As my parenting rollercoaster hurtles on I’ve become convinced that there are some powerful and fickle gods that like to mess with us and keep us in a constant state of uncertainty. Not the Judeo-Christian, love thy neighbour, water-into-wine type but the ancient kind, the ones that regularly meddled in our affairs and transformed into humans just to get laid. Those ones.
My first experience with angering the parenting gods was when my eldest was quite new and I announced to a room full of parents at a baby group that my baby was an ‘excellent sleeper.’ That very night the parenting gods avenged my smugness with a hellish night of broken sleep which continued for months. I had broken a key rule; do not be smug, or you will live to regret it. I really deserved it too, because I must have known that there were parents in the group that were beyond tired, the kind of tired where you find your car keys in the fridge. How they must have hated me and my smug face. I paid for it guys, don’t worry. I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t enjoy your children, or enjoy the good phases and those moments when their little faces make your heart soar. But we should always be mindful of other people; that parent you’re bragging to might be having a tough time. When Frank was a newborn I was really struggling with breastfeeding and mentioned that to another mum, who said she was finding it really easy, she said it was ‘the most natural thing in the world.’ However fantastic that is for her, at the time if made me feel like a failure. The parenting gods reward humility, and as an added bonus – you’re a better person for it.
These gods hate smugness above all else and will be quick and brutal in response. They also really enjoy mixing things up when you get complacent, or dare I say – at ease. It amuses them to throw in a regression or developmental leap at the very moment you start to relax. Fend off these attacks by being humble and don’t tempt them, for example; never say out loud that your child is a good eater, good sleeper, or blindly obedient to your whims. You may find yourself at a soft play wanting to brag that your child has never had a tantrum. Resist this urge or face the consequences – immediate and swift retribution as your little angel screams the place down when you announce that its home time.
One key thing I have found is if you’re getting comfy, if you think you have the hang of this parenting lark – be on guard. Nothing lasts for long with children. If you’re going through a good phase, sleep is plentiful, your child is being adorable and fun to be around, they are eating well – enjoy it. Enjoy it while you can because it won’t last. A sleep regression, a nascent need for independence, a change or a growth spurt and suddenly you are back in troubled waters. And if you are going through a bad patch; you’re tired, you feel useless, your wine intake has tripled, your child is going through a difficult phase – this too will pass. The tough times don’t last forever if you just keep moving forward.
Lets imagine for a second your eldest starts a great school and your toddler starts a nursery right next door. You start to imagine what it will be like to get some time to yourself. You believe that being a parent is about to get easier. You may even mention to friends that you are excited for some ‘me’ time. You break your own ‘parenting gods’ rule and say this OUT LOUD. Well, look what happens. A pandemic comes along with illness, anxiety, school closures, self isolation and lockdowns. It was all my fault, you see. I angered the parenting gods. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.