Would Grandparenting make good Parenting?

 

Grandparents would make really cool parents. But my aim is not to be cool.

We all know the expression that most grandparents employ, that being a g’parent is great because you get all the fun and sharing, and then you get to give the kids back at the end of the day. Partly, the way they seem to act must be down to this sudden lack of real parental responsibility after all these years of having their own children. I’ve spoken before (Emerging Adulthood) about finally becoming a grown up, and one of the five stages of this being having your own children. Perhaps with this, we cross the line into not needing ‘looking after’ any more, and our parents are free to seize the silliness which theyve spent the last few decades quashing and enjoy not having to be the ‘grown ups’ for a while.

Does this explain why when I’m trying to get my 1yo down for an afternoon nap, gritting my teeth through the controlled crying and trying not to join him in his tears, I have a grandma at my shoulder voicing her opinion of “Well, if he doesnt want to go to sleep, why should he have to?” Er.. maybe because otherwise he’s going to be a huge grouch all afternoon and not eat properly or feel well? And when I’m feeding him, Oh you’re being so cruel, if he doesnt want that mashed potato, why should he have to have it? Because kids (especially babies) dont have any idea what they like yet and its up to us to introduce tastes and different foods? Apparently irrelevant.

It’s not as if I have some magical knowledge of babies that they don’t have. On the contrary, they brought us all up, and I would bet a substantial sum that all of us had plenty of afternoon naps and ate full and nourishing meals, against our heavy protestations. But somehow when the generation gap widens, all responsible parenting seems to fly out the window. I’m sure R would love a piece of chocolate cake.. just a small piece? … Oh let’s wake him up for a quick cuddle… I saw seventeen different toys he doesnt need this week, and just had to buy them all. Where was this when we were growing up? With our strict bed times and dietary mandates and forgotten birthday presents let alone ‘just because’ presents.. Is this just sudden freedom from parental responsibility? Or have they grown up and realised that life’s too short to be so strict?

If grandparents could have their time back with us parents as babies, I wonder if they would be so laissez faire with the rules. Or if it is just a way to build that special g’parent/g’child bond through cake and treats and bending those rules. Maybe I’m crazy to let it annoy me when I know that to some extent all g’parents do the same thing. And yet…

Thoughts?

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The 10 Real Milestones of Child Development

As a first time mum, I waited eagerly for my baby to do all the things that ‘the books’ told me he would do. Whether they came early or late, I have been so excited to see him pass these grand stages of growing up into toddlerdom.

However, during this past year, I have noticed that his real baby milestones dont seem to be listed in any parenting manual that I can find. These are not in chronological order.

1. He can push his own arms through the sleeves of his clothing. Success! No longer do I have to struggle with the most rigid little limbs known to the world, fighting against me as if I’m trying to take his elbow off rather than simply get him dressed in the morning.

2. He eats cucumber. How I ever had time to make him cooked vegetables for as long as I did is beyond me. I think I might have tried raw veg about once a week in the hopes he wouldnt just chew and chew until the entirely unmashed and whole piece of cucumber fell out his mouth. The day he swallowed it? A true triumph.

3. He can feed himself raisins. Not feed himself one raisin and then look at me for the next one. Not feed himself one raisin and then throw the rest of the packet over his head in excitement. Not turn the packet upside down and shake them into every conceivable crevice in the close vicinity. Actually hold the packet, take them out one by one and successfully put them in his mouth. Amazing.

4. He no longer looks like a mutant. Newborns-Cute or Ugly? I have always been a believer in the latter, and having my own didnt really change that. But nothing prepares you for the look your child sports at about three or four months. Newborn blotchiness gone, to be replaced with cradle cap, new eczma, half his hair fallen out resulting in bald patches, baby fat about to go crazy due to lack of movement.. Dear Lord. Luckily as a doting mother, I didnt notice it until it was over, looking back at the photos I proudly displayed. (If I’d seen what they really looked like I would have denied all relation.) Thankfully, he has passed through the ‘awkward teenage years’ of babydom, and is safely out the other side.

5. He doesnt need anything sterilised. That never ending standing by the sink with boiling hot water and bottle brushes and fairy liquid and sterilising equipment and microwaving and endless bottles and teats to scrub.. Now we just give his cup and bowl a quick rinse every couple of weeks. 😉

6. He can sit and stand safely in the bath. Not that it wasnt fun holding my breath in fear ten minutes each day.

And here are a few I’m looking forward to. Maybe you could share when they are likely to occur?

7. He can learn the meaning of words like ‘Hot’ and ‘One second.’ This would truly make my life so much easier. I wouldnt be screamed at incessantly because I’m blowing on his food, tightening the lid of his cup, moving him away from the radiators, running his cup under cold water… basically any activity that doesnt give him instantaneous attention.

8. Put his own blocks away. How do they end up all over the house? Why am I always barefoot?

9. Blowing his own nose. Adult colds are annoying. But baby colds? Why am I spending all day sorting out the sniffles? I dont think you pass out of the baby phase fully until you can reach for your own kleenex.

10. Him going out for the day. I cant believe how many days of waking up late, lounging around in pyjamas, not making any audible sound pre noon, reading a book in more than a page per sitting, watching an entire episode of Grey’s Anatomy in one go, and completing two hours work in less than six hours, I took for granted. Will I ever find ‘me time’ again?

Feel free to add your own!

Exhaustion

I’m worn out. I cant continue to fight, but I cant continue to try so hard.

Lost in a world of memories that I cant recall,
Hazily trying to assess them all
Work out where this started, where I began,
See the logic, find God’s plan.

If I could only remember the first time,
Erase the trigger, spot the sign
Would the second have happened? And then the third?
If I’d warned myself, would I have heard?

