As I’ve said in my intro, I’m a Mum of 3 and also a Health Visitor (I know, I know-we have a bad rep!). This parenting lark is a jungle some times. I think that we spent a fair amount of Oscar’s baby/toddlerhood parenting how we thought we should parent and thought about what other people might think about our parenting decisions. As we become more confident and more assured about how we wanted to parent we started to care less about needing other people’s approval.
Oscar has always been a pretty low-key child. He’s very thoughtful and by that I mean that he is a thinker. He’s never been a rough and tumble/in your fact type boy. He’s the type of child who likes to abide by the ‘rules’. For instance, he was at an after school sports club and left his school shoes at school by accident. The next day, I told him to wear his PE trainers to school and we’d find his shoes when he got there. Oscar was adamant that he couldn’t do that as they’re not allowed to wear to school. It took a lot of convincing for him to wear his trainers just until we found his shoes. Oscar is a keen learner, he takes in things he’s read or seen almost immediately and so he has always flown through school because he grasps things so quickly.
Mabel is head strong (that may be an understatement!). Since she was a toddler Mabel has been ‘spirited’. The ‘terrible-two’s’ started at about 18 months with Mabel, something Oscar never seemed to go through meaning that we were ill prepared for this delightful stage! The tantrums Mabel had between 18 months and around 3 years were spectacular. We had so many stand offs, and so many times we’d be utterly frustrated, we just had no idea how to parent Mabel. At around 2 years old, we started to learn more about different parenting strategies. Meal times were a particular ‘danger zone’. We had many a stand off about what Mabel needed to eat. She took (and still does) an age to eat her meals and I’m not sure what it is about children and food, it seems to spark a primative repsonse of the need to feed our off spring. I started to look for advice of strategies to help meal times go more smoothly. The key to our meal times becoming less of a battle zone was to take the pressure off. To not focus and what Mabel wasnt doing and concentrate on the good things. This was the key to less trantums with Mabel. As she got closer to school age she was less ‘spirited’. Mabel is a comedian, she loves to pull silly faces and put on funny voices. She also acts like a little Mum towards Albie. She helps him to get dressed sometimes and she speaks to him with kindness. She has the patience of a saint with him too!
Albie, well Albie has always been…well…how do I describe him?! Parenting Albie has challenged our parenting strategies. Albie’s ‘babyhood’ was really difficult. He was a very unsettled baby. We went back and forth to the GP. As a paediatric nurse, I knew he was suffering with reflux and it took until he was 6 weeks old, and a favour with one of the consultants I worked with, to get him on the appropriate medication. He seemed a little better after that but things gradually became incredibly difficult. At 3 months of age, Albie became quite unwell. I knew he was very poorly and so one Sunday at dinner time we took him to the children’s emergency department. The nurse we saw there initially barely looked at Albie and was more focused on her computer. Her opinion was that it might be colic -I knew otherwise. After about an hour, we were seen by a paediatrician and within 10 minutes we were whisked off to the paediatric ward. Practically as soon as we arrived, he had lots of tests – including a lumbar puncture. We spent 5 days in hospital with him. He had stong IV antibiotics and a further 5 days at home. He had a sepsis with a very strange bug causing it. He was still a very unsettled baby and eventually at 4 and a half months he was diagnosed as having cow’s milk protein intolerance (CMPI). Albie was started on a special prescription milk and within 2 weeks he was a completely different baby. Albie follows in his brother and sister’s footsteps, he is the eternal comedian. He is so loving, he says ‘I love you Mama’ without prompting. He also follows in Mabel’s ‘spirited’ ways!
I think Albie has been the turning point for our parenting style. I read an amazing book titled ‘Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids’ by Laura Markham. It was a game changer. Things suddenly fell into place. The book talks about how children do not have the words to describe the big feeling that they have and the only way to demonstrate this are through tantrums or acting out. This was the key to understanding our children better. By naming the feelings so that as they grow older they are better able to identify those feelings without going into a melt down means that they can use words instead of actions. We also learnt that a reassuring cuddle went a very long was to calming them down. They’re reassured and feel safe with their feelings. That being said, it doesn’t mean that the frustration doesn’t rear its head. But during moments of calm we are able to regroup and be proactive rather than reactive parents.
The key messages to parenting I believe jare;
-don’t sweat the small stuff
-choose your battles -take the coat with you when they refuse point-blank to put it on despite it feeling sub-zero outside.
-decide on you parenting strategies during times af calm, it’ll help during those challenging moments and save you from reacting to a situation in a way that it isn’t helpful
-Lead with love – a reassuring cuddle goes a long way
-Regulating our own feelings and emotions means that we provide a positive role model for our children. I don’t mean that we don’t show emotion because it so important to show children that us grown ups feel cross, grumpy, tired, scared and all the other emotions in between. But we are not explosive and reactive
-We only need to be a good enough parent, there isn’t a single perfect parent out there
-apologising and admitting that we got things wrong. We are fallible, just like them and that’s ok
-ALWAYS have wine or gin on standby!
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