We made it! My husband, baby, and I have survived our little one’s first 24 months, “despite” being new parents!
I say “survive” and “despite”, because according to most parents who gave us unsolicited advice when they found out we were pregnant, having a child marks the end of everything good in our lives.
Lack of Experience Does Not Mean Lack of Capacity
Remember the group of moms I often write about, the ones who have children around the same age as our little one? We got together recently and started talking about how discouraging it still is to share anything about our hopes for our life as new parents. Most, if not, all of the time, we are met with patronizing smiles or comments such as “Ha! Good luck!”, or a snicker and “Obviously, you are a new parent”.
It’s not to say that we don’t appreciate the wisdom from more experienced parents. But we feel that instead of helping us take a step further, these parents also tend to hold us back to their level. Instead of sharing their success stories and helping us build on them, they share their success and expect us to be able to do just as much, but no better.
An Attitude Change
This kind of defeats the purpose of an ever-evolving civilization. A family member recently had a baby; it is my intention, should she want to, to share all the successes my husband and I have had, and to think about how she can not only just achieve them, but achieve even more. In other words, I am going to help her be a better mom than I was.
The change, then, starts with us.
My friends and I decided that it’s never OK to close our minds to advice by thinking “My child/I/We will never do this.” Rather, as new parents, we are going to think: “I hope that my child/I/we will never do this.” This sets our goals, while admitting that the current reality is quite different, and that we are going to have to work towards achieving something that many other seasoned parents have not been able to achieve.
It also opens up the possibility that we will not achieve that goal, as well as giving us the mind space to accept that while we didn’t reach out goal, we haven’t failed as mothers.
Some Things We Were Told We Can’t Avoid: Tantrums in Public
No one, old or new parents alike, aims to have a child who throws tantrums in public; but share that goal with parents and you often get a patronizing look. And yet, good advice abounds about how to do just that. Some of what I have been told or read (including the resources on this amazing website) includes: adapting the day’s schedule around a child’s naps and meal times, explaining what is going to happen to the child, and giving the child extra attention during transitions. While tantrums might still happen when putting into practice these tips, it doesn’t mean that they are unavoidable – I recently reached out to a group of mothers of school-age children and most of them admitted that their child never had a tantrum in public. “I just never told anyone,” one of them sheepishly admitted to her astonished friends. As if it was embarrassing for her to never have had a toddler tantrum in public!
What if, instead of being told that they are unavoidable, we were told: “Tantrums are normal, but there is a lot you can do to decrease the chance of it happening. I’m sure you’ll handle it like a pro, here are some tips”?
Some Things We Were Told We Can’t Avoid: A Messy and Dirty House
One of the mothers mentioned that her house used to always be sparkling clean, to the point that it looked like an IKEA showroom more than a lived-in home. When she announced her pregnancy, she was told by everyone that she could kiss that showroom-of-a-home goodbye.
She almost gave in to all the comments, calling them “peer pressure”—until she realised that perhaps there was a middle ground she could aim for. “I realised that while the house will definitely not be a showroom anymore,” she said, “it could still be clean and overall, tidy.”
She set up big baskets of toys and specially selected floor tiles in every room, designating all of them as play areas. The plays areas as a mess, but everything around it is pristine. Her children—she now has two—know to place their toys either in the baskets or on the floor tiles, and they are very good at remembering to do just that. I’ve been to her place and I can definitely say that she has managed to reach the middle ground.
What if, instead of being told to kiss that showroom-of-a-home goodbye, someone has said: “Well, kids can be messy, do you have any idea how you are going to contain the mess?”
Final Thoughts: Learning about Excellent
If you, dear reader, are a parent yourself, you probably have a number of things you can add to this list. And if you are not a parent, you probably have heard about at least a handful of the items on the list I am hoping readers will share below, in the comment section.
Excellence isn’t perfection; but excellence also means taking a step towards perfection. We should be proud of those who learn from our mistakes and become better than us; and we should be proud when we learn from other people’s mistakes and become better than them. We should learn to celebrate each other’s successes and hope for more of them.
We also have to remember that we can’t control everything, that we can only strive towards achieving such goals, and that, when we don’t achieve them, it doesn’t mean we have failed as a parent, only that childhood is what it is.