Tuesday, 27 January 2015

How to LET IT GO as a parent...

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When I reached the final trimester of my first pregnancy (cue fireworks and fanfare), I was well prepared for the impending arrival of a miniature human - or so I thought. Birth plan written up? Check. Hospital bag packed? Check. They told me all the things I needed to prepare for being a parent: the lists of nursery goods and baby clothes. Are you all set? People would ask, as though anyone can be truly prepared for their world getting turned upside down. Yep, all set.

Of course I had no idea how having a child would make me feel and in some respects nothing can ever prepare you for that. When you plan for a baby the emphasis is always on the physical, but no matter how pretty your nursery curtains are, you will not be taking note of the cute elephant pattern on them when you're rocking a screaming baby to sleep at three o'clock in the morning. It's impossible to describe to anyone how somebody so small can make you so incredibly high on life one minute and so ridiculously teary the next. You will most likely wish you'd had something in place to deal with those inevitable, temporary moments of despair. Well, here are the three words that have helped me to really prepare for being a parent. Let. It. Go.

No, don't sing the Frozen soundtrack (though, hey, if it helps go for it). People will tell you what to expect when you're expecting, which is all good and well, but what worked for someone else may not work for you. There is no one size fits all, no rule book to parenting. If you learn to let go of your ideals then you will have more grace to cope if your child doesn't want to follow your minute by minute routine or vomits all over your expensive jacket just before a meeting. Here are some things that have helped in the quest to let it go...

Learn to welcome interruptions.
This isn't easy, especially if, like me, you prefer to focus on just one thing at a time. Children, however, do not. They prefer to multitask, and no, not in the ways that are helpful or productive. They like to do things like poop and puke and eat all at the same time, usually when you were planning on being somewhere in five minutes. They like to do things like eat chocolate spread on toast whilst jumping off your new cream sofa. I used to feel constantly frustrated until I saw it as a way of being creative with my day. Be spontaneous, be care-free. And if your routine gets royally screwed? Let it go.

Learn to receive help.
If you need someone to look after your child while you take a nap, go out for a meal or go bang your head against a wall, ASK. Don't play the martyr. I know your child is the most precious thing in the world to you but that doesn't mean you can't leave him or her in the hands of other trusted people. Get a network of people lined up who can be your support buddies, willing to take a load of washing or bring you a bottle of gin. Learn to be at ease about asking for help. And if they say no today? Ask again tomorrow. And if they don't follow your routine to the dot? Let it go.

Throw out the rule books.
When you have a kid you are immediately subject to a million different parenting methods: co-sleeping vs crying-it-out, bottle vs breast, naughty corner vs reasoning, strict vs laid back... You get the gist. You can get so uptight about trying to do things the 'right' way that you end up missing the point entirely. There's no one size fits all. Do the things that work best for your family and be confident in your own decisions. And the next time someone tries to force a rule book into your hand? Let it go.

Care less what people think of you.
If, like me, you've always been a people-pleaser, parenting will be more of a challenge than it needs to be. You'll be pulled in all directions, trying to make sure you and your child fit in with others expectations of you. Hey, if you want to let your child wear his spiderman outfit to your best friend's wedding then go for it. Do the things that are important to you. You will feel a lot lighter without the voice of everyone else running round your head. Take it easy on yourself. And if your great Aunt Mildred disapproves of your child's choice of wedding attire? Let it go.

Learn to enjoy problem solving.
As a parent you will be faced with a hundred and one tasks, any one of which could go horribly wrong at any given moment. Instead of walking on a tight rope, learn to enjoy the inevitability of problem solving instead. Have fun inventing ways to entertain your children (or inventing ways to get out of it!). Find creative ways of making sure your children eat vegetables or tidy their rooms. And most importantly, allow your children to make their own mistakes and problem solve for themselves. And if they ruin their best shoes jumping in muddy puddles? Let it go.

When your child is all grown up they're not going to remember what time they napped or fed, just the things that made them happy. They're not going to remember whether you followed the parenting rule books, just whether you were thoughtful. They're not going to remember how tidy your house was, just whether you had fun in it. They're not going to worry whether you did your hair today, just whether you gave them time. So let it go. Let it go. 

And I bet you'll have that song in your head all day now.