During my days as a house husband I received a considerable amount of advice on parenting. Nearly all of it came from unqualified sources and most of that was entirely unsolicited.
When I became a parent I must have developed a magic aura, a field of force that attracted possibly well-meaning people and invited them to offer me advice that I didn’t want. Everyone had some tip to offer or some painful anecdote to recite. Most came from people that had been through the minefield of Small raising and were safe on the other side. Those I could tolerate to some degree. It was the advice from those whose only experience of Smalls was vicarious that annoyed me the most, especially when they were firing off tired old clichés that they had picked up conversationally with no experience of the reality of raising Smalls. As I picked my path between the mines, half by cautious testing and half by blind luck, these clichéd remarks were not helpful and were certainly not appreciated.
The ones that grated on my nerve endings the most were:
- It’s just a phase;
- They change your life;
- You’ve got your hands full;
- You’ll look back on this and laugh; and my particular favourite
- Enjoy every minute, they’ll be grown up before you know it!
- It might be a phase but I’ve still got to deal with it now;
- Yes, my life is over;
- Well, nah! Stop stating the bloody obvious and open the door for me!;
- I’m already laughing! Can’t you hear me!! Ha!!! Ha ha ha!!! Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!; and
- It can’t happen soon enough!
I suppose that, “It’s just a phase,” was meant sympathetically, reminding me that the latest Small issue would not last forever. On one level I could see that. I knew Small was not going to be crawling into my bed every night because he was scared of the monsters in the cupboard when he was 16 (at least I hoped not) but right then I was finding it very hard to visualise on that level because my sleep deprived mind couldn’t focus beyond the moment.
At least, “It’s just a phase,” had a positive meaning, unlike its close cousin, “If you think this is bad, wait until…” Such as, “If you think he’s a handful now, wait until he starts crawling!” [Where have I heard that before?] This was the same as saying, “It’s just a phase and it’s nowhere near as bad as the next one is going to be so get over yourself.” Look, I was having a tough time right then. I didn’t need to know it was going to get worse. I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. [I’m using clichés now.]
The truth was, my life had changed, mainly because I did have my hands full all the time. I had lived through some of the phases and could look back and laugh, sometimes without that brittle edge of hysteria. But I had not enjoyed every minute. I would be lying if I said I had, especially in the early days. I was a mindless, shambling, semi-automated version of my former self, functioning on terror induced adrenaline. Every cry, sneeze and rash had me reaching for the keypad or the phone. I had no time to myself and everything took twice as long as it used to. Leaving the house became a military style operation, requiring precise timing and a back breaking load of equipment to ensure survival in hostile territory. Things were bleak and the immediate future looked bleaker still for there was no sign of improvement on the horizon and I could only get more tired as time went on.
Then, on the point of breaking down in despair Small dragged me into the sunlight. He reached out and grabbed my finger and I knew what it was all about.
Since then I have discovered that there is no fail-safe route through the minefield. No amount of well-intentioned advice from other people provides a clear map; most of the way has to be plotted by gut instinct and trial and error. I have learnt alongside Small and we have both grown.
And when everything seems to be going bottom shaped [a mixed metaphor of bottom up and pear shaped] and everyone else seems to be so much better at it than me I just remind myself that they are not, they are just better at camouflage.
Above all I constantly remind myself that raising Smalls is just a phase in my own growth from Smallhood. Yes, they changed my life and mean I constantly have my hands full but one day I will look back and laugh. In the meantime I’ll enjoy every minute because they’ll be grown up before I know it.
Ok, I won’t enjoy every minute but I won’t feel guilty about it.
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
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