Five things I thought I knew about parenting

“Take the path of least resistance” was the wise advice from Fiona Kennedy in this week’s blog interview. This is certainly the path we took in our house this morning, which is how the two-year-old ended up in our bed at 5.15am watching Mickey Mouse on YouTube. If I’d had chocolate to hand, he’d have had that too.

This is quite a divergence from the path I thought I’d follow, six short years ago when I embarked on the journey to human-being-raising.

I really didn’t know a lot about parenting and didn’t have any illusions about how vast my knowledge gap was. But there were a few things I knew I’d NEVER do:

1. I would never use a soother

What I thought:

Soothers are TERRIBLE. I’m not sure exactly why they’re so bad, something to do with dependency and speech and teeth maybe, but anyway, I know they are bad news and no child of mine will have a soother.

What actually happened:

I lasted seven long weeks before caving – seven weeks of walking the floors with my firstborn; rocking and feeding and wondering what the hell I was doing wrong and walking some more. Then I popped a soother in her mouth – it was magical. No really, it was the closest thing to real magic that I’ve ever witnessed. She stopped crying. And we lived happily ever after. Subsequent babies didn’t have to wait seven weeks for the magic.

no soother, honest..
no soother, honest..

2. I would never bring a baby into bed

What I thought:

Everyone says DO NOT LET THE BABY INTO THE BED. This seems to be a serious one – apparently once they’re in, they never leave. So for the love of God, whatever else happens, don’t let the baby into the bed.

What actually happened:

Again with baby-number-one, I resisted and resisted, sitting up to feed her at night and then carefully transferring her back to her cot. With baby-two, I did the same. Baby-three was the worst sleeper of all time, but still I resisted for five months, those ominous warnings ringing in my ears: do not bring them into the bed; they will never leave.

But it all became too much. Months of broken sleep, a broken spirit, and then a broken resolution. The baby came into the bed. And I got some sleep. Not loads actually, but a bit more, just enough to save my sanity and stop me selling him on ebay. And the ominous warning may have had a ring of truth – this morning’s 5am Mickey Mouse viewing was not a unique event. But hey, we’re all still sane and we’re feeling far better than we did this time two years ago. You do what you have to do.

3. I would never let my kids watch too much TV

What I thought:

Of course, when the time comes, I’ll let my children watch a little TV – I’m sure there are some very educational programs out there, and ten minutes on weekend afternoons won’t hurt. I don’t want them to be the only kids in school who don’t know what a television is.

What actually happened:

Mickey Mouse at 5am is not the only TV that the toddler watches – he also has his nightly fix of Disney Junior along with his two big sisters. The three of them are obsessed with TV; If I left it on all day, they would watch it all day.

So I let them watch three cartoons at tea-time each evening. And sometimes when the third one is over, and they say that it was very short, I let them have a fourth. Especially if I’m in the middle of a just-perfect-temperature-and-strength cup of tea. They definitely watch too much TV and I’m definitely going to sort that out, just not today.

image credit: Wikipedia
image credit: Wikipedia

4. I would never feed McDonalds to my children

What I thought:

I don’t even like McDonalds food myself, so I can’t see why I’d ever bring my kids there. Anyway, I’ll probably be far too busy cooking healthy food from scratch every evening after work while the children play happily at my feet.

What actually happened:

My kids know all about McDonalds; in particular McDonalds in France, where we go on the way to and from the ferry every year, because it’s just so much easier than trying to find a restaurant that’s a) open when it’s not lunchtime b)  suitable for three small, tired, cross, travel-weary, hungry children. Only one such place exists. They don’t call them Happy Meals for nothing.

5. I would never use bribery

What I thought:

Bribery isn’t a good way to get kids to do what you want them to do, so I won’t use bribery. I’ll find more constructive parenting methods and in the end they’ll just do what they’re asked, because they’ll know it’s the right thing to do.

What actually happened:

I found a way to circumvent this one – to tell myself I don’t bribe my kids. I use a “subtle hint” system. For example, there’s a taxi outside for a rare night out, and one child is telling me she can’t sleep if I go out and that she’s coming downstairs with me. I reply “But you need your sleep – I was just thinking we might go to the playground tomorrow and for coffee after but you need lots of energy for that. If you’re too tired, we won’t be able to go … ”

I convince myself that I’m not really using bribery; meanwhile my child very clearly hears the message that if she doesn’t go to bed she’s not going to the playground. Win-win. OK, I know it’s not remotely win-win and the parenting books would be cross with me, but when there’s a taxi outside, it’s the path of least resistance.

Now, I should really write down all the stuff I’m not going to do when they’re teens. I’m sure that’s all very straightforward.

image credit: ingredientsinc.net
image credit: ingredientsinc.net

Anyone else backtrack spectacularly?

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28 thoughts on “Five things I thought I knew about parenting”

  1. The nice people in the hospital gave me a soother, so I used it. Both my babies rejected the soother at about 7 months when they decided they preferred the sort that was attached to mommy and had milk in it, but until then it was, at times, a godsend. No guilt there.
    Christine recently posted…Moving!My Profile

    1. I agree – a godsend. I’ve no idea at all why I was so against them. We set such ridiculous and pointless standards for ourselves sometimes.
      And yay for your WP commenting working now!

  2. My two had no interest in soothers but I often wished they had…the amount of people who think you’re some sort of superwoman because your child doesn’t use a soother is overwhelming, I was exhausted from explaining they always had little comfort blankets in their hands and if we lost or dropped one I’d take one of another five straight out of my bag! I have to admit to being absolutely shocked by your revelation that you didn’t have any chocolate to hand, that is a very distressing thought for me!!!

