Let me make one thing clear – I’m not an expert Mum. I don’t want this blog to become an “advice giver” because, let’s face it, I’m no professional, I’m certainly not perfect, and the only stuff I know about bringing up kids is from my experience of what works (or more often what doesn’t work) with my boys – a very, VERY specific, in fact 100% unique (I hope, or that’d be weird!) combination.
But there is one piece of advice that I was given which I DO think I’m allowed to pass on, and it’s this: never, ever, EVER give advice to a fellow parent unless a) this piece of advice on has worked for you for at least 250 consecutive days and b) you have a child older than the child you are about to give advice on and so have lived through the specific challenges of that age.
The reasons for this should be clear… before having kids I used to watch some parents parenting and think “well I’ll obviously NEVER do that”. Even since having kids I have been known to look at parents with older kids and (dare I say it) judge them for something they’re doing, only to find a few months down the line that I’m doing it, x10, and I would very dare you to even think about challenging me on it because TRUST ME IT’S THE ONLY FLIPPING THING THAT WORKS.
And so I started thinking of all the things I used to think about how I’d parent before having kids, versus the actual reality…
1.“We’ll NEVER let our kids play with our phones” I bet EVERY parent thinks this and I bet 99.99999% of parents fail. They say Steve Jobs tested the usability of iphones by giving them to kids and seeing if they could work them and it shows. My toddler can switch my phone on, find his apps (which I store in a folder called “Educational” to make myself feel better) and will sit happily building virtual trains, dressing virtual lego men or watching You Tube Kids or CBeebies for as long as I need him to. It’s a GODSEND when you need to do anything that might not be exactly the same thing as what they want to do at any one moment. And let’s face it, if you don’t have a live-in cleaner / cook / life organiser, or ever want to go shopping / talk to someone / get anything done without having a tantrum on your hands, that’s quite a lot of the time. God bless the iphone and all its “educational” apps. Now I just need to work on how to get it back off him again…
2.“A babyccino?! How ridiculous” – I used to think that these were something reserved for the real Highgate Mums, the ones that would only feed their kids food recommended by Gwyneth herself. But then you have kids and realise that babycinnos make going to a coffee shop to get your daily hot chocolate fix FUN for your youngsters, and as that caffeine hit becomes insanely important, for both pick-me-up and socialising reasons, anything that makes it achievable gets a BIG thumbs up! Plus it’s milk, so it’s good for them. And if you’re quick they don’t notice if you steal the marshmallow off the side before you give it to them. WIN.
3.“I’ll just sleep when the baby sleeps” – Oh what WONDERFUL, SIMPLE advice from everyone who’s never had a baby / has totally forgotten the reality of life with little people. NEWSFLASH: Life doesn’t actually stop when a baby comes along. In fact, suddenly you have 10x more life admin to get on with as you need to do about 8 loads of washing a day, make sure there’s more than just a frozen pizza to eat, tidy up the toys which seem to walk themselves into every corner of the house… hell, maybe even just sit for 5 whole minutes and make yourself a cup of tea and phone a friend to have a conversation with a real life adult or be REALLY selfish and paint your nails! The truth is, baby sleep time is precious because it’s the ONLY time you get to do the things you need to do for YOU. So don’t waste it on sleep!
4.“We’ll always eat together as a family” – Lovely, in theory. “A family that eats together, stays together” and all that. But sometimes, just sometimes, I don’t WANT to eat my tea at 6pm. I want to sit down with JUST my husband, open a bottle of wine and have some real life adult conversation without having to stop every 2 seconds to pick up ANOTHER pea or wipe up a drink spillage or play aeroplanes with a fork. And I don’t that’s anything to be ashamed of.
5.“I’ll never use bribery” – there’s a whole blog post in here, because bribery is my numero uno go-to tactic at the moment. In recent weeks the promise of a single chocolate button has helped us get through toilet training, transition to big boy bed and happy, smiling nursery drop offs. The “prize” is the most important thing he can think about for a few days, literally from the moment he wakes up (and even in his sleep: “…[gibberish gibberish gibberish] CHOCOLATE BUTTON [gibberish]…”) then hey presto, one day he forgets about it but carries on doing whatever we were bribing for. A BRILLIANT result I’d say, and well worth sharing my precious bag of buttons for. BRIBE WITH PRIDE! I might get a t-shirt made…
6.“I’ll never let my child wear clothes with characters” – This is one I have recently succumbed to, good and proper. I had visions of my boys growing up wearing beautifully co-ordinated outfits, lots of Breton stipes and turn ups and none of this Peppa / Thomas the Tank Engine licensed malarkey. But then they start to really LOVE these characters they see on TV. And then someone at nursery has a Paw Patrol coat and it’s BRILIANT. And then you’re in the supermarket and they get all excited and shout “Look Mummy! George!” while pointing at some hideous brightly coloured monstrosity with true love in their eyes. And then you start toilet training and the lure of Gruffalo pants means they actually WANT to bin their nappies – so you think “well, it’s only pants”. BUT IT HAS BEGUN. And they’re so flipping delighted with their pants that then you let them have the socks, and the next thing you know they’re running towards you dressed head to toe in about 7 superhero outfits at once, looking so totally DELIGHTED with themselves that you have to just sigh, put the Bretons back in the drawer, and accept that your little baba is growing up. Sigh.
7.“The baby will fit into our life and our schedule; it’s not going to change us” – PAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA! FAIL!!
So there you have it. I will not be doling out advice*, ESPECIALLY not on kids older than mine. And I will also not judge, because who the hell am I to know what works for somebody else’s child, and the sort of day they’re having. Do what works for you and your kiddies in that moment, ignore everybody else, and remember, BRIBE WITH PRIDE.
*Disclaimer: I may well give advice on things to BUY as a parent, because if I don’t then 90% of my life will be un-bloggable and that would just be silly.