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7 Things I Swore I’d Never Do as a Parent, And Yet Here We Are

When I was pregnant with Max, Terry and I swore that, no matter what happened, we’d never let ourselves become Those Parents: you know, the ones who’re all, “Oh, I’ll NEVER let my baby watch TV / eat food I didn’t make from scratch / rule the roost / <insert random good intentions> – I know better than that!” 

Well, I mean, no one likes Those Parents, right? And, anyway, while we may not have known much about parenting until Max came along (And still don’t, tbh…), one thing we DID know for sure was that parenthood was probably going to kick us hard in the ass, and that, no matter how good our intentions were, it would be a good idea to just accept that we had NO IDEA what we were in for, and that we’d just do the very best we could – whatever that turned out to be.

Honestly, I think that’s probably the advice I’d give to ALL new parents: even ones who’ve had kids before, and think they know what it’s going to be like. The fact is, all children are different, and no matter how prepared you think you are, or how much you think you know, there’s always the possibility of something throwing you for a loop, and forcing you to quickly reconsider your policy on at least some of the things that seemed totally non-negotiable back in the days BC (Before Children).

Of course, even although we knew all of this, we did still end up harbouring ideas on what we’d be like as parents: for instance, we swore we’d never…

01.
LET THE BABY’S ROUTINE RULE OUR LIVES

When our friends started having children, it was the first time we’d really been around small babies (Well, it was for me: Terry had known his nephews and niece as babies, but had been too young himself at the time to really take much in about their routines, etc…), and we were honestly quite perplexed by the importance routine seemed to play in everyone’s lives: especially where nap time was concerned.

I mean, babies are portable, right? They can sleep anywhere, any time… so why, then, did every meet-up we tried to arrange involve complex negotiations based around who was napping when, and how long we’d have before further naps were needed?

We had no idea, but the nap negotiations would inevitably end with everyone agreeing that the only possible window for us all to meet would be some time between 6 – 7am on a Sunday morning, and, at that point, Terry and I would back away slowly, telling ourselves that if WE ever had children we definitely wouldn’t allow them to dictate our every waking hour.

“The baby will fit in with OUR lives, rather than the other away around!” we smugly told each other once I was pregnant, and all I can say to that is HAHAHA, and also, WHAT A COUPLE OF IDIOTS, SERIOUSLY.

And, I mean, I’m sure there are SOME babies/toddlers who just fit effortlessly into their parents’ schedule, and dutifully nap on command, every single time. Ours, however, isn’t one of them, and so, not only do we now fully understand the importance of routine, we’ve also become much more rigid about it than we ever thought we would.

We’re able to be a bit more flexible now that Max is two, and down to just one nap per day, but I know that, during the first year of our life, some people who know us were quite baffled by our insistence that The Routine must be adhered to at all times, and I strongly suspect a few were probably quite frustrated by it, so, yeah, hoist by our own petard, basically.

The thing is, though, it’s not that we take pleasure in being inflexible, or enjoy being difficult on purpose (Well, not ALL the time, anyway…): trust me, there’s nothing I’d like more than to be able to just leave the house whenever I want to, without giving it a second thought. We’ve learned the hard way, though, that if Max skips a nap (And no, he STILL won’t sleep in the car, or in the pushchair…), he’ll be so cranky that it won’t be worth going out at all.

So, he’ll fit in with our routine SOME day: just… not quite yet.

02.
LIE TO MY CHILD

I was going go answer all of his questions – even the hard ones – honestly and directly: I would not tell him a single white lie, or embellish the truth even slightly, in order to get out of a tricky situation. Fast-forward two years, though, and Max thinks Haribo mix is “yucky medicine”, because I am NOT SHARING, and you CAN’T MAKE ME.

