MODERN parenting seems to require a master’s degree. Available reading material suggests children are in potentially dangerous situations from the moment they are born. There are apparently myriad possible disasters just waiting to unfold as you navigate the murky waters of novice motherhood.
If the birth didn’t go as you’d envisaged, take solace: this is only the beginning. And chances are your friends endured a more difficult/ longer/ quicker/ more dramatic delivery than yours. Or perhaps their offspring were born ‘‘naturally’’ into a stress–free silence. Not my two. There were drugs. There was bad language. And they weren’t scarred for life (that I know of).
My two petals rolled on the floor, ate peanut butter, had grubby hands and kissed dogs. The dummy (frowned on but effective) was even dipped in wine (just to see whether the preference was for red or white). The preference was neither. The children were tried on spicy foods, and traditions were introduced early on (chocolate for breakfast is de rigueur at our place on your birthday). And guess what? Despite all this my children didn’t develop any nasty character traits.
I’ve taught my children that vegetarians sometimes eat devon (processed sausage) and that the magic word is not please but abracadabra. As a mother I have tried controlled crying — it worked . . . I warned the neighbours before embarking on this one. I bought myself more hours in the day by rising at the crack of dawn to exercise (I loved my new curves). And I went back to work earlier than I should have.
People used to tell me how easy mealtimes would be once the babies were on solids. ‘‘You just blend up whatever you’re having,’’ they would say. This perplexed me somewhat. What if all I was having was a packet of Tim Tams and a shot of vodka? Not ideal, even for working mothers like me. I was tired. I was cranky. Sometimes for dinner we had cheese on toast, just because it was easy.
As a teacher, I’ve admired everyone else’s children. I’ve taught them and loved them. I’ve marvelled at their development, especially how much they’ve improved in their reading. I’ve found lost teeth, braided hair and discovered nits, all in the space of two minutes. I’ve refereed arguments — and that was between parents.
I’ve attended countless birthday parties that have been spectacular occasions. I’ve stood in parks with my arms folded at the bottom of the slippery dip, informing others that the park is now closing. I have enjoyed the sound of other people’s children crying (not mine, for once).
I’ve refused to sit up all night doing projects — my parents never did my homework. I have made up stories about children telling lies and how the Easter Bunny or Santa won’t visit them. I’ve turned all the lights off in the house at 7pm and informed everyone it was midnight just because I was so tired. I’ve wound the clocks forward to midnight at 9pm on New Year’s Eve and watched the 9pm fireworks, pretending it was the happy new year already.
I’ve laughed and laughed when my children have entertained me. I’ve delighted when they’ve been kind to others.
At times I’ve wondered if there’s enough — time, resources, things. Then I stop and remind myself that everything will be all right in the end. And if it isn’t, I’ll just have to wait and see how it all turns out. Then I open the Tim Tams. And have that shot of vodka.