It’s been nearly 3 years since I became a parent for the first time (whaaaaat?!) Along the way, like most, I have learned some valuable lessons. One of them involves sausages, obviously (see above image).
I’ve pretty much hit the jackpot of luck with both my kids; they sleep (most of the time), they eat (most of the time), and they’re a bunch of fun to hang out with (most of the time). But here’s the thing; as parents so many of us talk about how we’re “lucky” because our kids do x, y, and z, but hardly anyone ever says to me “my kids do all that shit because I’m an amazing parent!”
I am in no way suggesting that I am amazing at this, or that I have all the answers or some magic formula to creating perfect children. Perfect I am not, and neither are my kids, but along the way I would like to think that I have had some influence on who they are right now, and who they are going to become in the future.
Parenting Lesson #1; Stop Stressing About It
I am literally the biggest stress-head there is going. Ask my former employees about the time I threw a cooked chicken across the kitchen (It wasn’t fucking cooked, which was exactly the problem), or the time I threw a box of supplies down the stairs because they hadn’t been put away properly… Total stress-head. But after 4 miscarriages, 1 D&C, 1 ectopic pregnancy and 1 operation to remove a fallopian tube, I decided to just stop stressing about it. I fell pregnant the month after my fallopian tube was removed.
The no-stressing rule really began with my birthing plan.
I refused to make one.
How the fuck can you make a plan for something you have never done/have no idea how to do/has a thousand variables all of which have the potential to screw up the plan?! And then when the plan goes to shit, you start stressing about the fact that the plan has gone to shit! So I didn’t plan a single bloody thing. I just turned up at the hospital, not having made a plan, attended a single ante-natal course, or practised my breathing skills (which by the way I have been practising daily for 28 years).
And you know what? My body just knew what to do. Instinct took over and I let it. 4 hours after my first contraction, Amelia was born. The lucky part is that she was born safe and healthy, none of that is on me. But I firmly believe that not stressing about labour at least contributed to, as I am often told, me being the luckiest cow ever with my ‘easy’ first labour. I did the same with Wills and he was born just over 3 hours after my first contraction.
Our first night at home with Amelia was a complete fucking nightmare, and I stressed.the.fuck,out. I didn’t know what she wanted, she wouldn’t sleep, she literally screamed the whole night, and we genuinely thought “shit… we’re stuck with this baby”. Mr C called my mum the next morning and basically begged her to come round! My mum buggered off with the baby and we both had a nap – yep, she was just 4 days old. So many people are so shocked when I tell them this, like “Oh my gosh, how could you bear to let her be away from you so soon?”
Because I could. Because I was tired. Because I just birthed a human and I wanted to bloody sleep. Because what was the worst that was going to happen? My mum has raised 4 kids, and we’re all alive at least, so I’m pretty sure she can handle a new-born for an hour or two. When she came back, she made me have a bath, helped Mr C change Amelia’s nappy, and she told me one thing;
“Aleena, you basically co-parented your brothers with me. You’ve had a sleep and you’ve had a bath, so stop wallowing and sort your shit out. You know how to do this. Oh, and one more thing. Babies feed off your emotions. If you’re stressed, so is she.”
That one piece of advice there has taken me through my whole parenting journey so far. This is not to say that I don’t get stressed, or raise my voice, or occasionally hide in the bathroom for 10 minutes just to escape, or react badly to shitty behaviour. I do all of those things, fairly regularly if I’m honest. But that one piece of advice always comes back to me, and whether I think about it in the heat of my stressing, or later when the kids have gone to bed, I do always come back to it and use it to correct my own behaviour. Some of the worst days I have had with the kids have been the days when I have been the most stressed out, the most reactive to their shit. The angrier I get and the more I react, the worse their behaviour gets.
And I believe it goes deeper, too. I rarely stress about my kids sleeping; yes we had some fairly crappy times during the whole sleep regression phases, and yes some nights I sat on the stairs with my head in my hands screaming internally, but for the most part they have both slept. On their fronts. Totally taboo, I know, but I haven’t stressed about it. I tried various sleep positions with both children, and both sleep best on their fronts, so I just went with it, made their cots safe (which basically meant removing everything from the cot!) and I check them regularly.
I don’t stress about eating. Now that Amelia is a little older, I have boundaries, but ultimately if she doesn’t eat then she doesn’t eat. She will eat at the next meal time, and if she doesn’t then she doesn’t. I have never told her that she must eat her vegetables, and yet she will happily much on broccoli florets and various other veg. She is currently refusing all meat, and that’s ok. I still always put it on her plate, but I don’t force her, and sometimes she will absent-mindedly eat some.
And sausages… That mother of mine is still schooling me! She turned up this evening at dinner time, Wills was chilling in his high chair with a couple of toys and I was laying food out in the middle of the table so Amelia could choose what she wanted on her plate. It was a kind of Friday treat meal, grilled sausages and bacon (from Greenacres Farm), scrambled eggs, beans, toast and grilled parsnip cubes. Amelia sat at the table and chose exactly what I knew she would; everything but the meat. I mentioned to her that auntie Chloe and Chris had made the sausages and bacon and she then decided to munch a bit of sausage (success!). It was at this point that my mum said to me;
“Where’s William’s dinner? Can’t he have a sausage too?”
“Mum, he’s barely 5 months old.”
“Are you telling me you haven’t given him any finger foods? I thought you were weaning?”
“I am, and I have… cucumber sticks… other stuff, you know…”
“Let the boy eat a sausage!”
“Pfft… Give him one then, see what he does!”
“Oh look! He loves it! Quick, get your camera out Aleena!”
He fucking loved it. I hate it when she’s right, but I suppose that’s all part of being a mum (you just wait, Amelia!) Now he was well supervised throughout this sausage initiation, there were four of us taking it in turns to remove small pieces of sausage from his mouth that broke off, and at no time was he in any danger. And boy did he love that fucking sausage!
The challenge is replicating this “no stressing out” rule in the every day things… Now that, I’m not so good at…