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…
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.
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…
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.
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…)
Speaking of air travel, meanwhile, I also swore I’d never…
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.
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…
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?