There is a saying that I really agree with and it goes:
‘Parenting is the easiest thing to have an opinion about, yet it is the hardest thing to do’.
Parenthood, being a parent… even being an adult, has no set way. No rule book. No code of conduct. No tangible way of validating your actions or shiny medal that we get awarded which says ‘You are the best parent EVER’. Add that to the fact that every kid is different, every parent is different and every family’s circumstances are different…. and things become even more difficult and complicated.
I am a first time Mummy. PB is a first time Daddy. I have NEVER done this baby/child rearing thing before, unless you count having two cats (sort of similar…. just more furry) and a brief number of times that I baby sat my niece for my older sister and even then she would just nap the whole time. PB has had some experience with children from his younger days so I felt comforted that at least one of us would have an idea of what to do. Funnily enough, Baby is new at all this too. He’s never even existed before, so if any of us are shitting ourselves then it’s more than likely him…. both hypothetically and literally speaking…. accounts for all the nappy changes actually.
We will inevitably f**k up somewhere. We have been known to put too many bubbles in the tub and have Baby slip n’ slide out of our hands. We’ve dressed him for November weather in May and he enjoys falling asleep on his bottle of milk as opposed to ‘putting himself to sleep’. We put him in his jungle gym at 2am sometimes just to have peace while his bottle warms up and sometimes we find it funny to use an abundance of talc after bath time (his nappy ends up looking like Paul Hollywood is about to make dough, its hilarious). The point I’m making is, none of us are perfect. Yet we all, at one stage or another, believe ourselves to be. And that is the problem.
Most of us observe other people’s parenting and compare their reactions and strategies with an inner mantra that starts ‘what I would have done is…’. Depending on how close their methods match ours depicts whether the reaction is a ‘tut tut… I wouldn’t have done that, I think they ought to have done this’ or a ‘well, now THAT is what I call parenting! I completely agree with that!’. I’ve been guilty of making comparisons before, I’m sure you reading this right now can think of times you have done the same. It is this type of behaviour that should stop… or at least be kept to oneself. Opinions are at their most powerful when they are asked for, usually as a result of some poor parent needing helpful advice on a bad day. Any other time, they are just filed into the ‘interference’ and plain bloody annoying category.
Some people don’t believe in routine, or just can’t be bothered to keep one whereas some may thrive on knowing what each minute of the day should bring. Some people will breastfeed their kid until they leave for college (ok, slight exaggeration, but you catch my drift) whereas some prefer to bottle feed them from the get go without a second thought. Some people believe that saying no to a child is too negative whereas some believe it is a little word with a powerful lesson. The list of potential scenarios and their resulting contradiction of opinions is literally endless. The mind can truly boggle at it all!
My finding is that each family unit has their own set of rules…. their own method, code, belief, way.. whatever you wish to call it… in regards to bringing up their child. Of late, when I catch myself having a self righteous moment, making comparisons and forming opinions on what a fellow parent should and shouldn’t be doing with their own child, I try and stop myself. Who am I to think this way? Why is my approach any better? It probably isn’t, it’s just different.