As parents, we often excitedly wish our children would get to the next milestone; desperately waiting for them to start solids, crawl, start talking….sleep! With our first children in particular, each milestone, feed, poo and chunk of sleep is jotted down in detail as we look for patterns, hoping it will all start to make sense soon.
Antenatal groups can provide great emotional support to some families but can make others feel inadequate as the worry that their children aren’t keeping up, starts to sink in. To give you an idea of how much those developmental targets can vary, my friend’s son walked at nine months, my son walked at seventeen months and both are within the brackets of typical development. He is my second child and whilst none of my three have walked early, had he been my first, I would have probably contacted my health visitor, full of unnecessary anxiety.
So on we plough, in a haze of mountainous washing, broken sleep, emotional reserves being tested to the max, all of us desperately trying to get it right. The job that matters the most, our role as a parent is the one we have the least confidence in achieving successfully. Our days pass in a blur of highs where you think you could burst with joy and moments of wanting to lie on the floor and sob because you feel so totally, utterly overwhelmed. But on we plough because despite the obstacles and despite the exhaustion, our super power is that we don’t give up.
Unfortunately, the comparisons and worry don’t end in the baby years, with school playgrounds becoming a breeding ground for competitive parents asking how your child is getting on with their maths and which reading level they are now on. This badly veiled attempt at interest is really another measuring stick so that they can make sure their child is where they need to be and hasn’t fallen behind. Having settled into the role over time, parents have hopefully found their tribes of like minded people who they can share their experiences, eye rolls and achievements with, in a non judgemental way. Hopefully by then, they have greater confidence that they have done the best they could and in knowing which bits matter and which bits just don’t. Whilst academic achievements are certainly merit worthy, we mustn’t lose sight of the importance of our children becoming kind, well adjusted, secure, resilient adults.
I’m not sure where the time tipping point sits exactly but there is one; a sudden realisation that you are running out of time. The independence you longed for when they were little is the dependence you now miss. Those squidgy little feet that looked so cute when they were babies are now just feet, feet which you know will enable them to walk away one day. As much as we know it is our role to guide our children and at each stage, prepare them for the next one, it is hard not to reminisce and wish you could hold them in your arms and protect them for a little longer.
And so, as they return to nursery and school and our lives increasingly resemble the lives they were pre lockdown, we are once again conflicted. The space that we have craved at times when we have all been on top of each other will become the empty space that makes us miss them. The never ending contradictions of parenting once again leaves us feeling relieved, uncertain, independent…exhausted. Allow yourselves time to sit with those feelings and however you have got through lockdown, give yourself a huge pat on the back for doing just that.