So, I couldn’t really understand why people would do such barbaric things as taking their offspring for walks attached to a leash or why their children were hitting and, shock, biting each other. If only these poor saps knew what they were doing…
Roll on baby number two. I had half expected my youngest child would be a carbon copy of her sister. Blonde, slight and a gentle little soul; they were clearly going to be soul-mates. As it happens, my little Ella is a pudgy brunette, with thunderous thighs and a penchant for some serious mischief. If she’s not swinging from my hair, poking her sister in the eye or bellowing at us from other rooms then she’s trying to stick her finger in plug sockets, eating grass and throwing herself off of the sofa. At just 13 months, she has run more rings around me than her sister has in almost 4 years.
Since her arrival, my feelings on parenting have changed a little. In many ways, I cringe at how little I actually knew as a parent of one and how freely I judged other parents for their children’s shortcomings. Ella is very little yet, but her personality is already so different to that of her sister despite being raised under almost identical circumstances. She’s a born adventurer and creator of chaos.
Don’t get me wrong, if I see you dragging your screaming child around on a leash I’m still quietly judging you even if you are just having a bad day. And no, your child is not uniquely calibrated to need to be left alone to cry themselves to sleep at night. Some things will never sit right. But, if your child hits mine or he bites another child I’m usually cringing at the parents who overreact to such normal early childhood behaviour. I can take my judgey pants off, more easily.
It’s easier to sit back now and take in the wonder of the different personalities of the children I know personally or see at the park, in soft play or at the supermarket. I can see them more for themselves and not for the quality of the work their parents have put in, which has actually taken a lot of pressure off of my own shoulders. I don’t beat myself up so much when my daughter has an off day or I’ve not been 100% the kind of parent I believe she deserves some days.
In fact, I look at my eldest daughter through new eyes now. I feel as though I took her special qualities for granted and didn’t realise just how unique she is. I think we might all be guilty of this to some extent, as first time parents, no matter how many children we have known before them. It’s easy to compare them with their peers, but without another sibling it’s far too easy to place too much importance on your own influence as a parent upon their personalities. I’ve always set myself up as a guide for my children, rather than their keeper, and that’s never been truer than the past year of my life. I’m sure many parents see a lot of this right away, but when we parent in isolation and under such unnatural conditions we place a lot more pressure upon ourselves than we realise. That can manifest itself in various ways. Much of which, ironically, depends upon the unique personalities of the parents and child involved.