It’s a cliché I know, but very relevant non-the-less. Kids really don’t come with any instructions. Sure, there are lots of carefully written books about parenthood, and there is always an abundance of well-wishers offering you friendly advice, but as all new parents will know it adds up to very little in reality at times. Every child is different, and the variety of original scenarios they will create mean you are really left with nothing else most of the time than guesswork, trial and error, and pure blind luck.
When we had our first, everyone gave us advice, always friendly and helpful, yet often contradictory. You look at ‘experienced parents’ and you think they must know what they are talking about when they impart knowledge to you confidently about the way they have dealt with the problems that came. Then there are midwifes who have their own instructions, doctors and nurses, family members, friends at work, the man in the corner shop, the lady next door, and the old woman on the bus who sees you with a pram and feels obliged to share every little gem on parenting with you. Everyone wants to help, and they all mean the best, only it’s all too much, and at first you try everything, because you want to be the best parent of course, but slowly you work out that the little person in front of you in not some experiment in getting in exactly perfect, but a little individual in their own right, and if you start to listen to them, really listen, they are telling you everything you need to know. They are asking you in their own way for what they need, which at first really isn’t that much. Of course you still don’t get it right all the time, but you are a lot more likely to if you listen to the person that matters.
All the advice in the world is great, but your little person has their own personality and moods. There is no formula that covers all. Listen to what you are told by the myriad of well-wishers, but hold that information for when you are stuck, when you are not sure, then try what you think will be best for your child, that person in front of you.
Of course, after a few months it gets less immediate, they start moving around, and within the first year they are likely to be truly mobile and more self sufficient in their own right, but then the learning curve really starts. You can’t leave anything in reaching distance. Book shelves must be emptied, furniture changed, doors are locked and gates put up. Everything is subject to exploration, and only a sustained effort from the parents will keep them out of where they shouldn’t be. Life becomes a constant vigil, and you learn that quiet is never good as they are probably chewing on your passport or similarly important document.
Boundary’s become the issue, and once set are subject to a constant onslaught of testing, by a child who’s energy and cunning know no limits, like the waves eroding a shore, back and forth, back and forth until your guard is down and they finally manage to break through…. These are the testing times, where you resolve to be a good parent is surely tested, and the first cracks in your personal strength start to show. For us, having two kids a year apart, the sleepless nights with the baby do not help with the energy to manage the toddler, but even with sleep the patience would surely be tested on a daily basis. Now I am finding out what it really is to be a parent, and all that advice and help we had at the start has melted away into the distance as every day is met as a fresh new challenge.
I’m going to stop there, I can revisit this subject again and again, and perhaps a less sleep deprived state will allow me a greater perspective. Right now though I want to focus on the positive side of parenthood, because this far outweighs any struggles you have, it makes up for any sleepless nights, validates the constant nappy changing and the cleaning of sick from the floor at four o’clock in the morning. All these are just side shows to the object of pure love that is your child.
This is the thing. In all my life I have never before felt the magnitude of love you get from a child. There is a single-mindedness of their devotion that is so amazing it can balance out all the sleepless nights in one sweet moment. When you take a baby into bed, and they look at you with pure unconditional love, absolutely content in their own self just to be there lying with their parent, it leaves you feeling complete as a person. It fills up any empty spaces, sends warmth and love ringing to your soul. It is I am sure the best feeling you will ever have as an adult.
When you have been at work, regardless of the day you have had, when you come home, in the cold and the dark of a winters evening, and that little person is virtually jumping up and down to be held, their face a Cheshire Cat Smile aimed only at you, the worries of the day just melt away and you hold them and the strength of their love for you reaches inside and you don’t want to put them down. Just hug and hold for ever. Of course they get bored pretty quick and start taking advantage of the higher perspective of your arms to look for the next item of interest in the room. But for those few moments it is worth every sacrifice, every bad day at work, every lost night of sleep and all those days of stress worrying about how you are going to pay for it all!
So that’s it for me, the greatest reward in life is watching your children grow up, develop personalities, learn new things and become the people they are going to be. Every new word, every cute sound and each perfect little mannerism must be cherished and appreciated for they are all firsts in the world, and they come from your child, and for that they are pure divine magical pleasure. I love being a Dad.