Heard this one? “10 things I wish somebody had told me before I became a parent”. You’ve probably read a million versions of it.
It’s a bunch of crap. Actually, I lie. There is ONE thing I wish I’d known.
I wish I’d known that everybody is full of it. That you already know what you need to do. Because it’s not about nappies, sleeping, feeding schedules or Limiting Screen Time.
How the child is born? Doesn’t matter
How the child is fed? Doesn’t matter
Where the child sleeps? Doesn’t matter
How many people and the configuration thereof in the child’s family? Doesn’t matter
Mommy and me classes? Baby violin lessons? Private school and ballet recitals?
Death by Scare Quotes Social Media End Scare Quotes?
None. Of. It. Matters.
(Seriously, I’ve said that so often that Twitter keeps telling me “Whoops! You already tweeted that”)
Are they happy? Are they healthy? You too? Good. That takes care of the admin then.
All of those worries are just so much pointless twaddle designed to keep your mind off what really matters. YOU.
Get yourself right first, your child will grow up well. Be a good person, your child will learn. Look in the mirror.
Any schmuck can breastfeed or pay for private schooling. Any schmuck often does.
Be prepared to keep trying no matter how many times you mess it up. Oh – you will. Suck it up. Admit it and start over. You know when you’re screwing up. You know it. I know when I am. Smack yourself out of it and get back to the job.
Pay attention and you will see what your child needs.
Maybe you’ll find they LIKE ballet. Maybe you’ll find they don’t. Maybe you’ll see they need extra help with something. Maybe you’ll see their personality is suited to a particular type of schooling. Maybe you’ll notice a talent that nobody else can see, and you’ll find a way to nurture that, even before the world knows we need it. Maybe you’ll see hurt that comes from somewhere (maybe from you, maybe not) – in time to do something about it.
Maybe you’ll see who they are.
You actually have to WANT to pay attention. Because it’s fun. Because it’s a beautiful thing, those pointless unplanned minutes and the lightbulb that comes on when you discover something about your child. Because it feels like it’s worth your time.
Because then, and only then, does paying attention not feel like a chore or something you have to learn from a book.
If you didn’t know before having children that it would be hard work and confusing sometimes and you wouldn’t have time to do some of the stuff you want to do – well, I really don’t know what to say to you.
Need a break from the admin? Obviously. Everyone does. So take it. Feel like you’re losing touch with what you like to do for yourself? Make a plan to do something you like. Finding the time away from admin is a question of logistics only and there’s always a way around that. That bit is not rocket science and martyrs are only useful when they’re dead, for statue purposes. Nobody is going to build a statue to you. So go to the movies, for the love of Pete.
If you really think that some toothy expert marketing books about a catchily capitalised parenting style is going to help you get it right, again – I got nuthin for you.
I’ll say it again – when you fuck it up, say sorry. Make it right. Don’t stop trying. Don’t HIDE from the hard stuff.
Our children spend their whole lives, from the moment they’re born, trying to tell us who they are. If you’re not listening, everything they do and feel will be about reacting. It will be artificial – they’ll either shout louder to get your attention or they’ll just try to be what they think you want. They will never be naturally themselves. You will never know who they are and never give them what they need. It will never make sense.
This is not Oprah. This is not some vague hippy shit. This is real. Cause and effect. Science, even. See what they need, give it. Everybody’s happy.
And no, that doesn’t mean the Smarties at the Pick n Pay queue, dumbass.
Put down the bloody books. Stop asking idiots for advice. Don’t even take this advice – (lord knows I’m a grade-A idiot myself). Because you either get it, or you don’t. If you don’t then none of what I’ve said is going to make a difference.
The things you’re paying attention to will be different at 18 months to the ones at 18 years. But the job is the same. Eyes and ears and questions and talking and understanding and WANTING to do all of those things because why wouldn’t you want to? Because it’s your best offering to the world. Because seeing a human take shape in front of your eyes is the biggest thing you will ever do.
What you see take shape will be the exact reflection of the attention you’ve paid from the beginning.