Before we had our daughter we really wondered what all the fuss was about where being in control and ‘doing the right thing’ was concerned.
Yeah, we know it’s going to be difficult, we retorted to those striking a cautionary tone aimed at helping prepare us for parenthood. But it can’t be that difficult, we thought. Can it? Surely if you just stick together, how hard can it be?
You just have to adopt a routine, right? Do that and everything else should fall into place. Obviously they learn when they need to go to sleep and seriously, how hard can it be to feed them the right things? You just keep them away from salt and sugar – easy. And don’t get me started on television. Our children will never, ever, watch television. There’s no need to give in to anything they want. We’re the adults.
Nearly two years in and I can safely say our ‘nevers’ have been well and truly decimated. But we’re not worried and neither should you be.
That’s not to say we haven’t had wobbles along the way and reassessed some of the things we’re doing but we’ve tried not to get too hung up on whether our daughter has a biscuit or watches a couple of episodes of The Teletubbies while we peel our eyes open when she wakes bright and breezy at 5am.
And the reason for this attitude is that we make sure we counterbalance these treats with things that are better for her. We make sure she tries as many foods as possible to ensure her diet is varied. And if she watches some TV in the morning, we do something more engaging with her throughout the day or read books to her in addition to her allotted pre-bedtime reading session.
Basically, it is a balance and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for something you would have considered a gross transgression pre-parenthood. Life just isn’t like what you’d thought it would be and it’s about picking your battles.
If the munchkin wants some more food – indicated at the present moment by pointing at her mouth, nodding and saying ‘ah, ah, ah’ like a ravenous parrot – it’s about deciding whether the battle to prevent her having what she wants is worth it.
Sure, if she’s eaten a vineyard’s worth of grapes then we’re probably going to decline her request for more but if her fruit-chomping has been prudent, then what’s the harm in a few more pieces to placate her?
And with the television, we simply tell her that whoever she has been watching – be it Peppa Pig or Duggee – has gone to bed. This seems to placate her and means she moves on to other things. If this doesn’t work but we feel she’s watched enough TV, then we have that stand-off and try to distract her as best we can.
The fact she’s now mastered our tablet entirely on her own and can find the right icon to turn a programme on would be something that would have horrified our pre-parent selves. ‘Oh, they shouldn’t be able to use a tablet at that age,’ we’d no doubt have disapprovingly quipped. But is it really that bad? Sure, if it’s all she did then it would be questionable parenting but to deny her a short burst of something she derives pleasure from (and helps us get ready so we can get out the house on time) seems unnecessary.
It’s really easy to parent when you don’t have children but when you do, there’s an element of ‘getting through’. You can’t be perfect all the time and you shouldn’t chastise yourself for doing something you might have considered a transgression before your offspring arrived.
The realities of those two separate worlds couldn’t be further from one another and so how you act in them is hardly likely to be similar either. And that’s okay.