Our week (in summary) has been sprinkled with cause to celebrate – birthdays and dinner parties, family sleepovers and a baby shower; nestled amongst appointments I couldn’t shift and play dates I’d shift mountains to keep. A handful of truly priceless moments muddled alongside a collection of ‘must dos’ and ‘should dos’, which left me feeling perplexed and a little deflated on the parent-front.
It wasn’t the heat, the odd late night or the pace of our timetable that challenged my commitment and enthusiasm these past seven days; but rather the conflicting viewpoints and guide posts thrown inadvertently in our direction, momentarily squashing our parenting prowess like a farmhouse on a witch. Whilst submerged in these ebbs of doubt, I felt as though someone had taken my ruby slippers and left me doubting my sock choice – a terrible analogy perhaps – but I had to wonder…when did I give permission for these opinions to tarnish my view?
In order to provide some clarity on my otherwise confused rendition of events, I feel I need to elect a worthy disclosure statement to preface my week. Children are everywhere, they belong to many different types of parents and families, and they learn and grow uniquely; despite being both ‘young’ and of the ‘human’ variety. The age-old idiom of ‘comparing apples to oranges’ is what springs to mind here – they may both be fruit, but due to their apparent differences, cannot be practically compared.
Where am I going with this? Don’t spoil a birthday cake moment if you don’t have to – sugar is ok sometimes and candles are super fun to blow out. Mind the red tape when deciding if shoes should be worn or not in a public setting, and perhaps rethink that comment about manners during tantrums. We are all in the dark sometimes, meandering through with an unreliable flashlight, hoping no one notices we left the map at home.
Usually not one to succumb to inferior feelings about my ability as a Mum, I found myself treading dangerously close to breaking point when a group of semi-familiar ‘mother hens’ formed a number of adamant hypotheses about developmental checkpoints. Developmental checkpoints has been coined here to politely describe a list of things my son wasn’t doing yet and probably should have been for a child of his age – using the toilet regularly without accidents, speaking clearly and with humour implied, eating like an aristocrat with perfect table manners, and blowing his nose with a tissue and not a body part (to name a few).
Caught in this haze of child-comparisons, I was at a loss for whether I should finish my mouthful of food, or concoct a fictitious getaway plan in order to distance myself from a foreign checklist. In that moment, I felt suffocated; and it reminded me of the same feeling you get when you can’t think of the correct answer mid-exam. The flip side of that suffocated coin was utter disbelief – weren’t we all in this together?
After seeking out several trusted opinions in the wake of these experiences, I started to appreciate all of the things my toddler and I were doing successfully as a first time ‘mother/son’ team. My husband reassured me of this and got straight to work on preparing a list of all of the awesome things we do as a family (and perhaps even excel at) – the best Valentine’s gift by far. And then I decided to fight for myself. This didn’t mean speaking over the mother hens and adding to the clutter of ideal achievements, but rather celebrating the unique approach I take each day to personally invest in my child.
There will always be a handful of us that feel the need to make news of each new ‘developmental checkpoint’, and perhaps over-glorify it in order to receive a required amount of praise and acknowledgment. On the other hand, there are a more private movement of parents that feel each fruit ripens and grows differently and shouldn’t be compared to the basket full of other varieties collected throughout differing seasons in the year.
Boys are different to girls, children from families of other countries are culturally diverse again – a commitment to remain neutral and supportive is not only a gift for other parents, but often a sigh of relief for some kids struggling with ‘checklists’. Jalil al-Din Rumi (1207 – 73, Persia) historically suggested; “if you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” It is beyond important and valuable to applaud moments of breakthrough and conquer, and I would never imply that this shouldn’t be something parents revel in and celebrate. A level of conscious consideration however should be employed when sharing this news; everyone is working hard to keep their own mirror clean in the hopes of seeing clearly what matters most to them.