I am a mother to 5 children now aged 30. 28, 26, 23 and 19 (I have 2 step children I inherited at age 10 and 11)
I see so many blog posts about the right and wrong way to care for your child. At what age they should be doing something and giving every stage of their lives a label and trying to ensure their child is not just average, but leading the way, a future leader.
Too many of the bloggers call themselves 'parenting experts' and have large followers of parents trying to achieve the same goals in life for themselves and their children. many of these bloggers also write posts about 'Mum shaming'
Expert advice on potty training, because they're on their second child and now qualify as an expert. The benefits to your child from 'baby wearing' the baby lead weening debate v's the force feeding your child with a spoon and the risks they may face later on in life. Co-sleeping, controlled crying.
How to choose the right school, 'is my child taking part in enough after school activities?' to 'Is your child taking part in too many after school activities'
'My child has limited screen time and then it's only education games they play'
'The benefits of allowing your 2 year old to have their own Ipad'
And healthy snacks for kids, fussy eaters, breast v's bottle and the list goes on.
I prefer to read and write in the style of experience. Sharing my experiences/stories of what happened, what we did and how we resolved issues. I hope I don't/never come across as telling people what and how to do things.
Every stage of parenting is a new experience and the memories of the last stage that were so important and time consuming get forgotten.
I know the dates my kids were born on, the day and the time is slightly hazy, I'd have to consult their red books.
The first child on a Friday, in the morning. The second child after Eastenders so a Tuesday or a Thursday (it was only on twice a week back then) the 3rd child? I have no idea.
Length of stay in hospital, 3 days, 1 night and home the same day. All induced, first child 10 days late, other 2 on their due dates.
No idea of the name of the midwife, not even sure if it's written down anywhere, but I do know the name of the hospitals.
1st day at school? Relief on both occasions for the first two as there was a younger sibling at home. Last child's 1st day? Freedom and back to work full time. I don't recall how I actually felt, I probably cried, I tend to, but I don't actually recall these emotions.
School chosen? The one over the road.
After school clubs, whatever they wanted.
Out of school clubs? Mainly football, cubs, gym, swimming.
Yes there were hassles, I was a full time taxi driver
Extra clothing and equipment and school uniform bought? 2nd hand shop, almost every time and hand me downs? I learnt some expensive mistakes.
School shoes? Woolworths.
Involvement in school? Too many wasted years on the PTA, too much fretting over baking cakes, reading records, dress up days, who got picked for the school play/team.
Party bags and who to invite to parties. In the village hall, the garden, the park, the odd cinema or bowling trip with a handful of friends.
We had no social media back them. I didn't even own a mobile phone and what internet we had was dial up on a desk top computer that took half an hour to load.
Our only competition/interference?
Our parents and other school mums in the village in which we lived in.
What I do remember and feel is important about raising our 5 children is the following:
How we listened to them and took their concerns seriously.
How we sat as a family at the table for dinner every night, even if only 2 of us were in.
How we set boundaries in regards to bed times, no tv's in rooms, mobile phone weren't a right of passage.
How we encouraged that an A for effort was all that mattered and reminded them that even if they failed an exam/test that they had worked their hardest towards it.
How we didn't have expectations of them attending University, but even before education was made compulsory to the age of 18, as a child they did not have the right at 16 to decide they were just going to sit at home all day, doing nothing.
The importance of part time jobs and earning pocket money.
Telling the children 'no' from time to time.
Teaching them the importance of understanding they wouldn't be picked every time for the school play/team and if they wanted something they needed to work harder for it.
Being last was OK, we're not all good at everything.
Letting them make decisions from informed and limited choices.
Taking them to visit grandparents, encouraging their relationship with the absent parent and families, regardless of how that made us feel.
Did we get it right as parents?
There have been complaints now all 5 children have reached adulthood, about what they saw was fair and not fair, about why 1 child was allowed to attend an activity that they couldn't do. It was probably about behaviour, family dynamics, costs.
We often talk about some of the 'moments' we had when things were really bad, stressful, when money was tight and I made costumes/outfits for school events that the child involved had a melt down and refused to wear a cardboard box, I'd decorated as one of the mister men to school.
We often recall some of the biggest strops, where a child wandered off and disappeared for hours in a foreign town because we refused to buy them a certain toy and they called me a 'crap mummy for the rest of the holiday.
All 5 of our kids now live independently, jobs, girlfriends, finances and one will be married in just under 2 weeks.
All our kids still speak to us, visit (at great expense as we live in Dubai) make an effort to come together when we're in the UK, occasionally ask us for guidance and support. They rarely ask for money, but we offer it. For the wedding, for the last child's deposit and first months rent.
When I look back at the top photo, all I see is a snap shot in time. I don't relate to how those small children became the adults they are today. I see them as they are now in the photo above. Well rounded adults with a future. I didn't know or couldn't predict their future back them. I didn't know we'd end up living abroad, leaving the 3 eldest ones in the UK as they'd already reached 18 and left home. All I can say is they developed their own personalities, made their own choices, failed and succeeded in all the things I mentioned above.
But I also didn't know at the time that at what age they reached certain milestones, were weaned, potty trained, sat up, crawled or walked wasn't going to matter in the long run, they are who they are now and if they want to make changes, it's up to them. But I can continue to be their mum, support and guide them, lead by example and encourage that A for effort.