    1. I will admit Joanna that I’m guilty of assuming in the past that every child who doesn’t have a soother is the offspring of a super-mom who resisted where I couldn’t! Now I know that plenty of babies have no interest at all. I didn’t know where the “I was shocked” sentence was going for a minute 🙂

  3. Oh yes, I am afraid to even list out the things I said I would never do…. I would shock myself with how many resolutions I broke but how naive was I! Soother, funny, held out to number three with this one, when he was about a week old my mum took him from me at 2 am and walked him in the sitting room for two hours so I could sleep off some of the mastitis, when I came to relieve her she sheepishly told me she had given him a soother and he loved it. I hugged her and said happy days and it was a revelation, only sorry I didn’t do it with the other two ;0)
    Naomi Lavelle recently posted…Slugs and snails … and puppy dog tailsMy Profile

    1. Oh Naomi I love that – I love what your mum did and how you reacted! I know – what are we all doing walking the floors when there’s this little magic button out there….

  4. Amen to the soother, TV and bed sharing..I’m with you on all of those! Great intentions to start with though, so an effort was made on our part 🙂 I’m sure I will resort to McDonalds and bribery as L gets older!!
    Louise (@TattooedMumsy) recently posted…7 MonthsMy Profile

    1. It’s probably good that we all make an effort at the start too! Bribery doesn’t really work long-term as a strategy I find, so I reserve it for emergencies (by that I mean daily emergencies 🙂 )

  5. Oh Lord….I could so have written this post (though not as well ), except for the McDonalds…haven’t caved on that one yet!! Soothers were a source of huge distain pre children and held out on them first until 2 months…hell on earth! Had them packed in the hospital bag for the rest of them!
    I also maintained that I would never raise my voice to my children…that plan spectacularly backfired on me!!

    1. I would love to meet the parent who manages to never raise their voice … I think a little bit of voice raising is necessary sometimes just to be heard above the din!

  6. Love it!! The only one I didn’t do was the soother. And that was because I didn’t need to. I used my boob. Actually on second thoughts…………..

    And I LOVED taking them into the bed with me. I still do. Right now our 4.5 year old is looking like coming down with a bug and I am looking forward to him appearing at my bedside around midnight. Love the little warm body in beside me.

    Not a fan of MacAbominables either but a funny thing. We very often end up there at 9am on a Sunday morning on the way to the supermarket for a pancake breakfast.

    Great post. Nodded at it all!
    Wonderful Wagon recently posted…The Beauty of School MeetingsMy Profile

    1. See that’s it – I thought boob was supposed to mean no need for soother, but I now think some kids (or parents!) need something extra.

      I love when my four year old hops into bed because she just snuggles quietly in. The two year old on the other hand mostly thrashes around, lies on my head, throws himself across his dad, then starts looking for the phone and we give in. I do look forward to a time when he is more snuggly and less hyper!

  7. Ha ha!Yes to pretty much all of these and so much more!Mini never made it into our bed as she was never exclusively breastfed, so we would sleep in shifts-me I’d feed her at 7pm, put her to bed, hop into bed myself about 8 or 9, Dom would come home and feed her at 11pm, then Id get up at 3am and he’d do the 7am feed. This has completely gone out the window with Mini Mini as she’s breastfed, I don’t really have to get out of bed-just lean over, scoop her out of her Moses basket, and pop her back when shes finished. Except I end up falling asleep after I feed her and she stays in the bed with us. Dom is freaked out as now that shes in he thinks she’s never going to leave but she will!Won’t she??
    Aedin recently posted…Mini competitiveness and a little regretMy Profile

    1. She will! And in the meantime, you’re less tired so everyone is happier. And it’s very snuggly. And you’ll miss these times when she’s a teenager sneaking in from discos 😉
      My two year old was in with us last night as he’s not well and it was so nice to cuddle into him. But he’s old enough now that he understands that under normal circumstances he sleeps in a cot. Mostly 😉

  8. Love this post! Am 23weeks pregnant…first baby…
    These honest posts put my fear at ease. I’m reading as many books and mummy bibles as I can right now. But I definitely have the FEAR that I won’t know what’s right or wrong, and what if I don’t stick to what’s ‘expected’….lovely to read that it doesn’t matter, and it can lead to a happy ever after!

    1. hi Anna, lovely to see you here and congratulations on the pregnancy! It is definitely, definitely fine to go not do what’s “expected”. There are some absolute wrongs but not many and they are at the extreme end (I’m talking “do not feed your child a big mac every day” type things).
      Most of the rest is down to you and your individual baby and going with your gut. I think people worry about not having instincts but that’s where all the reading you’re doing will help – it will give you the confidence to trust your own judgement. There’s a post coming soon called “Information is power” about that exact point 🙂

  9. Loved this. But then I really enjoy all your posts!
    I feel so guilty about letting my 21 month old watch tv. But bob the builder is educational – right?
    I wanted to give her a soother but DH refused. So she is still using her mammy as a soother all during the night;-)

    1. Mammies are very soothing indeed 🙂
      And of course Bob the Builder is educational – think about all the building and DIY your daughter will know how to do when she’s older!!
      Thanks a million for reading and commenting

  10. Happy to read your post as I had a great plan before the kids came along, that didn’t involve sweets during the week. And had the two eldest taken to the soother at all and been content I would have jumped for joy

    1. I’d say you’re as well off to have escaped without using one really – and I found my three were sucky kids anyway – it didn’t seem to reduce the time they spent breastfeeding but it did soothe them in the car or when they were tired and cranky in the evening. Still, might be worth a try next time 🙂

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