Wednesday, 11 May 2016

I'm not the parent I thought I would be

Before I had my first child, let's be clear, I didn't really want kids so I didn't spend much time thinking about how I might raise children. I didn't spend time with other people's kids either: I could count the occasions I babysat on one hand (and then only on the condition that they were asleep when I arrived!). As far as I was concerned, as long as they were someone else's responsibility and kept quietly out of the way when I was around, I was ok with them.

That said, occasionally I had conversations about kids with parents. Given how big a part of a parent's life their children are, it's a hard to avoid subject. Once I was married, and many of my friends were too, the subject would come up more often. And once I was pregnant of course it was something I sought out deliberately - I was obviously very aware of how little I knew about child rearing and how much catching up I had to do!

Looking back I think I had an advantage, though. I came into parenthood with minimal preconceived ideas and old-wives wisdoms. For the most part, I just did what felt right and trusted that my prayers for help would be answered when I needed them to be. And that's what happened! I didn't read what I now know to be guilt-inducing, formulaic books written by nannies and other women without children of their own (and I thank God for this). I prayed and then I trusted. And now I look back at my little one's first year without regrets, only joy... I look at her now, a year and a half old, and the joy still regularly takes my breath away. When she sleeps - next to me, in my bed where she's been from the beginning - I still often struggle to fall asleep because I can't stop looking at her. Motherhood is amazing.

That's not the parenthood experience I expected!

My experience seems to be the opposite of many of my friends. Many of them couldn't wait to be mothers, but once they were, found things overwhelming and confusing. I found things easier than I ever expected and beautifully clear. Maybe it's also partly an age thing. I was in my 30's, having had a pretty good career with fair amounts of responsibility. Perhaps that's why I didn't look to other people's guidance so much and just trusted my own intuition. I question authority; always have - I do my own research.

With the way I wanted kids out of the way and quiet, I sort of expected to rule my children with an iron fist. I certainly was that way with my own sister (6 years younger): what I said went, when we grew up. For my own, at the time not-yet-there children, nothing was off the table in my mind - naughty steps? Spanking? Time outs? Hey, whatever works to keep the rugrats contained! That's the parent I thought I would be.

I didn't know about the love.
I didn't know about the joy.
And I didn't know about the trust, that unlimited, complete trust in my child's eyes that I was good. That I was for her, that I was her refuge, her safe place.

How can I possibly betray that trust?

I can't. Against all my expectations, I have discovered that this little being in my care is actually a fully formed, fully functional human with a loving and caring personality, who deserves the same respect as any grown up human. Not sure why but I hadn't quite realised this simple fact before!

She trusts me and that's all I need to know about how to treat her. I see my role as nourishing her in every way, but also enabling her to go confidently out into the world to explore it - knowing the safety of mum is there to run to, an anchor. I don't hold her back from being independent, but I "spot" her if she gets into potential trouble... I was given this amazing gift, this trusting little person, and I can only do my best to justify that freely given trust to the best of my ability.

It's a beautiful relationship, not a one-way managerial job of keeping the kid contained. I never knew!

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Thanks so much for sharing!