The 2012 Parent
What I didn’t realise until I became a parent is all the second-guessing and doubting yourself that occurs. No matter what I do, I am never hundred percent sure it is “right”. Is being a mummy never black and white?
And even when I think I am doing a pretty good job, I think about all the things that I don’t do. My son is over seven months old and I have probably read to him a dozen times in his whole life. They say that a child should be read to over one thousand times before they go to school. What???
I very rarely remember to massage the baby. When I do I always think I am not doing it properly. Everyone around me seems to already be taking their infants to swimming lessons and I wasn’t planning to start anything like that until my child was at least two or three years old.
I read all the books, devour the baby and child magazines and go to all the parenting classes. I talk to friends and family who are parents and get their advice and when I am really stuck I call Plunket. Still, I cannot shake off the worry, concern and guilt that it is just not enough.
The 1980’s Parent
Then I think back to my childhood and realise that my parents never went to a single child-rearing seminar. They didn’t pick up a parenting book. They just got on with the job of being Mum and Dad to us.
In fact, back in the 80’s how we were brought up would bring about looks of sheer horror to parents today. My mum smoked through her pregnancies and all through my childhood. She didn’t breastfeed and slept us all on our tummies. All pretty standard thirty years ago and all considered not just wrong but abhorrent today.
Mum tells a story of when she was in the hospital and a nurse came in and asked her if she needed anything to be more comfortable and mum said she would like a packet of cigarettes. She then lit up in the hospital. This is so far beyond my realm of imagination I actually don’t believe her.
Another friend my mum’s age recalls that when you spent time in hospital after birth, babies were cared for by hospital midwives overnight. The particular midwife at her hospital didn’t believe that babies should be hungry overnight so if they woke up during the night they were fed only water. This lady said that by the time she left the hospital after a couple of weeks, her daughter always slept through the night. Horrible but effective.
When my parents took me home from the hospital, Mum held me in her arms while Dad drove all of us home without seatbelts on. These days they don’t let you leave the hospital unless you show them you have a secure car seat.
I was brought up on dinners of meat and three veges (one of which was potato, the other two usually a choice of peas, beans or carrots) every night, except Friday when Dad would bring home fish and chips. I didn’t even eat pasta until I was a teenager. I didn’t try sushi, avocado or olives until I was in my early twenties. We pretty much only drank water except for the rare occasion when Dad let us sip the ‘ice-cream’ off the top of his glass of beer.
After school we were told to play outside. My mum didn’t want to see us until dinnertime. My sister and I, along with our neighbourhood friends would ride bikes, make huts in the trees, make up games and generally had fun exploring our own backyard. We ran around all summer and I don’t recall ever being told to put sunblock on.
My little sister was almost ten years younger than me and I thought she was my real-life doll. One happy memory I have is of wrapping up little baby in a blanket and putting her in the back tray of an old rusty tricycle we had and zooming around in circles of our concrete driveway. How she didn’t fall out I have no idea.
Make Today Your ‘Good Old Day’
How come we are not scarred for life? For one thing, it was all that good old-fashioned playing outside. Also, my parents were always there – after school, on weekends, for birthdays. And although we were not a touchy-feely family, we knew we were wanted and loved.
I am not for one instant advocating a return to these ‘good old days’. Times have evolved – mandatory car seats, fewer people smoking and sun awareness are good things. What I am saying is try not to worry about doing it ‘right’ all the time. If your baby cries for a few minutes while you take a shower or watches a bit of TV, it is not going to permanently damage them.
So throw away all those parenting books for the night. Instead, blast the stereo with your favourite song (NOT a nursery rhyme) and dance around the lounge with your child. Remember that you don’t have to do anything special with your child. Just being with them is sometimes enough.
And I will also try and take some of my own advice.