On the subject of food, though, I promise I’m not just being selfish with the sharing thing: it’s actually because of one of the other things I thought I wouldn’t do, but HAHA NOPE…

03.
LET HIM EAT SWEETS

In my defence here, if it was JUST up to me, Max wouldn’t have tasted chocolate or sweets yet: not because I want to cruelly deny him sweet things forever, but because he can’t miss what he’s never had, and given that chocolate etc isn’t particularly good for him, I just figured that the longer we could get away with pretending it didn’t exist, the better.  A bit like the “first” three Star Wars movies, basically.

As it turns out, though, what Max eats ISN’T just up to me: or even to me and Terry. No, it’s also up to the Hermes delivery man (Who is very generous with his chocolate…), the woman behind the counter in the local shop (Who tried to give him a Freddo bar when he was six months old), and… pretty much everyone else who knows, him, apparently.

We’ve actually been really surprised by how keen people are to give very small children sweets – and how insistent they can be when you try to refuse – and while we never buy or offer him those things ourselves, it just hasn’t been possible to prevent him finding out about the wonder that is chocolate – or to stop people offering him it.

I’d assumed people would be more likely to judge us if we DID give him sweets etc, but the reality is that we’re judged instead for NOT wanting him to eat them, with people telling us we’re spoilsports, or are being cruel: damned if you do, and all that.

04.
‘REWARD’ TANTRUMS

We all know that the correct way to deal with tantrums is to stand your ground, not give in, and completely remove the child from the situation, if necessary. And we ALSO all know that sometimes, despite the very best will in the world, it’s just not possible or appropriate to do any/all of those things, and you end up just doing whatever you can to diffuse the situation instead, and not ruin everyone else’s day by turning their birthday dinner/ quiet evening / special event into a ‘learning moment’ for your toddler.

(And, no, you can’t always just get up and leave, either: I mean, try doing that in an aircraft at 30,000 feet, and let me know how that works out for you…)

7 things I swore I'd never do as a parent (But ended up doing anyway...)Speaking of air travel, meanwhile, I also swore I’d never…

05.
TAKE HIM ON AN AIRCRAFT UNTIL I COULD TRUST HIM NOT TO DISTURB ANYONE

Look, I’ve been the person repeatedly having the back of their chair kicked by a toddler enough times now to not want to be the person responsible for that, so, when we had Max, I quietly resolved not to travel by plane ever again: or at least not until he was old enough to be trusted not to cry /scream / kick someone in the back.

Then he actually arrived, and I realised that being able to continue travelling was the one thing standing between me and certain insanity, so I do my best to keep him happy, and I NEVER allow him to kick the back of anyone’s seat, but I WILL be getting on that flight, dammit. Please don’t hate me.

06.
LET HIM WATCH TV

As parents, we’re taught that there’s almost nothing we can do that could possibly be worse for our children than allowing them to watch TV. As the parent of a newborn, I took this advice so seriously that I was scared to even have the TV on in the background when Max was in the room, and would spend hours worrying about how much damage I might have done by watching that episode of Downton Abbey while he was sleeping in my arms that time.

Like, would the evil TV rays somehow creep out from the set and into his brain? Would he be having dreams about being a cheery Yorkshire housemaid, or an oddly liberal elderly countess? Was I the LITERAL worst parent ever, or would I only earn that title if I let him watch TV on my phone, which … I’m actually going to have to go and lie down for a moment at the very thought of it.

I’m not joking, by the way: I actually worried about all of this. I actually thought my child would be damaged if he so much as heard the TV playing in another room. This morning, by contrast, I let him watch an episode of Blippi ON MY PHONE while I made him breakfast, and I am 100% going to hell now.

I don’t care, though, because if you’ve ever tried to put breakfast together while a two year old clings to your leg, shouting, “MUMMY! MUMMY! MUMMY! MUMMY!” (No idea why, but Max is always super-clingy in the mornings, and wants to be carried at all times. Unless he’s watching Blippi, obviously, in which case, whatevs…) then I’m pretty sure you’re not judging…

07.
USE FOOD AS A BRIBE

Obviously using food as a bribe – or using ANYTHING as a bribe, really – would be a terrible, terrible thing to do, and that’s absolutely NOT why we always have a carton of blueberries and Max’s very favourite snack – dried mango – in stock at any given time. Absolutely not. Nuh-uh. Ahem.

