Choices. Parenthood is full of them. From the moment we decide to conceive or find out we are pregnant, we are faced with so many choices which shape our children and their future, and ultimately us as a parent.
Some of the choices we have to make are pretty simple and do not require too much thought, at least not for me. Smoking? No. Drinking while pregnant? No. Crystal Meth? Frowned upon, I’m afraid. It’s no joke really, there are those out there that will find this difficult. They have my sympathy, parenthood is scary enough without fighting those sort of demons too.
There are other decisions that really should be quite easy but everyone has an (often unsolicited) opinion and those little voices have a tendency to niggle at one’s brain. Worming their way in, picking at your conscience and keeping you up late at night.
With every choice comes the inevitable guilt or questioning if we made the right decision. Here are my bugaboos.
No 1. The Big Bad TV. How much is too much? Older generations raised their children without it, or at most there was an hour of kids programming a day. To them, it seems vile that the children of today would rather sit and watch Moana on repeat than go and play outside, and worse still, that their parents would allow it. But let’s be honest, turfing your kids out onto the street is an increasingly terrifying prospect in 2018.
I like to limit the amount of tv my children watch, and there’s definitely no Peppa Pig allowed (she’s such a turd), but as a stay at home Mum with a 15 month old and an almost four-year old, there are times I need the tv to step up and help out, in order that I can get dinner cracking without one or both limpets hanging off a limb. They watch a couple of hours a day but they also get a lot of fresh air, we walk everywhere and read and play constantly, so I think (on balance) the amount of telly time is ok. Right? *desperatlyseeksreadersapproval*
No 2. Food. I don’t allow my two beastlies to eat sweets or chocolate or fast-foods like McDonalds, much to the dismay of family members who want nothing more than to pump them full of sugary treats. (I’m looking at you, Dad). I know this is the right thing to do, but I still constantly find myself having to explain my choice as though it were the opposite way around where I fed them nothing but crap. Is it really so unbelievable that I give my children books instead of chocolate at Easter, or that they don’t have an advent calendar? It’s seen as an act of cruelty. “Here she comes,” they cry, “tooth protector and destroyer of all childhood happiness”.
Some raise their kids vegan (‘what, no meat or dairy, won’t they get rickets?’), some on microwave food, while others live off a diet of kale smoothies and goji berries. Who is to say which is right? My kids are forever poorly despite a relatively good diet, and who knows, maybe they’ll be chocolate obsessed teens but I’ve weighed up the facts and made a decision that I am comfortable with. That’s all we can do, isn’t it?
No 3. Swearing. It seems like a pretty obvious ‘no-no’, but f*ck me is it hard sometimes. And swearing directly at them is a hard no. Even when your toddler is being a total d*ck, which we all know they are at least 1% of everyday, you can’t actually say it (unless it’s whispered, we all do that). Whilst it’s tempting, nobody wants to be the parent of that child who calls their teacher a t*at on their first day in reception class.
No 4. Discipline. Hitting is bad. We can pretty much all agree on that one, right? Despite being of a generation who got smacked (it was ok in the 80s) and turning out okay, I just don’t see the benefit. There have been times where I’ve been pushed right to my limit and had to walk away and count to 10 to bring myself down from that rage only our own children can trigger. How is it that something we love so very dearly, can make us so angry? Apparently they have access to a secret button we didn’t know we had. The ‘Mum’s gone nuclear, everybody take cover‘, button. So instead of hitting and screaming, I try (not always succeeding, I’m no Saint), to reason and talk. Hoping that my being calm and patient will diffuse their tantrum or stop them from continuing with poor behaviour. Although that being said, there’s only so many times you can ask a child not to do something before Mother Teresa Parent leaves the building and Satan himself takes over. At which point, the 1950s style parent would say, a ‘light tap’ on the bottom would show the child who is boss.
I recently watched a Mum trying to reason with a two-year old who was mid tantrum, banging his chubby little fists on the floor and screaming ‘noooooo’ like he was auditioning for a part in Eastenders. Mum was attempting to talk the child down when Nan stepped in, picked the boy up and told him it was time for ice cream. The tantrum immediately ceased (obviously). Meanwhile, poor Mum watched as her little Hitler got carted off and rewarded with ice cream for being a monkey, muttering under her breath that it ‘wasn’t appropriate to reward that sort of behaviour’. Poor girl. We’ve all been there, ice cream was the easy option but she was looking at the bigger picture and wanted to teach her little guy how to control his emotions and behave properly. I saw you. You were doing the right thing.
No 5. Sleep. I know, what’s that? It’s that thing we all used to get loads of, when we took for granted the freedom of sleeping when we want, for as long as we want, uninterrupted.
I’m a firm believer in children having a set bedtime, in their own rooms, ensuring they get their 12 hours. I’m aware this can make me seem a bit inflexible and regimented but my babies like their sleep and who am I to deprive them? We all benefit from having a good nights sleep, and a bit of privacy, it keeps us sane. But some kids and their parents function on very little sleep, nights spent playing musical beds or 5am wake ups. Hats off to you folks. Hats off. This household would be broken beyond repair if the two smallest members didn’t get their 12 hours a night.
Up and down the country, our choices are always different. No matter what type of parenting style we identify with, (personally I go for calm and playful), we have to justify ourselves and our decisions to at least one other person a day and with social media playing such a huge part of our lives, the world is becoming ever smaller and judgier (new word), with us trying to portray our best selves at all times.
It is so important to realise that we can only be the parent that we are and regardless of what anybody else thinks, it is us who has to live with our decisions. It is our families who grow under our governing, ours. Take advice by all means, read differing schools of thought and then sit back and decide what you are comfortable with and if that’s swearing like a sailor, co-sleeping or living off Maccie-D’s, then that’s what you should do. As long as there are cuddles and laughter aplenty, with a large dose of comfort and security, everything else is just noise.