My big girl is turning 10, which means I’ve been a mum for 10 years and I can’t believe it’s been that long when I often feel I don’t know anything and I’m just winging it by instinct.
If I were to sum up in one word how I feel about my eldest daughter it would be GRATEFUL. She is, and always has been beautiful, and funny, smart, thoughtful, easy-going, compassionate, friendly, and responsible.
But if I were to sum up my main feeling about parenting it would be SURPRISE. I am continually surprised and challenged by this journey so far.
I searched my brain for 10 things I’ve learnt about parenting which were definitely off my radar when I was booking myself into hospital to bring this now 10-year-old into the world. And I came up with 15, so here they are, my 15 things I didn’t know about parenting 10 years ago:
1. That everything I had thought dumb about how my parents raised me would be pretty much exactly what I would go on to do myself, and my children would similarly think that some of my rules are completely arbitrary and dumb.
2. That bone-wearying and devastatingly hard days can coincide with transcendent moments of peace and joy.
3. That 10 years of varying degrees of sleep deprivation would drive me to drink so much coffee that I would end up with palpitations. And that the times when I was getting enough sleep I would feel ridiculously on top of the world, full of cheerfulness and energy and gratefulness for my life.
4. That I would end up hating with a passion things I had always thought were fairly innocuous, particularly play-dough, puzzles, knock-knock jokes (after the 10,003rd repetition), cheap plastic toys, and small, hard lollies offered to my kids by other people.
5. How much I would like my kids’ friends and how much pleasure they would bring into our family’s life.
6. That I would read almost every book out there on parenting and child development and find that the most important information any parent-to-be should know is missing from them – dentists are heart-stoppingly expensive and you may never be able afford a holiday in your life again if you aren’t willing to be obsessive about looking after your children’s teeth. And even if you are obsessive about it, you may still have to fork out quadrillions on your children’s mouths over the years.
7. That the only good things I would remember from reading all those books was the importance of good nutrition and routines, and of trying to keep a smile on my face when I hear “Mummy!” for the 3,000th time in an hour.
8. How a couple of hours by myself to poke around a bookshop and visit a church would save my sanity on some occasions, and writing a weekly column about my life with kids would save my sanity on many, many, more.
9. That I would watch one of my children driven away by an ambulance and go inside the house, trembling, to read a bedtime story to two of the others; that I would deal with hundreds of tiny flesh-burrowing insects on little bodies in one afternoon; that I have someone else’s projectile vomit deposited all over me and into my hair, and on each occasion I would stay calm and it would all be fine.
10. That many other times, over much smaller things, I would NOT stay calm and it would NOT all be fine.
11. That I would develop an intense love/hate relationship with ABC for Kids.
12. That each of my kids would go through a phase when they believed our parish priest was Jesus.
13. That I would like playing with my kids, but just as often my first thought upon their asking me to play would be along the lines of, “I would rather be stricken by a horrible disease and put into quarantine in the middle of the Great Victoria Desert with only lizards and scorpions for company for three years than play Junior Monopoly with you right now”.
14. That changing nappies is really no big deal once you get the hang of it.
15. That those corny, all-misty-glowy-Hallmark-moment-type images of children would ACTUALLY happen in real life with my kids and I would have them tattooed into my memory.
Those are mine! If you’re a mum or dad what parenting lessons or moments did you never see coming?