WBU, though? Care to share any of the things YOU thought you’d never do as a parent?

COMMENTS
  • Before becoming a parent, I swore I would never stick my finger down the back of a diaper to see if a diaper change was needed. Fast forward to parenthood: I was carrying my baby in front of me, walking behind a friend who was wearing a skirt with an elasticized waist, and I stuck my finger down the back of her skirt! She turned around, and the horror engulfed me. Thank God she has a sense of humor!

    January 10, 2020
  • Ha ha ha, laughing my head off at this Amber, so so true!! All of it!
    Emilia has just dropped her nap (argh!) so I was looking forward to naptimes no longer dictating our days. Turns out that we basically can’t go anywhere or do anything anytime after the usual start of her nap because she is still too tired and cranky and can’t handle it, though she is not tired enough to sleep, of course! 🙁 Ugh. Maybe in 6 months.
    And no 4 – actually could have killed my smug little sister who on Christmas Day during lunch when Emilia was having the hugest meltdown ever decided to tell me (whilst feeding her own 7 week old baby, so of course she is a parent now and entitled to comment (insert eye roll emoji here)) not to reward a tantrum. I was just trying to ensure that Christmas Lunch was ruined for the other 15 people round the table and remove her from the situation, but to do so I needed to bribe her out of the room (trust me, it was a bad one). Felt simultaneously like a terrible parent and an excellent one at the same time when it worked and almost calmed her down! Ah dear. How little we knew eh? Cannot wait for a time in about two years when I can say something similar back to her and watch her reaction! He he, so evil!
    xx

    January 10, 2020
    • Just worrying I might have told you my sister story on my last comment on your blog. I promise I am not as utterly obsessed by this incident as I might sound!

      January 10, 2020
  • KianteWench

    REPLY

    I thought I would make Oliver’s pureed food from scratch and that he would eat a robust amount of things. NOPE. So much nope. He is incredibly particular about his food. It’s a struggle to get him to eat things.

    January 10, 2020
  • Alice

    REPLY

    I don’t think I have actually backtracked on things I planned never to do, but I have changed my mind……..
    I was sure my daughter would have a routine, but actually we fed on demand because that worked for us. I didn’t plan to breastfeed beyond 6 months but actually still going at 3 years. I was sure she would be in her own cot in her own room at 6 months but actually still bedsharing at 3 years too.

    1. Re the routine one – I honestly did find my daugher fitted into what I needed to do, she would nap in the carrier wherever I happened to be, I still struggle to understand parents who have to be home for nap time….. but I suppose not all children nap in a carrier or pushchair.

    2. Yes I’ve certainly embellished the truth, I try not to lie, not sure I succeed 100%.

    3. Yes – this makes me so cross. It’s so inappropriate. I’ve had someone hand a ferrero rocher directly to my daughter without asking me (fortunately she is not allergic), a man force a cake on me even when I declined. What right do other people have to give my child tooth decay? It’s really not appropriate to offer these things to other people’s children. But it is so pervasive.

    4. I don’t think you can “reward” a tantrum. During a tantrum a child is overwhelmed, it isn’t a conscious thing, they aren’t being manipulative. Cuddles and reassurance work for me.

    5. My daughter has been going on planes since she was 3 weeks old and so far has never caused any disruption. She was insisting on singing loudly on a train last week but we had been travelling on buses and trains for 10 hours by that point so I think she did pretty well. And honestly I don’t often find I am disturbed by children on flights, most either sleep or are distractible.

    6. I actually did the opposite – we don’t have a TV but I bought a DVD player so that my daughter could watch DVDs in another language……. then I learned that watching TV doesn’t help language development so have never used it. I’ve seen how my daughter is transfixed by the TV when we have been in hotels though so I’m sure if we had one at home it would be hard to avoid.

