They always say that you are just practicing with your first child don’t they? Who “they” are I’m not entirely sure but it’s something I hear bandied about by parents (usually Grandparents) far more experienced than me. I’m not really keen on the whole concept but I get the idea. Nobody really knows what they’re doing once they delicately place that tiny bundle down on the living room carpet in that hideously overpriced car seat. No baby books can really prepare you for it can they? And I think that continues forever really. They will always be your first child and every year, milestone and phase that they hit are new for you whether they are turning one or eighteen. But what about your second child?
They may very well be a wildly different kettle of fish personality-wise but you have broached these waters in some form or other before haven’t you. It’s not completely unchartered territory. There’s a large ten year age gap between my two and I felt like I’d learned a helluva lot from ten years in the parenting profession once Sophie (finally) made an appearance. I know for instance that having a plan of the type of parent you want to be is probably a waste of time. It just kind of happens no matter how many Contented Baby books you gobble up.
But there are definitely a few things that I will and am doing differently this time around which I wanted to write down and share with you. You might benefit from my ten years of hindsight (a wonderful thing) or maybe just nod along in solidarity. Either way, here goes:
I will not read baby / parenting books
I devoured every type of parenting manual when I was pregnant with Zak. Birthing books, how to get your baby to sleep books, Supernanny manuals – the lot. This time around not one has graced my bookshelf (well, my Kindle anyway) and I don’t bother to read forums or take parenting advice online anymore either unless I’m particularly stuck on a particular issue.
Some people might consider that arrogant but honestly I don’t care. There are so many rules and that I just can’t keep up. Perhaps there’s some irony in the fact that I’m a parenting blogger and might be seen to be dispensing such advice myself. But you know what? The difference with me is, everything I say is just my opinion and it will never come with the unspoken message that if you don’t follow the advice, you will screw your child up for life. What a load of rubbish. You won’t. I won’t. We won’t.
I’ve ditched the parenting advice, the measuring of development, the statistics and the growth charts. Instead I just try to relax, trust my instincts and enjoy the moment.
I will try to include time outdoors each day
I have a new found love of fitness. Yes me. Stop rolling your eyes.
I want to share that with my children and this time around I’m making an effort to get out and about no matter the weather. Ok, if there’s a force 9 gale blowing a hooley outside then I will make an exception but otherwise, out we go. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to get us up, moving and exploring.
As a toddler that means the park, soft play and the local beach are a daily fixture for Sophie. I don’t know if it’s because of this but she now doesn’t do well being cooped up inside. Or in other words she drives herself and everyone else batsh!t crazy if we have to spend all day indoors.
Activity and lots of it are definitely something I am placing more importance on this time round.
I will video, capture and document our time together before it is gone
You know when you wake up one day and your gorgeous baby boy is now a strapping, hulk of a man-child? Yeah well, I never thought it would happen to me either and yet it has. My boy is 11, almost as tall as I am and with the ‘tude to match.
The same will inevitably happen with my baby girl (less man-child and more stroppy teenage girl Im hoping!!) and although those days feel far off, I know that in reality, they will come around all too soon. With that in mind came my YouTube channel, capturing on film her development and our everyday moments. I know that one day I will look back on these very average but incredibly special early years, weep at how little she was and be so, so glad that I immortalised the little moments on camera.
I will not peep the phrase “be careful” at every hair-raising antic that comes her way
I feel like my anxiety as a parent was out of control at times with my first child. Obviously it’s completely normal to want to protect your child but I want her to explore and find her own physical limits. Don’t get me wrong, I will be there to catch her if she falls and it goes without saying that I would never let her do something inherently dangerous but for the most part I try not to dampen her thirst for life by peeping my little warnings over her shoulder. This one is something I have to consciously work hard at. But I’m trying.
