I’m not sure that parenting has ever been easy BUT there is something about being a parent today that makes it feel so much harder.
WE DON’T KNOW KIDS ANYMORE.
I’m one of 6 daughters and my mum had 8 siblings. Our family is huge.
But, until I was around 12 (I think), I’d barely spent time with younger children.
My husband is from a much smaller family and the first time he spent any real time with a baby was when he held our first son.
And, I don’t think that’s particularly uncommon.
Think about it…
We’re sent to school at 3 or 4 and separated into age groups.
Then we’re off to Uni, we maybe travel a bit, get a job, a house…
and then…you’re a parent!
Unless you had much younger siblings, most of us won’t really remember what it feels like or looks like to be 2 or 3 or 4 years old.
We’re basically parenting in the dark.
When we feel like we’re getting it right we post our happy smiles on social media.
When we’re struggling we second-guess, over-analyse and compare.
Which is why so, so many parents turn to Google in search of answers…
Why won’t my baby sleep?
Why is my 3 year old refusing to eat vegetables?
Why does my 4 year old whine?
Is my child normal?
‘Normal’…a notion which didn’t really exist in Western cultures until the mid-nineteenth century.
And yet, we’re measuring, testing and scoring our kids even in utero.
However hard it may be to admit it, I entered parenthood with some big assumptions about who my kids would be.
They would be sociable, adventurous, love the outdoors and of course they’d be happy.
What we got, are two beautifully strong-willed boys who although they can be all of those things…they can also be the total opposite.
And they taught me a really important lesson…
They are not my project.
They are people.
Somewhere in all of this our society forgot that kids are people too.
They have opinionated days and good days and crappy days and anxious days and stop-telling-me-what-to-do days…just as we do.
Gone are the days when we were raised with our extended families.
Where older children were surrounded by younger children and had often been involved in child-rearing before having kids of their own.
Whilst everything wasn’t ideal, there is definitely something to be said for the accumulated wisdom that existed back then.
Nowadays, parents are inundated with information and yet we seek out more.
Looking for reassurance and guidance when what we often need is support and honesty.
We don’t need an endless supply of ‘what not to do’s”, research findings and potential problems.
We need real.
We need to know that it’s ok for kids to whine.
We need to know that we haven’t got something terribly wrong if our children argue.
We need to know that our 5 year old isn’t doomed to a life of misery because he’s ‘shy’.
We need to know that just because our 4 year old won’t eat anything green, it doesn’t mean that he’ll never eat anything green.
We need to stop looking at everything with such permanence.
We need to know that ‘normal’ doesn’t exist.
We need to know that the guilt, shame and anxiety we feel (or cause others to feel) in order to attain that normalcy however, is very real.
We need to build each other up.