There’s a piece of old Judeo-Christian wisdom that says do not despise the day of small things.
The day of small things — these small people in my life, this is their day. This is their day to receive the first, hearty and essential building blocks of love and identity and language and trust and eye contact and discipline and play. This time in their lives is irreplaceable in a charged way that no other season of their lives will be.
Recently, I have been considering this day of small things for me too. What can I do today, even in a ten minute slot, that is an investment in my next, less hands-on-mummying season?
I can’t afford the time or energy to not be extremely cognisant about what I select and I’ll readily admit to being ridiculously over-ambitious and often unable to strike the right balance between feeling personally fulfilled and doing a fantabulous job as a mum (NOT that they are mutually exclusive but that’s why it’s such a complex dance).
It got me wondering what wisdom my fifty-year old self might have for me in this season of small satellites. When I am fifty, what things will I be so glad that I did? What things will I berate myself for having mistakenly thought were so important?
I got all social network about it and asked the parents of grown-up children what advice they would give to their younger, small-child-rearing selves. A couple of my other friends (viral!) asked their networks too and here are some of the wonderful words of wisdom that were happily eaten up by us hungry younger ones:
Be consistent. Never lie, like if you say “if you do that, I will…”. Do it. Explain why, never discipline in anger. Show lots of love, have lots of fun. Pick your battles.
Do the dishes later… Play with the kids when they ask
Don’t neglect the needs of your husband.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. In the grand scheme of things, your kids will remember your acceptance more than your performance.
Spend more time looking into their eyes than judging yourself about perfect order. Savor their realities in each moment because they will change. Give yourself a break and be able to say later that you were really present with them in each phase, to the best of your ability.
I would be softer–love them and discipline them, but gently. And enjoy!
Well I would say try and enjoy them as much as possible, time goes so quickly and when you are so busy and tired it’s hard to appreciate them. Leave anything that can be left and savour them.
The early years are foundation building years. Be confident as foundation builders- dig deep, choose the stones carefully. These are also years of discovering the depths of yourself – allow God in to rebuild you. He is the master builder. He is pretty good at dealing with failure! Then- ENJOY- celebrate the ordinary- make it extraordinary. I remember feeding babies in the dark and cold and thinking “you will never have this particular moment with this child again!” Oh yes-action is usually better than reaction!
As the default setting for mothers and women in general is ‘guilt’ then you need to ignore that for a start. Be sure to remember that you only have to be ‘good enough’ ( see Bowlby) and TRY to enjoy as much as you possibly can because as my mother-in-law used to say ‘your children’ are only lent to you. I used to think ‘what rubbish’ but now I know what she meant! X
It is without doubt that a mother (and let’s not forget fathers) is aiming to accomplish at least two things! 1) to rear a child that can function without issues around anxious attachment to their principle attachment object, usually mother in the early years and 2) that they complete the three phases of emotional development during the first 6 years of their lives, BUT don’t despair they ate given another opportunity to complete these building blocks during their adolescence! If you REALLY want to look into this on depth then I recommend ‘The Presenting Past’ by Michael Jacobs. It was a bit of a ‘bible’ for me when I was training with Relate [a counselling service]. The three stages are: Trust and Dependency; Authority and Control; Sexuality and Rivalry. When you think about 0-2, 2-4, 4-6 it is fairly easy to recognise these phases of development, I think!
My threepennyworth of advice would be: Hang in there! Forgive yourself your mistakes. Where there is love, they will know there is love. A lot of the time “it’s only a phase” as my mother so often said. I used to find that maddening but by the time I’d got to my fourth child I realised she was right.
Happy, thank you, more please!