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137 JULY 2010
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Ready or not

Liz Laidlaw

I am still in shock over being a parent. I’m not a total neophyte – I have two children, four and a half and almost one – but I am still sometimes so surprised at my position of authority and responsibility that I’m actually dumbstruck. It is an awesome thing being a parent, and sometimes in all the running around after little ones and doing endless errands, writing and misplacing lists, feeding people, wiping noses, changing diapers, mopping floors, cleaning high chairs, chasing dust and pulling the vacuum around, taking care of booboo's, finding lost items (Where’s my Barbie? Where are my scissors? I can’t find my sunhat/shoes/“Wednesday” underwear etc.), cleaning up and processing laundry I seem to have lost track of the big picture here.

This is not the same as the shock that comes just after having your first baby. A friend of mine talked about the “steep learning curve” she experienced after her first baby and I agree. No matter how many books I had read or how many people I had talked to, I was in no way actually prepared for the warm little life that was suddenly mine to care for. The second child is easier in that way “I wasn’t shocked when he barfed on me and peed on me or by how much he needed to be nursed or by how little he slept. No, this shock at being a parent is different.

My daughter will be starting school in September and I’m having trouble coming to grips with this. I wonder if I’ve told her all the things that she needs to know. Have I prepped her appropriately, will she do what the teacher asks her to do? Will she be able to assert herself and say “no” when she needs to? Will she cave to peer pressure? Will she be polite and respectful and caring to others? Have I set an example for her that will help her through this? Was I conscious and vigilant that I was setting an example for my daughter at all times (I sadly know the answer to this question)?

When people told me that they had cried when their children started school I rolled my eyes (kind of like my daughter rolls her eyes at me now, an illustration of setting a poor example). All I could think about was how wonderful it would be to have my child go to school so I could have a few hours to my self and maybe catch up on sleep or read a book or finish the weekend newspaper. And now I will be the one sobbing when I take my daughter to school in September. I wonder if I have spent enough time with her talking about all the important things in life and if I’ve taught her anything of any use, not just how to wipe her bum and not to run in parking lots, but how to be kind to people but not too kind if they are strangers and how to respect people and treat them the way she wishes to be treated and not to do stuff just because an older child tells her to do it. And have I taught her to self calm and problem solve, to accept that not everything will work out the way she wants it to? Have I taught her to find the joy in little things and to become passionate about something – anything, and to find a physical activity she can enjoy and excel at and have for life? Have I taught her to take care of her body and eat healthy foods and drink lots of water?

Maybe I should have spent less time on the little picture and more time on the big picture. Instead of trying to convince my kids that the mundane things in life were fun (pulling weeds in the garden is FUN, grocery shopping is FUN) and rushing from A to B, we should have been having more serious discussions about the world and our place in it.

And then I remember that I have spent a lot of time gazing into my children's eyes and that conversely, they have spent a lot of time gazing into my eyes. And I remember that they have taught me so much, mainly how to be patient and how to be enchanted with a broken seashell and a blade of grass and a twig from a tree. And they have taught me to see joy in the little things and to be very, very passionate about something.

So my daughter can teach my son to roll his eyes at me “he should have it perfected by the time he’s two. Then he and I can go grocery shopping while she’s at school and I'll say “really, grocery shopping is fun!” And he can practice rolling his eyes at me while I try and think of something “important” to teach him while we cruise for lettuce and cucumbers and whatever else was on the shopping list that has gone astray.

This feature: Laidlaw, L. (2007). Ready or not. Relational Child Youth Care Practice, 17, 3.

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