Sunday, 25 January 2015

The ultimate highs and lows of parenting

In 5 weeks, my oldest son - my first born, my baby - turns 3. Wow. It's such a cliché that the weeks and months and years slip by so quickly with children. But it ain't half true.

This time 3 years ago I was just a month away from my due date. It's such a weird time, that pre-baby waiting. And this time of year always makes me think of it. The cold, biting wind of January. With
all hope and optimism firmly fixed on the arrival of Spring. I was lugging my huge bump around this town that I hardly knew. My diary was free, apart from the every-other-week midwife appointments, and a once a week attendance at a Bumps and Babies group. I simply couldn't imagine how my life was going to change. I remember studying all of this baby equipment that now filled our house and tried to imagine putting it into use. But I just couldn't imagine what it was going to be like. It was too much of a leap into the unknown.

And yet here we are. Almost 3 years later. There are two little boys sleeping upstairs. My living room has been taken over with brightly coloured toys. My laundry routine has gone from a twice weekly affair to an unconquerable mountain, that is never under control. My kitchen cupboards are full of a variety of plastic plates, bowls and cups that become a leaning tower of Pisa on the draining board day after day. And our Tesco food bill? It's out of control. How are we going to feed them when they're teenagers?

Ringing in the changes

Paraphernalia and changes to domestic routine aside, I've often thought about the changes that parenthood brings. And I've wanted to document them. Because like so much that's associated with having babies and raising children, you forget. I think it's nature's anaesthetic. And while I think that's fabulous for childbirth and the hideousness of the months of broken sleep. I think it would be a great shame to forget the other stuff.

The highs and lows

I don't think there's anything else that can bring you such soaring highs, and crushing, sinking lows. Well maybe there is. But I've not experienced them. I'm also going to acknowledge the fact that my children are still only almost 3, and less than 1. What the next 5 or 10 years will bring, I simply don't know.

The good stuff

Oh my. This is easy. Those first smiles, the second smiles. All the smiles. I am not a morning person, but my heart lifts every morning when my little people, fresh-faced and unencumbered with the troubles of yesterday greet me. For the record, if I am greeted by these faces before 6am, none of this applies.

The request for a Mummy Cuddle. Bobble made us wait almost 2 years before he started to willingly offer out cuddles. Even today he does not do kisses. He frequently tells me that my kisses are 'no good'. So cuddles carry more currency. He asks for one when he feels worried, frightened, tired, or sometimes, just when he realises that he hasn't had one all day. There's a caveat with this one too. On a clingy day, when he wants nothing else by Mummy Cuddles and I'm actually trying to do something my patience is stretched super thin.

The pride. These little people give you more pride than you ever thought was possible. I'm not even sure that pride was that much of a big deal pre-children. Sure, a good exam grade or a nice bit of feedback at work would make me feel proud. But this is different. This is a warmth, a clap your hands in delight, and puff your feathers out sort of feeling. But it comes from the tiniest thing. I've felt it with every first milestone that the boys hit, but it reached new heights when I saw what kind of big brother Bobble was going to be.

Which leads me neatly on to my last point - siblings. I'd like to talk more about this in a future post, but watching the relationship develop between your two children is magical. When they look into each other's eyes, or laugh together, or the big one gives the little one a toy and tells him that every thing is ok... it's awesome.

The bad stuff

If your children haven't had you in tears over something or made you scream with rage (inwardly or outwardly!) then I don't think you have truly experienced parenthood. Is it wrong to speak about this stuff? Absolutely not. Because without it, those sweet, magnificent highs would not taste as good.

The tortuous lack of sleep. I don't know a lot about interrogation or torture, but sleep deprivation is always one of the weapons. Whether your baby fights every nap, whether they wake up 8 times a night or they only sleep for 20 minutes at a time, you and I know that a lack of sleep makes you feel broken. Insane. Incapable of anything. I've lost count of the number of times I had laid in bed and cried when one of my children has woken up AGAIN (and by this I usually mean for the umpteenth time that night, usually when I was under the impression that they had in fact gone back to sleep). Nothing can prepare you for it. And from this point forward you will become obsessed with sleep.

Frustration. A lot of life as a parent is frustrating. Not getting enough sleep is frustrating, but you do sort of expect that. But this is a different sort of frustration that comes from not being able to control your little person because damn it, they're an individual with thoughts and opinions of their own! They don't like this food. They don't want to join in with the singing at the group you go to even though they know all the words. They get scared when a bigger child comes near them in the playground. They cling to you like a limpet at soft play because they're not feeling that out going. They won't cooperate with getting dressed even though you're already mega late. They point blank refuse to read a new book and choose the same bedtime book every night for 3 weeks. Pass me the pillow, I need to scream into it.

Shame. You shouted in a rage at your toddler. Your baby's inability to sleep fills you with an unjustifiable anger. You daydream of a day off. You miss your old, uncomplicated, carefree life. A lot of mums speak about guilt. I personally don't get this. I have made these choices so guilt is a wasted emotion. But I do feel ashamed sometimes. I am a responsible adult, who should be in control. But I am also a person who is doing what I consider to be the hardest, most challenging job that I have ever done. I am only human.

Riding the rollercoaster

So what does it all mean? Well I guess that without the bad times you wouldn't appreciate the good times. The high points only feel so high because the low points take you down so deep.

It's one hell of a bigger dipper isn't it? What would be on your list of highs and lows?

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