The P Word

Muddling my way through parenting

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Is this ‘just a phase’?

Perhaps starting this blog was madness. Waxing lyrical about how great parenting is – hopefully seasoned with a dose of realism throughout – was always going to make life a bit tricky.

You know what I mean: that kind of self-fulfilling prophesy – or perhaps self-inflicted expectation – that in providing something which aims to support other parents, it was fairly likely to coincide with a bit of a crisis of confidence in my own parenting style.

You see, I reckon the past few weeks have been some of my hardest as a parent. No, I haven’t lost all perspective: those who know me well will be familiar with the fact that child #1 underwent major surgery on his head aged 19 months, that I struggled through several months of my wife’s second dose of severe morning sickness while juggling work/childcare/husband duties, not to mention the hidden (and flatly denied) strain of living through a wife with post-natal depression. More of that to come in a future post …

man pulling hair out

This isn’t me – although I know how he feels!

But nonetheless, these past few weeks have been tricky. Child #2 is testing the boundaries on all fronts. Child #1 appears to find it all very amusing, and is contributing the mini-rebellion with increasing gusto. My own tiredness, stress levels, and (perhaps) other non-work commitments have contributed to a lack of patience with both kids.

So, in times of frustration/pressure, where do I turn? Firstly, I look to the support networks around me, my family, friends (although usually not unless prompted) and faith (even though this morning’s church sermon reminded me how I all-too-often sideline this option until the circumstances become more extreme).

Perhaps this is also a good time to reflect on a couple of ‘lightbulb moments’ that I’ve had in my parenting journey so far:

1. I don’t have all the answers

This is perhaps an obvious one, and it’s hard to pin down to a precise moment. It might have come when I first struggled to put a nappy on, but it was definitely within those first 24-48 hours of dadhood. Quite simply, I’m nearly always out of my depth, I make mistakes on a daily basis, and I just hope that I’m muddling through well enough to not mess things up too badly for my kids. I guess most parents can relate to some of that.

2. Getting to know who my kids really are

Being trained by Care for the Family to run their ‘Time Out …’ courses was primarily to equip me to facilitate courses for other parents. But those few short days also taught me so much more about my own role as a father and has helped strengthen relationships with my children.

The ‘lightbulb moment’ that I keep coming back to was about children’s personality types. While acknowledging that children cannot be pigeon-holed into one narrow category (and most will reflect many contradicting characteristics as they grow and develop), the three most basic categories (which are formed as a combination of nine different personality traits, if you’re being more scientific about it) were divided into: easy, hard and ‘slow to warn up’ . The latter option doesn’t exactly have a catchy title, but it’s so true for many children.

I have to admit, before that day I had often mistaken child #1 as ‘difficult’, when he actually demonstrated all the hallmarks of a child who is slow to warm up. Basically, he is more prone to do as requested or respond in a positive manner when things aren’t just thrown at him (not literally, of course!). I had often mistaken his energy, passion and adventurous spirit as a child who could be ‘difficult’ just because it can be physically exhausting to keep up with  him!

If we want him to go to the table/bed/bath/school, if he’s given a five-minute warning we’re far more likely to have an easy transition to whatever’s coming up as the next phase of the day. Of course it’s not always that simple, but realising that he often needs a bit (OK, a lot) of thinking time to adjust to what’s about to happen has made life easier (for both me and him) on many occasions since then. It’s almost like as a toddler he kept on having these un-articulated thoughts of ‘Hey, Dad, just give me a chance!’

There’s a lot more to being ‘slow to warm up’, but it’s getting late and I don’t want to make this another lengthy post. Perhaps I’ll touch on other elements on this ‘type’ of child in the future.

So, this week I’m determined to be a bit easier on myself, I’ll re-commit myself to being more understanding of my children’s differing points of view – and hopefully enjoy some more chilled out, fun family times as a result.

But I’m intrigued: what have been some of your most helpful ‘lightbulb moments’?

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