Hey, remember back when you thought you had parenthood all sewn up? Cast your mind back to w-a-y before you had kids. Back when - armed with nothing more than your judgemental observations of other parents and a breath-taking degree of naivety - you had views on everything from handling tantrums to tackling toilet training.
My friend Liza has a name for people like that - the kind of people most of us were before our kids came along. ‘Backseat parents,’ she calls them.“I was one,” she says. “I reckon we all were until we actually had kids."
"You know they type; despite never having been parents, they happily dispense their pearls of parental wisdom to unsuspecting friends and family - before skipping home to their immaculately tidy houses where they sleep uninterrupted for at least eight blissful hours. But the moment they have a child of their own, everything changes.”
Yep, I was one of 'those' people. So as an act of an attrition, here is my confession. These are just three of the many stupid things I fervently believed about how to be a brilliant parent. Before I actually met my kids...
I’ll never leave my child to ‘cry it out’
Then: Yeah yeah, I know it’s controversial and I’m still theoretically of the view that leaving a child to cry is a terrible idea. But the thing about parenting is that theories offer little comfort at 3am when you’re pacing the floor for the sixth consecutive night and contemplating throwing yourself out of the window on the basis that they at least let you sleep in hospital.
Now: Until you’ve battled with a sleepless baby night after spirit-crushing night, you just can’t begin to comprehend how doo-lally sleep-deprivation can send a person. So quite frankly, I think it should be the law that you’re not allowed an opinion on crying it out until you’ve encountered this degree of sleep-deprivation. I laugh in the face of my anti-crying-it-out younger self now, and admit that I have, on occasion and in desperation, left my child to cry. Invariably I’ve spent those interminable moments lying face down on the floor bawling my eyes out too, so I still don’t think you could call me big fan of crying it out, but now I understand that being a parent can drive you to extremes that your pre-parent self just couldn’t comprehend.
No toddler of mine will ever have a dummy
Then: Before you have kids, you see dummies as some sort of badge of parental dishonour. You might just about tolerate their use by parents of babies aged under six months, but the sight of a child who can actually walk and talk sucking on a grimy bit of plastic shoved in their gob has you rolling your eyes and clutching your pearls in disdain. Any child who uses a dummy once she’s old enough to ask for it clearly has a feckless, lazy parent who hasn’t bothered to teach her child to self-soothe. That's what I actually thought.
Now: Let’s just say my daughter is over eighteen months old and ‘do-do’ - her pet-name for her beloved dummy - was one of her very first words. So shoot me. What pre-kids me didn’t understand is that it’s pretty discombobulating when your third child forms a huge attachment to her dummy - which your other children never did - and thus, as a reasonably seasoned and experienced parent, it’s pretty weird to find yourself having no clue how to part your child from her ‘soother’. After all, it soothes her like nothing else on earth, helping her get to sleep like a charm. And even the sight of it is enough to dry her tears when she trips or bumps her head. Am I going to forcibly remove the most comforting thing she knows from her possession? Am I heck. You don’t like it? I'll try to look bothered.
My child will only eat home-prepared, organic food
Then: We bought those pricy weaning books before our babies even had teeth, and we shopped at farmers’ markets for over-priced punnets of middle-class blueberries, and we steamed and we pureed and we batch-froze in little ice cube trays as if our little darlings' lives depended on it,.
Now: Our kids met ketchup. The end.
If you were you a back-seat parent before you kids arrived we'd love to hear what ridiculously naive notions you held dear...