Before having children, I created a silent list of parenting principles that I would endeavour to live life by… a series of pledges that would define the kind of mum I would be! In hindsight, I may have set the bar a tad too high!
1. Screen Time
Thou shall not watch too much television and that which does slip through the net shall be entirely educational and documentary based! No moving images will be present during family meals times!
The Reality: They watch far more TV and stuff on tablets than I ever dreamed possible! And much of it has no educational content at all! Also turns out the kids squabble less while eating if they are watching TV at the same time meaning I can also occasionally eat a hot meal at the same time! Some are educational… there is nothing I don’t know about marine life thanks to Octonauts (they give Attenborough a run for his money) and my geographical knowledge has increased tenfold since watching Go Jetters! But generally, its mind numbing drivel! I particularly loath the stuff they smuggle onto the iPad from YouTube where they watch other children opening Kinder Eggs! See previous blog on the most annoying kids tv programs!
2. Wooden toys
Thou shall only buy wooden, organic educational toys from artisan, boutique craftspeople! They will be responsibly sourced and develop problem solving, creative thinking and lateral thinking skills as a minimum. They will be painted using non-chemical based products hued from nature!
The Reality: Plastic crap, plastic crap, plastic crap!!! On every surface, in every toy box and in every room! The bathroom is no longer a haven of calm and muted tones; it’s filled to the rafters with plastic animals and floaty things! The house is full to the brim with sinister toys that randomly start beeping or singing in the middle of the night leading you to worry they may go on a murderous rampage and kill you all in your sleep! Sharp and pointy Plastic objects festoon the floor waiting for you to endeavour across the living room barefoot before impaling themselves in the arch of your foot!!! There are some wooden toys (usually from Ikea) but they are placed on display on the windowsill as the kids have no interest in them as they don’t ‘do’ anything! Plus kids only really want to play with things that are not toys anyway!! (Ted on the school run below clutching the attachment for the Dyson for example!)
3. Meal times
Mealtimes shall be a sacred family affair where we sit down at the table and discuss our respective days and possibly philosophy or politics! Food will be hearty, nutritious and potentially even grown in our own garden if the season is right! All will be present and no-one will leave the table until we have all finished and have empty plates.
The Reality: Absolutely nothing like this at all! Children are basically hungry approximately 2 hours before it’s socially acceptable as an adult to eat any meal plus Jon is rarely home before 7 so usually the kids eat at the breakfast bar in front of the TV and we eat when we’ve got them to bed. They ate absolutely anything as babies but now their food choices are entirely dependant on which way the wind is blowing, the phase of the moon and weather or not I’ve done a good enough job of chopping the vegetables small enough to be invisible to the naked eye! Empty plates woul be the stuff of modern day miracles and trying to keep them sat still while they are eating is hard enough; waiting for others would only be possible with some kind of super strength adhesive!
Thou shall not pander to babies who do not sleep. Thou shall not rock, mollycoddle or find yourself crawling on all fours out of their room at 3am, trying desperately to avoid the creaking floorboards. Baby will learn to self soothe and bedtime will be a calm and serene affair! Thou shall never break the cardinal sin of allowing unsettled children into your own bed!
The Reality: To be fair, our kids are pretty good at going to bed in the evening; they are however less good at staying there for the whole night! All have been terrible sleepers as babies and have almost broken us on many occasions! Whilst the principles are all well and good- leaving a baby to ‘self soothe’ in a house full of other sleeping children is a noisy affair and a fairly long and drawn out process whereas a quick cuddle and a bit of rocking and they usually nod off quite quickly! To be fair we’ve never caved on the getting in bed with us business until Ted came along- 4 months of complete sleep deprivation torture broke me though and we went through a phase of sneaking him in for a snuggle in a vain attempt to get a 5 minute siesta!! In reality though it’s basically the same as sleeping next to a bag of electrified eels!! Epic fail on the tough love sleep approach!
5. Not giving in to tantrums
Thou shalt stay strong in the face of a tantrum. Thou shalt not cave or give in to the demands of a stroppy child and you will not ever reward poor behaviour! Thou shall not negotiate with toddlers!The Reality: There is not a single interaction that goes down in our house without some kind of negotiation, deal making, bribery or begging!! Esme is the Jedi master of negotiation; I will put those tights on but I’ll only do it after I’ve had my breakfast, before I put my coat on and you’re not allowed to brush my hair if I do this!! Deal!?! I am ashamed to say I’ve offered chocolate to the child laid prone in the middle of the fruit and veg aisle in Tesco in a bid to get them to stop screeching so everyone stops staring!! I add stuff to the trolley that I know we don’t need but also know that removing it will cause a melt down so go with the path of least resistance (or sneak it onto the toilet roll aisle when they’re not looking!) if it’s important I stand my ground… but sometimes being a parent is about knowing which battles to pick!
6. No baby proofing- they’ll just learn that no means no!
Thou shall definitely not fit those annoying door closer things on the kitchen cupboards!! Why should we be so inconvenienced?! I will simply tell the little mite ‘no’ in my firmest mummy tones and we will hear no more about it!
And for the first two, it sort of worked! We said no and other than a few attempts they listened (or more likely their inherent hyperactivity kicked in and they moved on to wrecking, sorry #makingmemories somewhere else in the house!) This time however, I’m broken! Either I’m too tired to enforce my firm mummy tones, I don’t have enough eyes to monitor the situation or this one doesn’t have ADHD!
I coped with the removal of every mixing bowl and baking tin; I coped with the reorganisation of my spice rack (who am I kidding, as it they were every organised?!); I even chuckled at the messy play activity of sprinkling Rice Krispies all over the floor! Turns out it was icing sugar that was the proverbial straw! He looks like Casper, there’s a thin film of powdered sugar on every surface and the dog just had actual icing dripping off him when he ran out in the rain! The safety locks should be here in 3-5 working days!
7. Children will tidy up!
Thou shall not pander to messy children! They shall learn to tidy up after themselves and put one set of toys away before getting another out!
I’m sure there are many more principles that I used to have that I can’t even remember now… I’m coming to realise the key to this parenting lark is setting the bar very low!!!!