Have you heard that saying, “I was the perfect parent until I had kids”? My mom used to say it all the time. I got it, but not really. Not until I became responsible for a living, breathing minor with opinions. Suddenly, all those times I glared at someone for having an unruly toddler (I mean, just speak firmly, right?) came flooding back like a..like a…well, a flood. Floods flood back more effectively than any other similes.
What I thought I knew for sure:
Kids behave well when their parents discipline them to the correct degree.
Ok, my kid really is particularly well behaved, but she’s not perfect. And I watch with a whirlpool of emotion as my friends, who have done everything right (to varying degrees), lose their minds at the hands of a sleepy toddler or a tween that doesn’t have the words to vent their frustration. They’re people, not machines. And they need a fair amount of flexibility. I’m still learning to be more flexible. It’s not for sissies.
They eat what you’ve trained them to eat.
No, they’re humans, with tastebuds and preferences. And, after hours of bribery, cajoling, begging, and reasoning, few parents have the emotional wherewithal to try anymore. They toss a fried fish-finger in the general direction of the mini. And, guess what? (This was particularly surprising to me) The kid’s fine. I mean, obviously, I have strong ideas about nutrition for children. And I would NEVER support a regular diet of sugar, carbs and processed food for them. But, when the tether is finished and the nerves are frayed, I don’t think the known world would collapse if a fish-finger is the answer, just for that day. Tomorrow is a new day. Try again then.
Tantrums are a result of indulging a child
Now, I really do believe in discipline for little ones that throw their toys to try to control a situation. But, there are grey areas. Is he tired? Hungry? Frustrated at not having the words to express himself? Scared? Overwhelmed? Also…could it be none of your business? I’m not talking bratty, destructive behaviour. Just a tired kid without the tools to communicate. Have you felt like that as an adult? I have. And, when I have, lying on the floor and screaming my head off is pretty close to how I’d like to deal with the situation. In fact, that’s pretty much how I dealt with my divorce.
They smell like Johnson’s baby powder
Yikes, I got this wrong. Have you smelt a kid’s room when the door’s been closed all afternoon? Goodness gracious me.
When you really need a break, you can take some “me time” and your kids will appreciate and support your choice because you’ve helped them to understand the benefits.
Kids are selfish. It’s not mean, it’s a fact. A newborn doesn’t care if you’re on a 12-hour stretch of the highway on your way to a summer holiday in Umhlanga that’s taken nine months to plan. They’ll yell until you feed them. And there’s no switch that suddenly makes them aware and concerned about others. It’s a gradual process. And, along the way, I think that parents just have to accept the fact that, for the next few (many…many) years, it’s just not about you for that kid. But, that doesn’t mean giving yourself up to being at their mercy. Make time, tell them to leave you alone (nicely), go out with friends, indulge yourself. As they get older, they’ll start to appreciate how much you do for them and how valuable those time-outs are. I think. I mean, they probably will. Right?
But, at the end of the long days, it really isn’t about these difficult moments. Ask anyone with black rings under her eyes and pumpkin in her hair. She’s probably a mom. And she wouldn’t change it for the world.