My Love of School
I look back with fondness to my teenage years because I really enjoyed going to school. But why? Yes I simply enjoyed learning new ideas, but that is only one of the reasons why I liked school so much.
Then a few months ago I was cleaning the kitchen and put the knife block behind one of the baby gates out of reach of my little man. I was feeling pretty good as I was giving the kitchen a thorough clean. I turned from scrubbing the bench top to see Dylan holding the largest carving knife from the block in his hand – by the knife end.
It was on that day that I worked out that there were three things school provided to me that parenting a young child does not.
The first of these is structure. Classes were held at set times, assessments had deadlines and there was a timetable for exams. Each day you knew what lessons you had, you knew when lunchtime was and you knew when the bell would ring for the end of school.
Now I don’t know anything. Believe me, I love structure and know from all the books I have read how important it is for young children. Yet, despite my best efforts each day is a struggle against full-blown chaos. Vegetables may be consumed ferociously one day and studiously ignored the next. Sleep times during the day can range from three minutes to three hours without any warning. “Bedtime routine” is two words strived for but very rarely achieved.
Right and Wrong Answers
At school, I liked that there were clearly right and wrong answers. Presenting the right answers gave you good marks. Guessing or making up the wrong answers meant you failed.
You make choices and decisions every day and there is no guarantee that they are correct. Take sleep for example. If your child is crying do you go and comfort him so that he knows you are there to meet his needs or do you let him try to go to sleep on his own as that is a very important skill to learn? Most of the time it is best to let Dylan protest a bit before drifting off to sleep but one time I left Dylan to cry and then eventually went in to find he had bumped into the side of the cot and cut his lip on a new tooth. Knowing that I ignored my bleeding, distressed child brings about the most horrific mother-guilt imaginable.
I have discovered that there is no real right or wrong. You can even do something ‘right’ and end up with a fail. Clean kitchen + baby grabbing hold of large knife by the sharp bit = FAIL.
I especially liked the sense of achievement I got from the end of year report card. It showed how much more I had learned during the year. There was some independent feedback that I did a good job. Getting ‘A’s was a particular highlight for the little geek inside me.
Sadly, there will never be a report card for being a mum. I can strive for the ‘A’ but no one is ever going to award me one on a piece of paper. I have to accept that if I want a pat on the back then I will have to awkwardly give myself one.
Becoming a mum takes everything that being through school holds sacred – structure, black and white answers and third-party feedback and throws it out the window. So it is up to me to recreate these ideals in a way that carries on the essence of them but is flexible enough to cope with the imperfections that come with being a mum to a young child.
How exactly? Firstly, by having a structure that is more flexible than my yoga teacher. Knowing that over the course of the week Dylan will get enough sleep and an adequate intake of vegetables. Making sure I don’t worry too much about getting him into bed at exactly the same time each night.
Also, I have to be happy with my decisions. They may not always be ‘right’ but at the very least I can learn from my mistakes. Although it was a shock for both of us that a small baby can stretch his arm through the baby gate to grab hold of a large knife, it was a huge relief that there was no actual injury. I have learnt to put the knife block on the top shelf when cleaning the kitchen.
Plus, even though there is never going to be a written report card for being a mum, I have realised I get valuable feedback every single day. When Dylan chuckles wholeheartedly or mimics the sound of the dog next door or tries to climb up the bookcase, he is showing me that he is learning and he is happy. What more could I ask for?
I just enjoy being a mum, and that is better than any A on any report card.