“Before you were born I carried you under my heart. From the moment you arrived in this world until the moment I leave it, I will always carry you in my heart.” – Mandy Harrison
There’s a blurred line between my childhood and teenage years. Life moves at a fast and furious pace.
One minute you are carrying around a watermelon, and by the ninth month, you are battling with sleepless nights, thunderous fatigue and mood swings that a roller-coaster ride may do the trick, at least that’s short term trauma.
Childhood experiences are like parenting experiences; you have to go through the hot inferno on your own and have your unique experience. No one can ever provide a complete comfort blanket or a smooth parachute for a safe landing; it’s hard, but it is always exhilarating.
It would just be fab if parents had a step by step manual on all topics related to how to peacefully, calmly and enjoyably raise our bundle of joy. Michael McIntyre said comically and possibly accurate rendition of his rendezvous as a parent, “I’ve got a little baby, I made him…He doesn’t speak, he’s 2…He’s a slow learner, he’s only got 2 words…car and map…I’m slightly worried he’s trying to escape. If his next word is passport we are in serious trouble!”
How real and terrifying; think about the constant daily fears, doubts, confusion and just plain worries that you may lose your marbles. I believe I’ve lost a few; prove it’s true with my sprinkles of grey hair sprouting at the front, a disturbing indication that life is slowly but surely driving this unknown ride.
Oh, how I wished there were a manual or a straight path for a new parent to assist in knowing and making the right decisions; how easy life would be.
Sometimes, when children show their cuteness and adorable sides, like when you get off that terrifying funfair ride, you long to go back again to have that feeling all over again. Such a love and hate experience with marmite (just so you know, I struggled with adjusting to the bitter, sour yeast taste to the spread, but now can comfortably eat three or four toasts of the marmite bread; the irony of life).
So, if you are thinking of becoming a new parent or recently embarked on this journey, rest assured; you will experience all the struggles that the uncanny thoughts of escape, but know that it shall come to pass!
After having two kids over the past 5years, I know a thing or two about parenthood and want to share three things I only wished I knew or had a guiding hand on how to manoeuvre the terrains for a successful journey.
It’s never too late to learn something new or correct past mistakes; after all, that’s what parents are there for; second or third chances.
Who can relate to what Mr McIntyre said about parenting – comparing single life to when you become a parent? My nemesis is when he casually but brutally retold his morning routine and how it involves some shouting and dread before anything can happen, hmm, the joy of parenthood.
These are the three things I would say to new parents; take what applies and implement it into your parenting skills; however, this is not a guarantee that your children wouldn’t turn into little rugrats or, better yet, little prima donna.
A Parent’s Instinct is precious
If only it were relatively possible; imagine what we would want to change if we could turn back the hands of time. I know for sure that nagging feeling I had when my oldest was in private nursery care and things weren’t quite right; I would be a millionaire by now.
I guess the tiredness, uncertainty and the fact that we assume as new parents that children’s institutions know what they are doing and want the best for our children. It’s not bashing time for childcare providers. There are some excellent quality childcare providers who go the extra mile to ensure your child is nurtured the right way, making your concerns easier to tolerate.
Childcare after another should have been a strong indication that my boy was trying to say something. You hear horror stories, but you somehow pray and hope that your child’s experience wouldn’t be that bad. It happened, and what happened was the last straw for my older boy.
On the first day of enrolling him, the manager was eager.
She spieled all her life history about how her daycare was the best and how the children flourished under their care, and how business was doing so well; let’s say that I was a sucker for the best in people and always wanted to give them the chance to put their best feet forward.
Within the first couple of weeks, we didn’t notice anything so dramatic in my boy’s behaviour or any specific red lights. Still, just like any deceitful person, they always show their true colours unconsciously. You can pretend, but eventually, true intentions will come to light one way or the other.
Wet diapers, uncontrollable tantrums and hyper behaviour were my red alerts.
I decided one day to go and pick him up early as something in my soul was nagging me(I later realised that it was the instincts at play); the sight that welcome was so heart-breaking that they couldn’t give me a solid, justifiable reason, apart from sorry.
He was secluded from the rest of the kids, outside by himself, holding on to the front entrance gate, wailing and looking tired and defeated; god knows how long he must be left out to sort out whatever issue on that day by himself. What had caused the childcare providers to have left him out without any console, attention or care; this day still disturbs me – a parent’s guilt is so fierce.
When he saw me and I looked into his eye, the hurt, pain and shame of not following my instinct that something didn’t quite add up and that I allowed my tiredness and faith in the institution got the best out of me. From that day on, I paid more attention to him. We selected the next childcare based not on what the manager said but on my boy’s reactions to the environment, the children, teachers, and general connection with the daycare.
Listening to our instinct can either be a lifesaver or cause us more anguish, but I know that when something doesn’t feel right, mothers know best, right! Please listen, trust and believe that your instinct is telling you something that is a matter of life or death, literally.
Teach your child the importance of self-confidence and the true joy of knowing and accepting themselves
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” -Dale Carnegie
A few years ago, there was a time when we used the term daredevil to describe the personality of my older boy (See images above). He was such a curious boy with an enormous explorative and adventurous soul before he became an escapee (the phrase we’ve termed because he always wanted to escape since that episode at the daycare centre).
What happened, that’s what I asked myself a while back, and it dawned on me I got in the way! Period
I let the parenting pressure got the best out of me. I let societal views got the best out of me. I let the ‘Jones’ got the best out of me. And I let my doubts and fears got the best out of me. Period!
