I think if I could go back to pre-motherhood me, that would be the advice I would give myself. Don’t get too caught up on what the books say you ‘should’ be doing, don’t worry about what other people tell you your children ‘should’ be doing.
Just focus on getting to know your child, and learning to be the parent that he needs.
See, my children are very similar in many ways. When you look at their baby pictures it can be really hard to tell who is who. They were both on the move very early, and are confident in their physical abilities. But there are more and more differences emerging too. And, of course, as they get older their individual personalities change and evolve and I have to keep up with the people they’re becoming.
I have to make a conscious effort to adapt my behaviour and my habits to ensure that they get what they need from me. For example, I discovered when Rhys was a baby that I’m not as naturally tolerant of mess and dirt as I thought I was, and it’s taken me a while to relax and be comfortable with it. And the main thing I’ve come to realise is that Nerys’ need to get her hands in things, to touch and feel new sensations is more important than my ‘need’ to keep her hands and clothes clean!
See, I’m learning all the time about what my children need from me as a parent.
They need my love, my attention, my time, my respect.
After those needs are met you have to dig a little deeper. Listen to your children, and watch them too. In their own way they’ll tell you what they need.
You’ll learn if they need to be pushed or if you need to hold back.
You’ll learn if they need to be cuddled all day or if they need their personal space.
You’ll learn if they need the structure of routine or if they need more flexibility in their days.
If you trust your instincts you’ll come to realise that they’re your children, no one knows them better than you. No one else knows the best way to ‘be’ with them.
So, a message to past-me, and a reminder to now-me and future-me:
Don’t worry about being the parent you always thought you’d be.
Don’t waste your time trying to be the parent that others think you should be.
Don’t be the parent to the child you want your child to be.
Get to know the child you’ve been given. Learn who they are, get to understand the way they think, be the parent that they need.