On parenting (or childrearing) and learning to relax

Last night I slept. And slept. Amelia came in around 2am and went straight back to bed when told with only the slightest grizzle and then didn’t reappear until 6. Today I feel fantastic. I can’t believe that this is even an issue before the newborn arrives, but sleep is back on the agenda — Late pregnancy insomnia, loud rain, a child who still wakes several times during the night and a kicking inutero baby made it hard to get much rest this last week.
Anyway, while I am awake I have been watching The Gilmore Girls season one on dvd which is very soothing if you have the volume low enough so that you can’t really hear their frenetic conversation – nice to look at but not exactly stimulating so a good one to doze to, and last night I also started flicking through a book called “Parents who think too much” which is a parenting book that is all about how we should ignore parenting books (I think she wrote herself out of a job – this seems to be the only title of hers on Amazon).

I own a couple of parenting books (Baby Love and The Mighty Toddler by the wonderful Robin Barker, as well as The Complete Secrets of Happy Children by Steve Biddulph) all of which I love and would buy again in a heart beat, but I try not to read too many – and mainly settle on ones that don’t set out to make me feel guilty. But despite this I have recently decided that I still take parenting way more seriously than does anyone any good. As we were leaving my parent’s house the other day, Amelia started playing in the piles of autumn leaves on the footpath and as she scooped up a handful of leaves, Mum playfully suggested that she could throw them at the magpie who was standing nearby, eyeing off child-in-autumn-leaves suspiciously as magpies tend to do. Amelia loved the idea and took off after the magpie who had well and truly skidaddled at the meer mention of the word “magpie”.

I muttered something snarkily to Mum about how I try not to encourage aggressive behaviour towards animals, and she muttered something back about my Politically-Correct-Child. At first I was furious – I know it wasn’t meant to be nasty, not at all – more just a defensive retort to an aggressive comment but it certainly wasn’t meant as a compliment. I probably would have said something similar and perhaps it’s true that most of what I push could be labeled as PC, but I am not doing it for that reason, I am doing it because I think I believe in it. But then, in that next moment it came down on me that yes, I was over-reacting (again) and being ridiculous (again) and yes, I care too much about stuff that really doesn’t need caring about.

Afterall, next spring during nesting season, that magpie will probably swoop down and attempt to peck a hole in Amelia’s head protecting her own young and I will probably shout at it or wave a stick at it. I am sure a few leaves thrown in it’s general (retreating) direction in gleeful joy during Autumn won’t be keeping it awake at night, nor will it lead Amelia to a life of violent crimes.

I am making it hard for myself. I am becoming boring and earnest and controlling and I hate it!

I worry about safety, emotions, anxiety, sleep, the language I use when talking to her, the food I let her eat, tv, dvds, shoes that fit, too many extracurricular activities or not enough etc. and try to keep a tight reign over it all. It leaves me feeling exhausted, failing, flailing, joyless and stressed. Obviously none of these things are going to make for a happy child and a happy family, so I am quite pleased to read a book that makes me stop a little and think about not thinking too much (hmm! if that’s possible!) and to learn to trust my gut. I actually believe I have a gut worth trusting. Sometimes I just get out of the habit of doing so.

“I guess a lot of it comes down to what we think good parents ought to be. Well-informed or clearheaded? We attend so carefully to the “letter” of childrearing that we lose the “spirit” of it. We’re less nimble, less able to improvise, laugh and roll with the punches, which could be our greatest assets as parents. The harder we try, the harder raising children becomes. A by-the-book attitude can make us lose sight of the kind of family we want to create; it can even blind us to the dearness of our own children. How will we find the answers unless we follow our own dreams – not someone else’s? If there is any endeavor to which I want to be an amateur, it’s raising my own kids.” – Anne Cassidy “Parents who think too Much”