It feels weird to say I’ve been a parent for 11 years. I don’t quite feel old enough, and I’d like to think I don’t look old enough either, but no one gasps when I tell them so I suppose that’s not the case.
I’d like to think I’ve picked up a few things along the way of this parenting ‘journey’.
When I was handed my daughter a few days after turning 22, I remember realising I was entirely clueless and unprepared. Although getting pregnant at 21 wasn’t so young it was scandalous, it was still young enough for my friends to look impressed and horrified, before upping their contraceptive efforts.
Somehow we just got on with it. I learned how to survive on barely any sleep. Additional skills soon came, like learning to do makeup to make me look well-rested, and the ability to instantly drop off the minute the baby slept.
Since baby number three is due in the next couple of months, it seemed like a good time to share everything I’ve learned (before baby brain kicks in and erases it all).
It just so happens it’s my daughter’s birthday on the day I am writing this. Eleven years to the day I became a parent, I’m deciding to pass on my wisdom (if you can call it that).
1. They Will Sleep, Eventually
I had a baby that never slept. Then I had another baby that didn’t sleep either. I imagine baby number three won’t break this family tradition. Luckily, it doesn’t last forever. Unfortunately, it does last about three years.
Fear not, you will sleep again – it just won’t be any time soon.
2. They Will Behave Spectacularly Well – For Everyone Else
At home they might climb the walls and jump off the furniture, but as soon as you hand them over to someone else, they turn into angels. Suddenly they’ll do as they’re told (the first time) and be courteous little humans.
This is obviously great because it makes you look like you’re nailing the art of parenting. The only downside is that no one will ever believe you’ve had a hard day. Especially when they are under the impression your children are perfect and easy to handle.
3. They’ll Keep You Young, But You’ll Feel 100
I’m not very outdoorsy, but the kids manage to get me out and about. I won’t spend hours walking about outdoors for anyone else. Although I don’t doubt this is keeping me relatively fit, it’s wearing me out enough to make me feel absolutely ancient.
4. You’ll Never Eat a Meal to Yourself Again. Ever.
Even in adulthood, your child will still want some of your dinner. I can vouch for this because I’m 33 and I still say “ooh Mum, that looks good, please can I try a bit?”
The only exception to this rule is if you eat a meal in another town, far enough away for your child not to sense it. Eating past their bedtime doesn’t work either, they have finely tuned hearing for even the quietest rustle of a food packet.
5. Everything You Do Will Be Interrupted
They find you. Wherever you are.
The only thing I want to do uninterrupted is bathe. My husband takes over on non-school days and although he manages to keep them from breaching the threshold, it’s never an undisturbed bath. I’ll usually hear a disconcerting thud followed by a scream. Sometimes my son will try and break the lock from the outside of the door, but he’s usually intercepted.
6. They Will Seek Adventure, Especially If You’re Not Adventurous
I was nervous child who enjoyed staying ground-level. I’d climb the occasional low tree, but for the most part I’d stay very close to my parents and had no desire to do anything very exciting.
Both my children are adrenaline junkies and I don’t know where this gene came from. My daughter used to climb like a spider monkey. My son opts for all sorts of dangerous things that you’d never imagine anyone would ever dream up, let alone try.
7. They Grow Faster Than You Think
Why on earth did I think school shoes would last a couple of terms, or maybe even a school year? They last 6 weeks, tops. They’ll instantly grow about an hour after you’ve bought them some new clothes too. You’ll blink and their trousers will be half mast
8. They Are Never Clean, However Much You Wash Them
Every day I do a spot check before we leave the front door. Clean faces, brushed teeth, clean nails, looking smart. That’s the checklist.
They get in the car looking fine, after a seven minute car journey they look like they’ve been ravaged by wolves.
9. If They Look Angelic, They’ve Probably Done Something Wrong
Of course your children look like glorious little cherubs all the time. But if they’re looking particularly heaven-sent, then they’ve probably filled your toilet with a fresh box of Rice Krispies or spilt Ribena on your cream carpet.
10. They Bring Chaos
Nothing stays tidy for long. And by long I mean over two seconds. It might be tempting to think that they cause so much mess that it’s not worth tidying up, so you may as well have the night off. Sadly for you, they are able to create mess layers. Mess upon mess to an infinite degree.
11. There is No Feeling in the World Quite Like Parenthood
You may be an auntie. You may have owned a hamster or a dog or one of those friendly-looking lizards, but nothing compares to having your own child. You feel an indescribable, undilutable love for them that never goes away. No amount of chaos, mess, sleep deprivation or Rice Krispies down your toilet will ever change that. There is nothing quite like parenthood.
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