    7. I actually never have used anything as a bribe! But I have certainly picked my daughter up and taken her somewhere if she hasn’t gone on her own volition.

    I don’t believe we should make assumptions about anyone’s parenting. We don’t know what challenges they or their child might be facing. And what “feels right” evolves over time – I’ve ended up taking a much more “attachment parenting” approach than I ever expected.

    January 10, 2020
    • Alice

      REPLY

      Oh, I did think that babies cried for no reason though. So I was convinced I would be willing to leave my baby to cry in the night so that she would “learn” to sleep.
      Nope. I definitely wasn’t happy with that. I don’t think I was a very kind person before having a child, I envisaged myself being quite harsh.

      January 10, 2020
  • Myra

    REPLY

    I’m all in favour of bribing children.

    January 10, 2020
  • Right there with you on the TV thing – I felt exactly the same and now I’m more like, “Er, you want me to pretend I’m WHAT? Would you not rather watch Bing…?”

    If it helps (if it’s annoying, ignore me or mutter to Terry or something), I don’t believe you need to “win” every time your kid has a tantrum. Backing down now and then is teaching them the art of compromise/peacekeeping/democracy/something-else-positive. It’s all good.

    But, yeah, what is it with strangers wanting to give little children chocolate?! And why is so much of CBeebies centred around cakes and ice cream?!

    January 10, 2020
  • Lucie

    REPLY

    Hahaha, so very true! I would say all of the above apply at our house (maybe not the food bribes, but there are other bribes involved, obviously…). We are just very lucky and have our youngest who naps in the stroller or car (but you still have to time it, because if he sleeps too early or too late then you are in for a veeeeery bad day/evening afterwards).
    They don’t watch anything in the morning (TV and sugar are definitely what we are strictest about), but last night, they had Peppa Pig on when I was making dinner (because, same as you, I can’t make dinner with a toddler hanging on my foot and pleading to be carried).
    Have a lovely weekend!

    January 10, 2020
  • I share most of the ones above and, the worst, I have turned into one of those parents that tell expecting couples “You just wait and see how THAT turns out” when they share how they want to raise their child…

    January 11, 2020
  • people trying to feed kids they do not know was a major problem for me. I had to stop leaving my second daughter parked outside shops as you did back then as she choked on any food, so she always came into a shop ( shock and horror back then) and had a sign pinned to her pram asking people not to feed her as it could kill her – harsh but effective.
    My grandson use to wear a t-shirt over any coat he wore as he has multiple food allergies and has “died” more than once in an ambulance due to anaphylaxis pointing out the issue.
    My older one never got sweets or biscuits until she was three, second one never needed them as they did not come in liquid form but the third one did as the two girls being 6 and 7 yrs older than him and use to share theirs with him.

    January 11, 2020
    • Alice

      REPLY

      It’s such a problem isn’t it? Why do people do this? People would offer my daughter lollipops when she was exactly the age to choke on them. Some of them offer food to me to give to her, which is better but not ideal (she isn’t stupid, she can tell the food has been offered) but others just hand it straight to her.

      Have people never heard of allergies? Dental caries? Obesity? Just the general need for a healthy balanced diet?

      I still remember someone coming up to my daughter at the actual moment she was happily eating an apply saying “oh let me see if I have a biscuit for her”. Why????

      I don’t object to my daughter having sweet things occasionally as part of a balanced diet but she gets offered them so often by other people I have to avoid ever having them at all, or it would form her staple diet.

      January 13, 2020
        • Alice

          REPLY

          I think it’s some weird cultural thing that neither of us are “in” on.
          Prior to having a child, if a friend with a child had come round, I would have asked the friend if they wanted any food for the child – but I wouldn’t have immediately reached for the biscuit tin.

          But there is clearly some expectation that this is what you are supposed to do when you see a baby.

          January 20, 2020
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