So why do we as parents sometimes feel like we aren’t doing a good enough job or feel there is competition amongst other parents… there was one area I discovered a few weeks ago that could attribute.
I received my son’s 2-year review pack in the post and thought ‘oh here we go, lots of activities to test like at the one-year one’. How many of us run around the house checking what our 2-year-olds can do?! Like frantic idiots we search the house for seven blocks ̶ can he pile that many on top of each other?! We get them to go up and down stairs several times just to make absolutely sure they can do it on their own. The poor child was exhausted! Can they say several words together, but not all gone or bye bye, oh no those words don’t count! (no idea why not, they are still talking aren’t they?!) So over the next few days, you listen to every possible sentence your tiny tot has managed to put together and jot them down in the book whilst asking your hubby does that combination count?! (God forbid I get the combination wrong).
The best part for me had to be searching for a piece of string and putting it in front of my child with pasta and asking him to thread it on. He looked at me like I had finally gone crazy ̶ ‘yep Mum that’s it I finally did send you over the edge, heehee’. Trying to explain to a 2 year old to put this pasta on can become quite comical, he actually stood up, looked at me and proceeded to go to the cupboard and get the colander out ̶ yes I did think to myself he’s not stupid, the people who write these booklets quite possibly are though; my toddler knows that you cook pasta, you don’t thread it onto string!
So off we trot to his appointment, with me feeling quite happy that I’ve been a good Mummy and ticked my boxes and turned up on time with a clean child. We sit and go over my answers and I think ‘yes, I’ve got this nailed’ (as if I’m in some sort of job interview that I didn’t apply for!) It starts off quite well, with my tot feeling so relaxed that he walks straight in, says hello and proceeds to remove his shoes and socks! But then the question comes up about the dummy, do not even get me started… I will brush over this bit for the sake of everyone reading (yes he has a dummy. The suggestion that I must take it away cold turkey that weekend, from the HV, was received with a nod but in my head a ‘yeah right’. There was no way he was ready and arguing this point was not getting me anywhere).
The question (and response) that really did infuriate me was the one about what activities or groups do I go to? I responded with I take him to baby gymnastics once a week, we swim every week, we go to soft play most weeks, we see family and my sister nanny’s a 4-year-old who we see about 3 times a week. He also has little friends his own age, he has cousins his age and we go dog walking quite often. I was kinda expecting a gold medal for this one! Sadly, not. Her response was that he needed to go to more baby groups as they are good for socialisation and it was very important to be socialising him more than I already was. Shocked, I answered her again with everything we do every week, all the people we see and how confident and happy he is to talk anyone. She reiterated her point about him needing to be socialised and informed me that the new timetable was out for the children’s centres and that I needed to go home and enrol in some new classes. I could not believe that after all my preparation for the meeting, all that I do to stimulate my child, to fill our weeks, to give him the best activities that I can think of, that somehow (I don’t know if she thought I could add an 8th day into my week or maybe I’m supposed to hire a cleaner?!) I could try going to baby classes on top of it all. There really is only so much that my toddler and I can stand and singing nursery rhymes in every single class, learning sign to every single song and repeatedly doing footprint paintings are a few of the things we can do without.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have tried groups and enjoyed a couple of them (massage and PEEP babies were both worthwhile). Unfortunately baby sensory didn’t do it for me and I left after two sessions as I could no longer listen to the patronising voice of the leader. We even started at a playgroup and for a while, it went ok, until he discovered how to try and escape out of the front door! He would literally strop about being there, he hated the story time, he would run around during the songs and refused to join in. Yet you put him in an environment where he can be extremely active, use his brain and run around and he is the happiest little chappy. The decision to buy 2 season tickets last year was the best thing I could have done. We spent so much time at our local country park and an animal park and we both loved it ̶ loads of memories were made and pictures taken and at the same time he was getting fresh air, learning from me and the parks as well as getting exercise. In my eyes I am doing what is the best for my child- after all, I am the person who knows him best!
I came away from my yearly review concerned how some Mothers may have taken that reaction. There are some Mums out there who may feel a little insecure and could panic, worry and think they weren’t doing a good enough job. They may come away and sign up to every group going just to be seen as doing what they think they are supposed to be. They may even start to compare themselves to others and this is then where parenting can become a competition… it should never be this!
In my personal view, if you spend most days with your child and you know their needs then you know what is best, not someone who meets them for half an hour one day. It is laughable to be told that your child needs to be socialised more when he see’s different people every single day. Let’s not get bogged down with these booklets and tick boxes and classes. Let’s not fret about whether or not they should be having dummies, bottles or juice or vitamins. Let’s enjoy having fun and doing activities we like to do. Hey, we aren’t all Mumsy Mums, I certainly am not. I didn’t read one book about the baby before he came (only about the pregnancy), I didn’t bake any baby led weaning biscuits and I do not spend my days cooking wholesome meals.
I enjoy my week, my son makes me laugh every day and he is such a great little character. I wouldn’t change his routine or what he likes to do for anybody.
If we all ticked every single box, we would all be the same and the world would be a very dull place.