is ripping up the rule book when it comes to parenting.
The other night I broke the rules. Well, my rules. (I’m sure you’d never have ridiculous rules like I do.) I woke up my eight-year-old son, Ollie, brought him into the big bed and slept with him in my arms all night.
It wasn’t for his sake. It was for mine. It had been a week full of horrific news worldwide. Children were killed in a terrorist attack, I interviewed a family whose little boy was dying from brain cancer, and all I wanted to do was have Ollie close.
I can count on one hand the number of times Ollie has slept in my bed. I raised him on a strict routine: I never rocked him to sleep, never fed him to sleep and never brought him to my bed when he woke at 5am.
My decision to raise him like this was partly due to necessity, because I worked full-time and needed his carers to know his routine; partly because I had huge personal stresses going on at the time and needed that part of my life to run smoothly; and also because I had him at 26 and had no idea what I was doing, so at least I could turn to chapter six of the “Routine Book” for the answer.
Ollie ran like clockwork. He slept from 7pm till 7am, ate like a champion, could be farmed out to anyone and, in all honesty, rarely caused us any grief. Unlike my new little munchkin, Evie, who tests my patience on an hourly basis. She’s feisty and determined (and yes, I know who she gets that from), but she is also a snuggly, funny, delicious ball of yumminess who has changed our world for the better. Yet I curse the mornings when she won’t sleep in like her brother, want to cry listening to her scream every time she’s forced to sit in her car seat, and feel frustrated she won’t let go of my leg if I need to leave her with someone. If I said jump, unlike her brother, who would ask “how high?”, she would give me a cheeky smile, run off with my make-up bag and paint the carpet with lipstick. I seriously question my parenting on a daily basis and, nine times out of 10, Evie wins. But as I lay in bed with Ollie snuggled under my arm, I realised I’ve been doing this parenting thing all wrong. My desire to have my kids fit into my schedule, for our life to run to plan, to know I can leave them with anybody, and to have them sleep like hibernating bears just so Mama doesn’t lose her rag, means that I’ve been missing out on some of the best moments ever.
I wish I had broken the rules more with Ollie – hopefully there is still time. And now, when Evie is refusing to get in her pram because she wants to walk on her own, I try like mad to stop and remember that if something happened to them tomorrow, I wouldn’t spend my days reminiscing about how many hours a night they slept. Instead, I’d recall the time I drove Ollie around for two hours on a Sunday just to chase Pokémon. Or how, the other week, I sat on the floor and let Evie draw all over me – face and all – for an hour, much to her squealy delight.
It’s not that I am about to become a free-range parent, I need my sleep too much for that, but I am definitely going to allow more spontaneity into my life. Well, I’m going to try. I’ll get back to you and let you know how I go. Carrie co-hosts The Project, 6.30pm, weeknights, on Network Ten.
“I wish I had broken the rules more with my kids – hopefully there is still time”