes I think that’s a good thing as it shows we care about doing the best we can! Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx

Thank you. Yes, I think self reflection for anything shows that we care, and it does feel important as we move through our journey as a parent. I find that it’s not always easy to find the balance between mum guilt and relaxing into trusting my instincts though, and I do need to make a more conscious effort to do that πŸ˜‰ xx

Really enjoy the honestly and can totally relate. I think we all have an image of what parent we will be when we’re pregnant (or even before then) but every child is different as is every situation and I feel you have to judge each situation with the info you have available at the time. Sometimes you know you could have done better but I’m trying to banish mum guilt so try not to dwell. Children don’t come with a manual for a very good reason. One size does not fit all and I don’t think we should feel like we have to aspire to that. Common sense rules! I just wish that was the case in my work life too! πŸ€¦πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ

Yes! Perfectly put. Sometimes it’s the difference between expectation and reality that can be hard to find, and certainly is normally responsible for a lot of the pressure I put on myself! Thanks for your comment πŸ™‚ x

All this is so true Jo. My first child was born when I was 18 my second when I was 19, and I am sure I made many mistakes parenting them. I too read up on parenting skills , much less reading was available in the early 1960’s and the advice then was very different then than it would be now. For me the I time spent with my girls and the love they knew I had for them were the most important aspects of parenting.

Exactly. We all make mistakes in every arena of our lives, that’s quite often how we learn! When the love and the communication is there though, I’m sure that more than makes up for the lack of an in house speech therapist or child level washing up station πŸ˜‰ xx

I haven’t read a single parenting book in all my time as a parent. You can read 10 different books & get 10 different answers, of which none could be the right fit for you/your child. I’m a firm believer that your gut instinct is correct. I have some friends who think I am entirely too laid back but equally I have another friend who lives by the mantra What Would Kate Do? (The answer? Generally have a cup of tea by which time you’ll have figured it out!) It works for me & my boys who (I think!) are perfectly well adjusted members of society & developing perfectly in order. Being a parent is hard enough without reading books or online articles that make you feel like a failure. That said I have been known to google the odd thing on very rare occasions!

I agree, you definitely get a different answer whichever way you face at times! I had a pregnancy book that I loved. I read it almost every day with Chief and it went through many newborn stages and phases too. The factual information and photographs were fascinating, but I do sometimes wonder if I would have worried less without so much information. Definitely something to be said for following your instinct, which doesn’t always come naturally to my slightly anxious, information hungry, bibliophile brain! πŸ˜‰ x

Oh I so with you on this! When we adopted our children I read every little thing I could lay my hands on to do with adoption – the major problem here was that every adoption is different – so, it turns out that no matter what I read the advice was never actually right for my situation! I ended up very quickly stopping reading different books and just playing it by instinct – thankfully it’s all worked out pretty well!#Blogstravaganza

Glad it’s worked out well. Yes, I think instinct has to take a big part in how we approach parenting (and life in general!).

I really want to be the best mother I can be to Ben. I read up lots when pregnant, but theoretically and practically, parenting is very different.
I dont think any course could provide you with the tools to be the best parent for your child as every child is unique, but it seems that I have encouraged Bens love for music, dancing and reading… if that isnt good parenting all before 18 months then I dont know what is!!! #blogstravaganza

Exactly. All we want is for them to be happy! πŸ™‚

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