Unwritten Rules of Parenting
Things you never knew about parenting...until it's too late!
Becoming a parent for the first, second, or even 5th time(!) is always a joyous occasion, for you, family, friends, work colleagues, old ladies you pass in the street, and many many more people. However, you can spend the whole 9 months of pregnancy reading books, scouring websites, talking to other parents, and doing every kind of baby-related research available to you, but there's always something you learn purely from doing it. No amount of researching can prepare you for these events. I've covered a few of these 'experiences' below, but my oldest is only 5 years old, so I'm still learning too! Parents-to-be, take note, you may experience these events too. Those of you who are already parents, how many have you encountered? (Note: all the pictures featured are of my own children. So you can see the sort of issues I have to deal with every day!)
When there is no towel, you are the towel
Small babies drink a lot of milk. Many babies don't hold onto an entire bottle of milk. Where does that milk go? Onto a towel, more often that not. But hang on, what if the towel is on the other end of the sofa, and your little bundle of joy decides to follow through while you're burping them? That's right, sick on the legs/back/chest. Lovely. Babies are unpredictable, one minute they'll be happily drinking their milk, or giggling at you talking or playing with them. The next, that feed from 30 minutes ago decides it doesn't enjoy being digested, and decides to come back up for air. I have lost count of the number of times my kids have vomited on me, or I'm unable to reach a towel while the baby I'm currently feeding throws up.
This applies to the older babies and toddlers too. My oldest, after playing in the garden or eating her tea, decides they need to clean all the mess off their hands. Instead of saying something along the lines of 'daddy, I have dirty hands. Would you mind terribly cleaning them for me?' its "DADDY, DIRTY HANDS!!!" Bam! Before I know it, the hands are clean, but my jeans are an interesting shade of orange or brown.
When you've got things to do, they won't get done
Babies require a LOT of attention. And it doesn't get any better as they get older. Not just keeping an eye on them and making sure they're OK, but playing with them, feeding and changing, applying teething gel and giving them cuddles when they're teething, all manner of complaints and attention-seeking complaints. Experts often say that you shouldn't cuddle babies all the time, because it makes them needier as they get older, but seriously, how difficult is it to ignore when your baby is screaming so loud the dog next door is howling?
Toddlers? Oh, that's a whole new ball game! When kids learn to talk, they learn to ask for things. Sometimes things they don't even need, or understand. In my house, the 3 most common phrases I hear from my toddler are 'I'm hungry', 'I'm cold' and 'Please can you change the TV channel'. (Disclaimer, I feed my kids plenty of food, the house is always warm, and the TV isn't always on, but still they're the 3 biggest asks)
Household tasks? HA! Good luck with that.
Toddlers will copy everything you say, even the weird things
I never swear in front of any of my kids. Toddlers learning to talk pick up words at an alarming rate. So instead, I have certain phrases I have to use, rather than turn the air blue. 'Oh for goodness sake' is a common one. I frequently hear my children saying 'For goodness sake!' to their toys, or their stuff animals while trying to put them in the pushchair, for example. Also, when my oldest daughter was 3, I was commonly informed that daddy isn't a "little boy", or a "little girl", but in fact a pirate. Where this came from, I have no idea.
When your little ones start learning words, and stringing them together, its incredible. The way their minds click words and phrases together is astonishing, and a lot of fun. But if you have a particularly irritating phrase you say to yourself, or your family members, nip it in the bud now, or risk hearing it every day!
My Oldest Daughter Copying A Song She Heard
When my oldest daughter Jess was 3, heard the song 'I Need Love' by Ed Sheeran when I was playing it one day. I stepped outside, and she followed me, singing the song! This just goes to show, kids will copy anything that they hear, if it catches their attention!
Think you're a patient person? Think again...
Here's a confession: I have a short temper. If the computer misbehaves, I shout. If I'm watching sport, and the referee makes a bad call, I shout. If I'm playing a computer game and lose a life, I shout some more. When one of the kids annoy me, I take a deep breath, resolve their current problem, step out the back door, and then shout (not too loud, or the neighbours will think I'm crazy) Babies and young children react to their parents emotions, especially negative ones. If you're stressed, or angry, or bad-tempered, then they're stress and angry and bad tempered too! Think you'll be all right? Try the first few weeks, when baby doesn't sleep through the night, so you're tired, need sleep, and perhaps a little grouchy.
The main points I'm getting at are these. If you don't have the patience of a saint, you will need it. If you do, your patience is tested to the limit. But a calm, in-control parent will produce calm, happy kids. All that shouting into a pillow, bitten tongues (or in my case, hiding out the back door) will be totally worth it.
Learn to use your wrong hand. Or better still, become ambidextrous
So here's the thing. You'll be feeding or holding your baby, probably using your strong hand, and someone knocks on the door, or better still calls you on the phone. Do you put the baby down, and risk the inevitable onslaught of screaming? Or do you use your weaker hand to carry out the other various tasks that need to be done? The first time I wrote out this article, 50% of it was written with my left hand, with my laptop on the sofa next to me, while feeding my babies. As a father of twins, I used to find myself bottle feeding both babies at once. This often meant I was using other body parts to perform daily tasks too, such as changing channels on the remote with my feet, or holding 1 bottle in place with my mouth in order to free up a hand for something else. And who says men can't multi-task?!
Kid's TV is awful
When babies are young, its great. When they don't need feeding, changing, or sleep, they'll pretty much just lie there, sleeping or staring. When my first was born, my partner spent 6 months on maternity leave. In this time, she must have watched 2 or 3 big TV series, back-to-back episodes (I'm talking LONG seasons here, all 7 seasons of Sex and The City, every episode ever or Friends, One Tree Hill, Gilmore Girls, that sort of thing) When children get to the age when they start to enjoy TV as well, its great too. There's a lot of good TV and movies out there for kids. You can watch TV together, discuss what you've seen, and children learn a lot from it too. Its that point when you've watched it for so long that you just get sick of seeing certain characters, or find yourself humming the theme tunes to yourself. My daughter has 2 favourite things to watch: The Disney Junior channel, and Disney films. If I ever meet Mickey Mouse I'm going to have some serious words about his annoying laugh, and if I had a dollar for every time I'd seen the film Monsters Inc, I could buy Pixar Studios!
Note: This sounds harsh, but TV is a good method of keeping kids occupied for a few minutes a day while you tend to housework or perform other required household tasks. But don't get into the trap of leaving the TV on all day. Experts aren't joking when they say its bad for children. I made this mistake when my oldest daughter was 2 years old, and she developed a short attention span. She'd be watching TV for 10 minutes, then run off and play with the TV on in the background. Yet as soon as I'd turn it off, all hell would break loose! Set up certain times for your children when they can watch TV. This will eventually teach them to enjoy those few minutes a day they have, and then understand that when the TV goes off, they can play something else.
The Most Important Thing Is...
...to just enjoy the experience. Parenting is no easy task. They'll be times when its plain sailing, they'll be other times where you'll wonder how to cope. But just enjoy every day. If you've got got babies, take time out in your day for a cuddle, or to chat to and tickle them. With toddlers, you can sit down and draw together, or even just watch the news together, and discuss what's going on. Its these little moments that make parenting all worth it!
Any useful pointers you've discovered, maybe when it was too late? Leave a comment!!