I will encourage her to be a child for as long as possible
Let them be little. This world is absolutely intent on forcing precocious behaviour on our children. Exposing them to the big wide world and all the negativity and hyper-sexualisation that is floating around is something I didn’t really think about with my first child. I think about it a lot now though and I would really like to shelter her from becoming too grown up too soon. This is a big subject for another time but I intend to keep her little for as long as she can happily be so.
I will parent her in the way that she needs as an individual
My children are in some ways similar but in many ways absolute chalk and cheese. This means that the tactics I’ve built up with Zak will probably not work with Sophie. It’s almost as though she is a first child in this respect and I am trying to re-learn how to parent her in the way that she needs as an individual. It’s a work in progress but it includes listening more to her and learning to talk to her using her personal communication style. Sounds a bit hippy / new-age of me but I’m surprised to say I find myself leaning that way in my thirties. For instance I always ask her if I can wipe her face when she has finished eating. It does tend to raise eyebrows with people when they hear me doing this but I’ve learned that she finds it overwhelming if you just lunge at her face with a wet wipe. I get that because I’d hate it too. It’s the little things with this one.
I will not provide ‘options’ at meal times for a fussy eater
Zak was really fussy and I not only allowed it but I pandered to it. He is still being fussy to this day but as I’ve started standing my ground he has vastly improved.
This time round, almost from the weaning stage, Sophie has been fed the same food we are all eating. There is no option B unless perhaps she has been sick and would only fancy a little nibble of something. I’m not militant obviously.
Perhaps controversially, I have also made the decision not to ask her to finish everything on her plate. I’d rather she ate to match her appetite and not a set portion size. As with all of the children in our house though, if she hasn’t finished what’s offered, there is no dessert on offer. I hope that this will set her up for an adult life where she might have a healthy appetite but will be able to self-regulate and know when to stop. Something her mother is very bad at!
I will trust my instincts and stand my ground when it comes to health and development
This one perhaps comes when you’ve had a very seriously ill child. Zak had Meningitis at around 18 months old and it was harrowing. He has very luckily come out of the other side but it’s not until you are faced with your worst nightmare that you really know how you will react or what you will learn. I learnt that my instincts when it comes to my children’s health are right and to be trusted. I learnt not to ever be dismissed my a doctor when I really felt something was wrong. I learnt that a mothers instinct is one of the most powerful things in the world.
I had a similar experience with Sophie who had whooping cough at 4 months old. It was terrifying watching her choke, go blue and stop breathing over and over again. It was frustrating being told it was a viral chest infection. I was told that she couldn’t have whooping cough because she had been vaccinated. After doing my own research, I pushed and pushed and pushed the consultant to the point where I refused to leave the hospital. And I was right, she did have whooping cough. I wasn’t afraid to stand my ground this time.
I will not try to be the perfect mum
Mum guilt is an ever present part of my life as a parent but this time round I have shrugged it off a lot more than I did when Zak was younger. I know who I am and what I like. I know I am never going to be an organised, crafty Pinterest mum. My house will probably always be a bit messy and in reality just a little bit dirtier than it should be. I do take my kids to McDonalds every so often. I hate all school events and PTA mum chit-chat and I will always need to work and have time out from my family. This has never really been any different but the change is that this time round I am not ashamed to admit it. It’s ok not to be the so-called “perfect” parent because I know that to my children, I am perfect.
I love them passionately, I am excited to help them find themselves, discover the world and grow into amazing human beings. I am silly and light hearted. I am impulsive and fun with them. I adore and worship them, guide them, teach them things and instil in them a love for themselves. My kids might have fish fingers for tea two days in a row, might play on a floor that really needs hoovering before they do that and might never really know the joys of crafts but they will know they are everything to me, that they are so loved and that I have all the time in the world for them.
And so after all that, if I achieve none of the above it won’t matter a jot. My children both first and second will be raised feeling safe, feeling loved and feeling like they matter and that is what really counts.
So what about you? I’d love to know what you would do differently with a second or subsequent child or what you have done differently this time around. Leave me a comment below.
Until next time