This is possibly the single most important thing I learnt. I don’t mean I shunned them in the street. I don’t even mean that I didn’t listen to what they had to say, they were going through the same experience as me and may have had some good tips. But I did listen to them with a ‘bragging parent’ filter in place.
Humans are competitive by nature. Not necessarily outwardly, but inside we are always measuring how well we are doing by comparing ourselves to others. We cannot help it, even if the results show we are not doing very well at all.
Wrapped up in the isolated cocoon of exhaustion and stress created by living with Small there were few clues from the outside world as to how well I was doing. Therefore, when they came along they had a big impact and what other parents said about their Smalls left me feeling that I was not coping as well as everyone else. They seemed to be dealing with everything much better than me and their Smalls were all progressing so much more rapidly. What was I doing wrong?
As it happens, nothing. It seems that what people say, and believe, and what really happens can be poles apart. Neither they, nor their Smalls, were doing any better than me. Here is a list of some of the comments that left my wife and I feeling like inadequate failures and the reality of the situation:
- “Jimmy sleeps through the night and has done so since he was 1 month old.” Later it was discovered that ‘the night’ meant 11:00pm to 2:00am.
- “Sarah loves her food; you should see her with her cheese on toast.” I did, she picked at the cheese and wore the rest on her head before throwing it on the floor.
- “Mary can walk!” Mary could twitch her legs back and forth whilst being held upright, an inch from the floor.
- “Harry is almost toilet trained now.” Harry cried and screamed on the potty for five minutes, producing nothing, and then wet his pants ten minutes later.
- “Owen interacts well with other children.” Owen kicked and bit then wailed when he didn’t get the toy he wanted.
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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