Tuesday, September 10, 2013

10 things I've learnt in my first year for parenting.

We celebrated Chloe's first birthday three Fridays ago, and as I looked at her toddling around the zoo it occurred to me... she's not a baby anymore! She's one! She is one year old! One whole year since she arrived! One! And as the shock slowly wore off and I began to mentally high five J and I for keeping her alive this whole time it occurred to me that we are good parents. No, great parents! There I said it! She's happy, healthy and surrounded by a vast collection of people who love her so deeply it overwhelms me! So to celebrate our first year of being parents I thought I'd stray from my usual format and go for a '10 things I've learnt in my first year for parenting'. The learning curve for a new parent is huge! So hopefully you can learn from our mistakes achievements when you eventually decide to head down the baby track ..... here goes:

1. Be flexible but be fair.
Just when I thought I had Chloe figured out she'd up and change it on me. Whether it be sleeping, foods, toys, whatever! What necessarily was magic yesterday, may not be as exciting to her today. And within this inevitable sea of constant change, your lifesaver will be a strong buoyance device known as adaptability. You need to be incredibly flexible in this parenting gig. Which obtaining for a control freak like me has been a massive achievement this last year. And parenting books DO NOT HELP! It took me a long time to let the baby self help type literature go. So many times in this first year I have looked to 'the book' for the answers.... in the last few months, I've learnt to look to the book as a GUIDE. But being in a sea of constant change relatively alone I found it a great help initially. However as I have gained confidence in understanding Chloe's needs.... yes! Its taken me almost the whole first year to develop said confidence. I feel like I can get there without Tizzy Halls help.... Instead I turn to my dearest mummy friends and its through them that I have learnt the most amazing things! Also, be fair - on yourself! Don't beat yourself up if you make some 'mistakes' along the way, god knows I have! You will get things wrong despite trying to do everything right. Often you will think 'I could have handled that better', but don't get hung up on it. You did your best in that moment! You are a good parent! Judgement from others will follow you wherever you go on this parenting path. Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed. Give a dummy or self settle. Cloth nappies or disposables. It goes on and on. You don't need to add to the barrage by giving yourself an upper cut because you put your baby to bed at 7:15pm not 7pm. In the end you need to do what works best for you and your family. And seek advice from fellow mummy friends if you need it. Try new things when something is no longer working, don't stick with it just because it worked a few times in the hope that it will work again. And know that you can do it! Because, you can!

2. Saying thank you, goes a LONG way!
And its not just Chloe's constant changes that you have to deal with in the first year.... your relationship will change as well. Having Chloe has been the most amazing thing, don't get me wrong, but she has turned our whole world on its head! Jarratt and I are now parents, parents! And in those initial parenting months you will be tired, oh so tired, and you will become frustrated with your partner more than you ever have been, more than you ever thought was possible. But as long as you both understand that this is just a phase. It is the result of sleep deprivation and the needy small human that has turned you and your once love sick partner into snarling beasts. It does get better. And on the flipside having a child does makes you appreciate your partner in more ways than you thought possible. I can't explain the gratitude I feel when Jarratt takes Chloe to the park for an hour or so and I'm free to have an uninterrupted nap. Or when he's home of a weekend and I can have a long hot shower without the shower door ajar and a small person snacking in the high chair next to me, staring. And don't get me started on those nights where you just can NOT get up to a screaming child one more time and without asking he rolls out of bed and suddenly there is silence and you drift back into a deep sleep. And for all those things and more, if there is NOTHING else you take from this blog its to say thank you to your partner for those little things. I wish I did more, but I'm sad to admit the snarling beast got the better of me.

3. Your priorities change
This year my priorities have also definitely changed! Now my idea of a 'good night' is putting Chloe to bed before 7, ordering pizza, having a few glasses of wine and being in bed by 10pm just after tea time! And I do love tea time - it even has its own song in our house! No joke! And I'd much prefer to play at the beach and watch Chloe giggle as she pushes her feet through the sand than go out dancing and drinking. I'd much rather buy that ridiculously expensive baby outfit than pay for a lavish dinner at a fancy restaurant. I'm not saying I've always felt this way or that I don't enjoy the occasional nights away from my mothering gig. But generally if given the choice, I'd stay in for belly laughs and big, sloppy, open mouthed kisses against pretty much anything else.

4. Your body is not your own.
But probably the BIGGEST change for me has been the acceptance that my body (and my brain on occasions) is no longer my own. If you choose to breastfed (and I'm not having a go at anyone who doesn't *insert politically correct disclaimer here*) seeing boobs as anything other than nourishment for your baby will take you, and your partner unfortunately, a LONG time to adjust to. And although there are moments when you are exhausted and you are so incredibly frustrated to feel SO needed, when those little hands, lips, eyes find you and the feeling of being loved and trusted so unconditionally washes over you, the toll it has taken on your body is all but forgotten!

5. Your childless friends may not always 'get it'.
I have the most AMAZING collection of friends who I love dearly. But unfortunately we were the only ones on the baby boat and the further we floated down stream the more isolated I felt. In some ways it has been easier for J, as he wasn't on call like I was due to breastfeeding. And as the stay at home parent I felt Chloe was more my responsibility than his. But nonetheless he still found it difficult as we couldn't 'share' our experience with others and have the same excitement in Chloe's seemingly mind-blowing milestones as us. But I guess initiating a game of peek-a-boo or waving bye when asked or giving kisses after MONTHS of poignantly rejecting us isn't THAT impressive to others. And I'm not saying it's their fault, its not. Its not my fault either, its not anyone's fault really. Its just the way it is. Until your aboard the baby boat, you don't get it. I know I didn't. But if you are one of my 'childless' friends reading this and you do buy a ticket for the ride, I'll be waiting to welcome you aboard with you're buoyance device of adaptability and priority change manual in hand.

