The first Saturday of April is National Love Our Children Day, annually observed as part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Designed to honour all children and encourage us to develop loving relationships with our children, it aims to promote healthy and safe relationships between a child and their primary caregiver.
To honour the special relationship between a mother and child, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on motherhood, and the things I’ve learned about myself over the past year. I know that being a Mom hasn’t been the easiest job at times. I’m really good at feeling guilty when I haven’t gotten up as soon as my Son starts crying in the middle of the night, or popped Peppa Pig on in the middle of the afternoon when I need a cup of tea and a break (Hate the show, but for some reason my little boy loves it). There’s been so many times when I think I’ve fallen short and let my Son down – especially when it comes to losing my temper when he tips his food all over the floor or grizzles for no reason whatsoever. There’s been some pretty touch and go things, really…
- Cutting the corner too quickly and accidentally bumping my Son’s head on the door frame. (I’m constantly forgetting that the space I need to enter and exit a room suddenly increases when you have a baby on your hip)
- Poking my son in the chin when I was trying to get his bib over his head, when the neck hole didn’t want to accommodate the circumference of his head.
- Successfully catching the milk sick in the bib, only to find I’d tipped it all down the front of his clothes instead.
- Opening the downstairs toilet door, only to find that he was sitting up against it and I’ve just shunted him across the floor (He wasn’t hurt; he actually found it rather amusing)
- Squeezing a baby food pouch too hard, so the contents squirted directly into his face.
- Accidentally catching his chubby little fingers in the High Chair Tray (I think I cried more than he did).
- Him almost rolling off the bed when I was trying to change his nappy and he wouldn’t lie still, only to be saved by me catching his legs at the last-minute.
- Cutting his nail too short, and making him flinch.
I know, I know; it happens. And it will happen. And you will feel bad. You’ll beat yourself up about it constantly and replay events over and over in your head. But guess what? They don’t remember (And that isn’t through a head injury). They don’t care that you make mistakes. They just care about you being there. Because that’s what they will remember. When they fell over and hurt their leg and Mommy kissed it better. Or when they got a splinter after climbing a fence and Daddy pulled it out and put a plaster on. Kids are easily pleased, really. They only remember all the times you looked after them, or made them feel better when they were poorly.
But whilst I’m still reeling and learning from my mistakes, I also need to take 5 minutes to acknowledge when I’m doing a good job; I have a happy, healthy little boy who is inquisitive and carefree, who is able to explore his surroundings knowing that he is loved and cherished by myself and my Husband.
But there are little things that you can do to make the whole roller coaster go a little more smoothly. Here’s what I’ve learned over the past year that has helped me get a better grasp of things…
Establish a routine. It’ll make your life a whole lot easier if you establish a routine, trust me. With my son it’s a bath at 5.30, a bottle around 6.00, and stories/toys until bed at 7. Every. Single. Night. And because we’ve always done this, it makes my son so much happier and more relaxed, because he knows what’s coming. It’ll make everything easier once he gets older and I go back to work, or when he starts school, too.
Show your love at every available opportunity. I take every opportunity I get to tell my Son how much I love him, and shower him with kisses. He’s only going to be young once; when he’s 11 I doubt he’ll let me, so I’m making the most of it whilst I still can.
Give it up. I’ve resigned myself to the face that I’m not going to be able to finish a chapter of my book, or watch a TV episode all the way through without interruptions. Sometimes, your life has to go on hold because there’s a little person who needs you. If that means fewer nights out and more in front of the TV, so be it. I made this decision to have children, so I’m going to embrace the change they bring. It won’t be forever, so I’m sure I can make a few sacrifices now; I’ll have plenty of time to make up for it when my children get older.
Appreciate the little things. As a young baby, the only time my Son would nap was when I cuddled him to sleep, and I tried everything to get him to nap in his cot during the day so I could do jobs. Now, he won’t ever cuddle with me because he prefers sleeping in his cot, and I miss those little cuddles we used to have. I should have taken the time to appreciate them whilst they were there.
Encourage their enthusiasm. I love it when my Son explores something new, or is trying to master a new skill. I’m always giving him different things to play with (Saucepans, wooden spoons etc) to stretch his inquisitive nature, and I love it when he demonstrates he’s independent enough to try something new.
Be strong and push through the difficulties. There have been sleepless nights, I won’t lie about that. But it’s just a phase and they will grow out of it. I need to try to remember this more often.
Trust your instinct. When my son was coughing for weeks on end and 3 Doctors told me nothing was wrong I knew better. A fourth Doctor confirmed he had Croup. You’re their parent; you know them better than anyone. When your instinct tells you something is wrong, follow it. It’s always better to be over-cautious and safe, than lax and sorry.
Don’t forget your partner. In the few months post birth, it’s easy to neglect one another whilst you catch your breath and establish normalcy. But once the dust has settle, do try to make time for one another again. Find a baby sitter and go out for the night. Or if you’re not wanting to leave the little one, cook a romantic meals and snuggle up to watch a film after they’ve gone to bed. You may be parents now, but you are still human at the end of the day, and your needs are equally as important.
I am under no illusion that I am not the perfect parent, and I’ve done not-so-perfect things, but I love my son to the ends of the Earth and back, and would do absolutely anything to ensure his happiness. I stay up with him when he’s sick, I make sure he eats a healthy dinner, that he’s always in clean clothes. I cuddle him when he cries, play with him when he’s happy, read to him when he’s sleepy. He wants for nothing because I give him everything.
There are times when I wing it and just go with the flow. But he’s not telling anyone; in fact, he’s right there with me, smiling at me to carry on…