Parents often ask Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist – what advice can he give them to help get kids interested in science or, better yet, interested in life! He said that parents should allow kids to stay curious and believes that, in a nutshell, that’s what kids are born to do. They are explorers of nature because scientists are just grownups who never give up exploring and stay forever curious.
He’s right! If only I had continued to allow my boy to experiment, break some boundaries (within the proper limits of danger), and give him the room to grow naturally, I’m sure he would become much bolder with a daring soul. Instead, he becomes the preteen boy who has become somewhat overly cautious, sometimes doubtful and scared of physical activities that involve testing his agility and confidence.
However, the exciting dilemma is that when he breaks out of his initial fear, he’s wholly unstoppable and his confidence and ego sour to new heights. Introduce a new physical challenge, and he will whine and complain, but when he eventually overcomes those obstacles, he becomes a master of that skill and wants the whole world to know about it. That is what self-confidence and joy of believing in their abilities embody.
Helping and teaching them that it’s ok to be scared and fearful builds their character because they must learn to feel the fear and do it anyway. This attitude and growth mindset keeps them growing into independent and confident humans who are curious, determined, happy and free to try anything that is within their limit; after all, the sky is infinitely untouchable and limitless.
So parents, try your damn hardest to get out of their way, yes set a safe boundary that doesn’t put fear in their exploring world and just let them explore the world, let them freely meander, let them try and break some rules, inquire and ask questions. It’s the sure way to teach your child the beauty of building up their reservoir of confidence, facing their fears head-on and learning by themselves how to overcome them.
Allow them the benefit of making mistakes and screwing things up along the way, and better yet, as Neil said, ‘put things in their midst that help them explore. Why don’t you get a pair of binoculars, just leave it there one day? Watch ‘em pick it up. And watch ‘em look around. They’ll do all kinds of things with it.”!
Confidence and accepting ourselves are the sole purpose of leading to many open doors and enriching our lives in this world we call home. Therefore, curiosity in children is something to be cherished. Period.
Love them unconditionally – it’s a matter of life or death
Unconditional love is powerful.
Yes, the moment we realise we are bringing a human being into this world, our parental and nurturing instinct is so powerful that it changes our behaviour, emotional state, and attitude.
Before we become parents, we have a self-interest that serves our ego and pride. Still, as soon as we become a parent, our world turns upside down, literally physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
I remember my own experience and the experiences of friends who, at the onset, loved their freedom and their carefree lives; how miracles happened when they became a parent. It wasn’t just their body that changed, but they embodied an aura of divine love.
This love I call unconditional; parents, in the beginning, feel a strong link and bond with this miniature human. Because it fills our hearts and minds, we become superhuman, and our human instincts go into overdrive. As 1 John 4:18 said– “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”.
We don’t fear anything the first time we lock eyes and spirit with our bundle of joy. Our unconditional love gives us hope, courage and things we never knew to expect come from giving freely to this newborn child without any expectations.
Until reality kisses our cheeks with challenges, stress, sleep deprivation and fears from others, meaning well but not knowing that they are burning flames that will cause us to adopt a mentality of conditional love and attitudes that defy the whole cosmos of humanity.
According to biblical beliefs such as 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres”.
Such a tall order, don’t you think! Ideally, this is how we should operate, but life gets the best out of us, and we become a ball of flames ready to explode. It is hard to love unconditional, especially if we’re not intentional. Everyday pressure is enough to break us, derail and turn us against our own best judgement.
Ever been so tired from lack of sleep, support and money that every little thing just makes you want to hibernate for months on end like polar bears and only wake up when you’re fully restored and energised? You’re not the only one and won’t be the only person to have that feeling; that’s what we call the life of parenthood – it’s a job without warnings or manuals.
The best you can do is try your hardest to be gentle with yourself. You have dirty dishes and clothes lying around and may fear what your in-laws will think or friends will say… don’t stress, take that nap or rest, because it’s your only medicine for your body and soul, which will help you love unconditionally and provide the proper care for your children.
Maybe you will take that well deserved rest; perhaps the guilt and shame will overwhelm you, but know this vital lesson, whatever you do in the first four to five years of your child’s life will shape them for life. As Jordan Peterson said, if you miss this period of their lives, it’s gone, and you will never have that chance again, so make those moments count and cherish them; it’s so worth it.
Since our aim as a parent is to raise a happy and confident child, we must remember, first and foremost, to nourish and cultivate our mind and soul. Because that will be the bedrock for raising that child who will grow to love life because, after all, parents are the gateway and role models for their offspring; happy parent equals happy children.
Try and try your best to live in the moment and let tomorrow’s worries deal with themselves. Because you only get one chance at this job as a parent, so make it count – it’s gratifying and empowering to know that we are shaping and moulding another human life.
“To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.” – Barbara Johnson.
So, after eleven years and two children in tow, if I have to do it all over again – I would let go of the superhuman mentality and the worries about whether they are meeting the world’s yardstick of development stages. I would appreciate how well a job I’m doing as a mum.
Most importantly, I would sit and savour every moment of the journey with an open mind and heart, knowing that as long as the children are healthy physically, my focus will be on improving and sustaining a healthy mind and soul.
Being a parent is all about loving them unconditionally during the bad and good times, providing an environment that will stretch and build their characters and trust the process because it’s the journey that matters and not so much about arriving at the destination.