Before I had children, when I thought about what it would be like I thought about being a mum.
Someone to hold, to soothe, to cuddle. Someone to kiss and hug and smile with. Someone who would hold hands and tickle tummies. Someone who would read books and share the things I love.
What has shocked me the most over the past three and a half years is how bloody hard it is to be a parent. In the early days it was quite easy, decide how to feed and what to feed them. Pick the milk, pick the bottles (in our case). Make sure that they have a coat on if it is cold. Add an extra blanket and feel that I am doing well.
As they get older the questions become more frequent and harder. Immunisations, which nursery, how they spend their days. Tv or no TV. Chocolate, treats, junk food, organic. Every minute of every day now I have two children I feel that I am making decisions. And it all rests on me. Mr C is there as a sounding board and to help me decide but as I am the main carer for our children day to day I am the one making most of the decisions.
Suddenly, it isn’t just about the here and now it is about next year, and the next seven / eight years. Looking at schools, trying to understand what is best for my child, mixed with how I feel about a place. Submitting forms and having to wait to know if we get to send him to the school we want to or the one closest.
And it isn’t just the decisions, I have to deal with the reactions to my choices. In my children’s case that can be a 30 minute tantrum because I won’t let them have the second cup of chocolate milk, or it might be the flailing, yelling Kate that I have to physically remove from something I deem as too risky or dangerous. In other people’s case it is the look in their eyes when I explain a choice I have made. Or comments from well meaning parents when they find out that we have solved our sleeping issues by temporarily moving Piran’s mattress to the floor in our room.
A friend commented recently that making these decisions is scary, that looking into our future there are just so many ways that we can fuck our children up. I agree at times but I get by by just looking at the smallest amount of time I can. And yes, I am certain that I will make the wrong choice for my children at some point. But before I am ready they will start making their own decisions and I will have to learn to bite my tongue and say nothing and stand back and let their choices play out. I hope that we will manage to provide a warm and happy home that they feel that they can be themselves in. We have to provide comfort and understanding and stability and let them make their choices and find their way in the world.
But, for now, we are still up to our necks in questions like, how can we be consistent with our children? How can we get them to sleep at night? Where do I find the strength to say no and stick to it when it is 4pm and I am tired and we have been clashing all day long? Will we get some sleep tonight?
These questions and more were the subject of a talk that Mr C and I had this week, about adjusting to all being here all of the time, how we manage our children’s behaviour and the challenges that provides us with. We were both tired and fed up and as we talked the Apple Tv went to sleep and the screen saver appeared. Ours is photos picked up from my computer and as we spoke we saw images come up of our children. And one by one they made us smile. And one by one they made us share stories and start to laugh and after a few minutes we were both grinning and thinking, ‘Wow, being a parent is HARD. But it is also AMAZING and we wouldn’t change it for the world.’