This never ending cycle of hurt
Transitioning, angry to happy to curt
Pretending, lying, enjoying, smiling,
Breaking, mending, building, defiling.

Sometimes I long for a clean slate
Although i believe there’s no way to avoid fate
Sometimes I wish for an end to it all
If there’s no way out then there’s no way to fall.

If we get there, then it will all be worthwhile
Every argument, each painful trial
But what if we dont? What if we cant
Despite our best efforts, things fall apart.

27/10/11

Boring? I’m cool with that.

As much as I enjoy putting a lighter twist on the trials of motherhood, I’m sure it’s obvious that some of my woeful rants have a sliver of painful truth. This week, I continue to be ignored by my uninterested one year old. I could do cartwheels for the kid, and I’d still be treated to his blank (wobbly) stare.

But today, a colleague has given me a new perspective, a metaphorical slap that’s somewhat taken me out of my self-pitying doldrums.

The more boring I am as his primary care giver, the more my son is accepting me as part of his life. I am not interesting, because I am not new. I am not an arrival at the end of the day. I am not a grandparent who pops in weekly for a surprise cuddle. I am constant. When he was a baby, the smile I got first thing in the morning was code for “oh wow! you still exist, and you’ve appeared here in front of me! It’s a miracle!” Now, I get a wail and arms outstretched which roughly translated means “Where on earth have you been you neglectful mother? Pick me up!” He knew I was there, somewhere, because I am always there. He trusts in my existence. He has no need to thank me or reward me for feeding him, changing him, playing with him, entertaining him, because in his head, where else would I be? What else would I be doing?

I have always had mixed feelings about the ‘Cry it out’ sleep training technique, which basically suggests that if you let your baby cry, they will eventually give up and go to sleep. Apparently, this technique is not supposed to be tried on babies under 6 months. When done anyway, their brain patterns mirror the patterns of abandoned babies who are neglected and abused. A baby that young simply cannot understand that you are ever coming back.

My baby however, has reached the grand age of One. A milestone indeed. And his blatant boredom in my presence, regardless of how long he hasnt seen me in, be it hours or the whole day, is a clear sign that he is certain that I am there. Somewhere. Whether he can see me or not, I am a constant part of his world. In many ways, I am his world.
If he was still overjoyed at my spending time with him, that would mean he still worries I might not be there at some point, or has not accepted me as a constant in his life.

I know, this is why motherhood can often be a thankless task, and why even while we’re so glad that our other halves have good relationships with their children, there is a part of us that is ever so slightly green-eyed. But even while it’s frustrating, I wouldnt swap it for the world, because it means that my son feels secure and safe in knowing that I’m not going anywhere. How can this be anything other than a success story?

Hey Rhod Gilbert, keep your hands to yourself..

Everyone knows the whole ‘British aloof’ thing. We get on the train in the morning and are greeted by absolute silence. We walk down the street briskly, looking ahead, the only permissible sentences, “excuse me” and possibly a quick and apologetic request for the time, or in dire straits, directions.

So what changes when we have kids? From the minute our bump is noticeable, we become public property. During my pregnancy, despite having what has been referred to as a “moody default face” (by one of my best friends believe it or not), I was talked to, prodded, poked and lectured multiple times. I had countless people who I’ve never had physical contact with before touch my stomach, I had a total stranger attract my attention  and wait for me to remove my headphones, only to kindly mention “That’s a boy in there, and don’t think it will be an easy labour!” (The fact that she was right on both counts gives me less joy than you may think.) I even had Rhod Gilbert address a crowded television studio with a microphone pointed bump-ward and his hand ‘wondering if he would be able to feel it kicking.’ Is that normal in Wales Rhodri?

I had thought it may be typical of the ‘bun in the oven’ experience, and true, I have many friends who have equally shocking and violating stories of their own time as an incubator. But it didnt stop just because he’s now out here with the rest of us.

I have done extensive research into the subject, and I am definitely asked more questions and engaged in more chit chat than the childless strangers around me. It is always me that finds myself informing people when the last bus came, or being forced to listen to some old dear’s plans for the weekend. I dont mind if you want to tell me how cute my boy is, but do I need to hear about how difficult it was for you to cut your own firstborn’s locks? Or how now, 30 years on, he never calls and you’re not that fond of his wife? Truly, I sometimes feel I could legitimately charge at the end of a conversation.

I’m not sure whether having a baby makes me look more approachable, or gives people an easy ‘in’ to a conversation. If that’s the case, maybe there is a clever answer I could give to the obvious first questions, that would get me out of being engaged in pointless chatter.

“Oh, isn’t he precious?”
“Thank you. The doctor said I should keep him in another few days, but he cant be THAT contagious”

“Oh, look at that hair!”
“Yep, nearly no lice at all this morning”

I’m reminded of a great Michael Mcintyre joke I could use to my advantage. When I see the pointed smile towards R which I know will lead to the opener, all I need to do is smile at my baby, and say…
“Look at the nice lady smiling at you.. Can you say hello? Come on Adolf, don’t be shy.”

I may try it.

Perhaps it’s just that without a child it is so easy to hide ourselves from communication. We walk around with headphones in, or with our mobile phones glued to our ears. We find friends to take walks with, ignoring everyone around us in case they turn out to be ‘chuggers’ or want to God forbid hand us a leaflet. If someone smiles at us in a public place, we either think they are crazy or spend the rest of the day frustratedly trying to work out if we know them from somewhere.

With a kid however, we let out more of ourselves. By smiling in their direction, we show the world we have a human side. By showcasing our choice of more human products like buggies and nappy bags and baby food, we provide topics of conversation on a platter for hungry conversationalists. Parading around with the most important and most precious part of our lives on display, truly wearing our hearts on our sleeves, surely shows a vulnerability in ourselves which trumps even the most heavily armoured of defences.