I have 4 kids and I still think “how did I get here? Who gave ME permission to be a grown up, where’s the rule book?
This thought was prompted by a friend and my sister who announced today that they’re doing their first ‘orientation’ for their kids to go to long day care. Neither of them feel grown up enough to be doing something as sensible as “day care orientation”. I can relate. I recall walking into my first mother’s group meeting at the ripe old age of 27 with my baby who was double the size of all other newborns and the other mother’s gasping when I told them my age. Ok, I get it, compared to the other old chooks in the room, I was the youngest, by about 7 years, but I immediately gave them more cudos in the ‘grown up’ stakes even though we were all first time parents.
The first realization that you’re responsible for another person is when the hospital let you off your leash and send you home with your newborn, without instructions. All you have is ‘the books’ but all your expert parent friends, your Mum and other experienced people tell you the books are rubbish and to go with what feels right. This either goes well or you don’t put the books down and the 11am sleep from the “Sleep Whisperer” means you’re stuck at home between 11am and 4pm each day because ‘the rules’ say 2 sleeps a day. I’ve yet to meet someone who gets it right with baby no 1 and can balance the books with gut instinct. Eventually you get to know your little person but the kindy orientation is a whole new category.
All of a sudden there are ‘rules’ about what foods you should put in lunch boxes, the number of times a nappy is changed at day care (eeek, I changed it when I realized it hadn’t been changed for a while), the very specific report lines and permissions you must give the centre on what happens if your child gets a fever, the number of changes of clothes they require and how often you need to take the sheets home to wash them. At home, you don’t follow those grown up rules, you just follow the “I will clean the bloody sheets when I find the time, ok”.
The level of responsibility and grown up for a parent increases exponentially with day care because you also start socializing with other parents and discussing the care/education/quality of care your child is getting with other parents oh, and you start getting birthday party invitations from random kids that your kid has befriended. It’s the first time you realize that parenting actually means you have to learn to be friends with strangers because your kids are friends. Again eek, that’s a grown up thing, for 10 years I had only liked my posse from school days and didn’t really have a need to meet ‘new people’.
My conversations this week have been a great example of how, after 4 kids, I still have to learn a few more ‘grown up’ rules. Miss 3 announced to me that she didn’t want to go to kindy or big school when she’s 5. “Why darling” I asked (trying not to roar at her and applying new age ‘must not yell at kids under any circumstances’ method of parenting because apparently I have a habit of yelling a bit) “Because you will make me eat fruit” she replied.
My mistake no 1 was somewhere between the age of 2 and 3, ignoring that Miss 3 had stopped eating fruit. Because my two older kids had some kind of rubbish in their recess each day, convenience dictated that Miss 3 got the same rubbish for pre-school. I completely forgot about the fruit (is a Roll Up classified as fruit?).
On Monday, Miss 3’s teacher pulled me aside to discuss the lack of said ‘fruit’ in her lunchbox. I wanted to crawl away and ask for forgiveness and a chance to start over in parenting Miss 3. It was a grown up conversation and I was being judged, big time, I wanted to laugh and say “good luck with that, I challenge YOU to make her eat fruit because I’ve tried and she’s the most stubborn three year old in the world, no, universe”.
I asked for forgiveness and pathetically tried to explain why sometimes I put blueberry muffins in her recess because they have blueberries in them (FAIL!). My next ungrown up and pathetic move was to ask the teachers to perhaps help ME help THEM by encouraging Miss 3 to each fruit for recess. They agreed, excellent parenting from me, once again, offloaded problem to someone else [insert guilt here]. So on Tuesday, Miss 3 went off to pre-school with fresh cold watermelon and lovely takeaway fork packed lovingly in a discarded thai takeaway container. It arrived back home last night completely untouched. I wasn’t sure if I should reprimand Miss 3 or call teacher and do an immature “I told you so” (see, still not grown up enough to accept that I am adult and you should eat what I bloody well tell you).
Anyway, before you judge, she can happily eat 2 bowls of mashed vegetables, as long as you don’t mention that they’re vegetables. Call it mash, and we’re ok. I’m in trouble when that charade ends.
The irony in all of this was that the best real grown up advice I received today came in the form of clever 24 year old staff member today who said “Buy a juicer and get her to help make her own fresh orange, apple, watermelon juice in the mornings” Derrrrr, why didn’t I think of that? Once again, trumped by someone younger than me using grown up technique that I should have perhaps thought of oh, years ago.
So I still have a load to learn and am sure that one day when I have a bazillion years parenting experience I’ll be telling my daughter to throw out the books, go with her gut instinct and I’ll be grown up enough by then to share all the tricks of trade on how to get little kids to eat fruit.