6. Don't Panic. Learn to laugh.
Easier said than done, right? I am, as you all know, a control freak. I like order and routine. I can plan for most things, however the unexpected is something you can not plan for. Falls, cuts, instant injuries - these things WILL happen and are the things that can NOT be planned for. Unfortunately bumps and bruises go with the gig. But when they happen you need not panic, you just need to dust yourself (and your child) off, wipe away the tears and get back on the horse, or bike, or puzzle.... whatever it is that you fell from. And laugh. In those times of stress and unfortunate mishaps, I sometimes force myself to have a giggle. Its therapeutic. Obviously not at minor head injuries, which we've had a 2 of this year. But at those 'whoops you slipped on your socks on the floor boards, up you hop' moments, where if I overreact, Chloe will develop such a severe fear complex of the world, the little feisty risk taker I desperately want to send to school may never see the light of day.

7. You will do ridiculous, sometimes irrational things!
When you become a parent, you leave part of your dignity at the door. You need to. It's a must. And this past year I have done some ridiculous things.
I've danced with her in the shopping aisle. And haven't cared who saw.
I've read the same story over and over and over and over again.
I’ve filled my hard drive, facebook feed and Instagram account with hundreds of photos of her.
I've sung 'you are my sunshine'. Numerous times. Often in public.
I've told her to say 'hi' to a complete stranger. Even though she is completing incapable of saying it.
I've occasionally made 'deals' with her.
I have sniffed her bum to check for poo.
I've shouted 'look, dog dog' and 'birdies', numerous times in public.
I've blown on her privates, just to hear her giggle.
I've eaten smashed banana off her grubby little fingers.
I've tapped a piece of furniture and said 'naughty furniture' when she's fallen down and hit herself on it.

8. Kids are smarter than you think.
Chloe is a genius! I swear it! By about 8 months she had J and I's number. She knew what she wanted and how to make us get it. And it wasn't until recently that we realised what a tricksie little minx she was and began asserting our own parental 'power'. In this parenting game you need to view your child as ... well, not the enemy, but just a very worthy adversary - you always have to be one step ahead and have a second set of eyes in the back of your head!

9. You couldn't imagine how much they annoy you!
Unfortunately its not all sunshine and rainbows. Kids are hard work! Fact. Sometimes Chloe will cry and be whiny and nothing I will do will help her. And I get frustrated. And as much as some parents may not admit it, it does happen. To. Everyone! Some days, as awful as it sounds, you just need to make it to bedtime. It doesn't mean you're a bad parent, its just part of the deal. And don't let anyone make you feel guilty about that! I've found that like minded parents do wonders with this. Honest, frank and true friendships that have turned up at my door, mid meltdown and made an inappropriate joke about lobbing said child off the balcony and just laughed afterwards are an amazing help! Make sure you collect these like minded people along the way in your first year. Their friendship is a true get out of jail free card when you have all but lost your smashed banana. Finding the funny may not save your soul, but it will save your sanity!

10. You couldn't imagine how much you love them! 
It took me, I'd say, 4 months to feel the full force of love beating down on me for Chloe. Jarratt, lucky duck, felt it as soon as he held her in his arms the first time. And whether you get that initial rush or the slow overwhelming one - don't beat yourself up about it. People often ask me to describe it and its hard, I think its impossible to really understand it until you are a parent. But it is all consuming. I didn't think my love for Jarratt could be surpassed, but Chloe has made my love for him even stronger. For when I look at him with her, my heart swells to a point that I'm holding back the tears and I am awestruck at just how amazing my life is and how lucky I am. Here together we have created this beautiful thing, this wonderful little person, who is the best of both of us and has the world laid at her feet. For her I would do anything. As clich├ęd as it is, she is my world. When she laughs and runs for me, its like the world pauses and all I can see and feel is the love pushing deep into my heart that I feel its warmth go flying up from my stomach into my throat. I want to smother her face with kisses and hold her forever. And whilst there are things that I could do without, the wonderful things FAR outweigh the lack of sleep and crying ringing in your ears. You learn to love completely! You see the world with wonder and think about your values more consciously. You live purposefully. You experience and give unconditional love. Its amazing! There are so many good, great, wonderfully wonderful life altering things like hearing mama for the first time; your first REAL slobbering kiss.... actually, ALL slobbering kisses. Hugs. Cuddles. Looks of love. Which without words let you know that she loves you and thinks you are the most beautiful person in the world. That she feels safe in your arms. That there is no where else she would rather be. then here. with you. For all these reasons and more, having a child makes your heart is so full... it. just. might. burst!

And so dear friends, know this - Parenting will bring you face-to-face with yourself. It may be terrifying. It may break you. But it will also rebuild you, and you will be stronger than you ever thought possible. There will be highs that are EPIC and the lows that are crushing, but the ride.... the ride will be thrilling. During this last year I have cried harder than I ever have. I have broken down on the balcony, cried in the kitchen, sobbed in the shower. Being a mum has stretched me to my very limits. I've felt insecure at times, and confident at others. I've been an amateur and a pro. I've been exhausted and exhilarated. I’ve swelled with pride and joy, and I’ve stood in awe. At myself, at Jarratt, at my mummy friends, at Chloe. I’ve been amazed and overwhelmed, grateful and relieved. I’ve learned sacrifice. I’ve earned wrinkles. *deep breathe* I’ve. Given. Birth. This year, I've done a lot and learnt ALOT! I’ve grown up. I've become more of who I know I was meant to be.
But above all else... I've had fun! I've become mum.