When I was pregnant with my first daughter over a decade ago, I wrote a birth plan. I approached the task with the same vigour I used to write my dissertation. It looked brilliant. It was the most detailed birth plan ever committed to paper. I remember thinking that I had done my job well and that my completion of this perfect plan meant that I had undoubtedly nailed motherhood. Oh how the midwife must have laughed when I handed it over with my Tigger like exuberance. I even presented it to her professionally stapled and in a plastic wallet. Needless to say nothing went to plan and no one medical ever referred to my endless checklists.
Since that moment there have been countless times where I have had to chuck my original plan out of the window and just wing it. I wake with lofty fantasies of things going to plan and within a few moments things swerve off centre, sometimes totally off-piste and into the bushes. By nature I am not comfortable with the concept of going with the flow and seeing what happens. I like to have structure, a sense of direction and a general idea of whether I am doing the right thing or not – personality traits somewhat incompatible with the parenting of two rapidly growing children.
For anyone searching for general advice on raising well rounded children there is so much guidance out there about the ‘right’ way to do things that it can be totally overwhelming. Whoever coined the phrase “they don’t come with a rulebook” has clearly not recently set foot in the parenting section of Waterstones or Googled medical advice on odd looking childhood rashes in the middle of the night. There are hundreds of thousands of books and websites containing mostly contradictory advice, rules and information.
According to the experts, each decision I make every day about the little people that I am responsible for could potentially affect their general satisfaction with life, future credit rating, IQ, ability to get on the property ladder, future career prospects, manual dexterity and whether or not they will actually marry a member of One Direction. Brilliant stuff. No pressure there then, when I am trying to make a split second decision about what to say to a six year old who comes home to find a floating goldfish. What do I say that won’t mean that this is the one defining negative memory of her childhood? Wing it of course and end up in a petrol station in December to buy ice lollies for the wooden sticks so as to appropriately commemorate poor goldfish.
Recently I have felt like I have been totally winging things more and more. There is no time to breathe and think things through. It is in my nature is to sit do my research, to find a perfect solution for every scenario and to have things neatly completed. I was always going to have my work cut out with parenting multiple children with this approach. I have learned, rather slowly that there are no perfect solutions to every scenario or age phase. Far from it, and what works for one child doesn’t work for the other. I have had no choice but to resign myself to going with the flow, somewhat awkwardly. These days I try to base my parenting style around a few very simple things which are;
– Try to be nice
– Give your best
– Read as much as you possibly can. Whenever and wherever
– Run about, exercise and stay healthy
– Don’t spend hours on end in front of a screen
That’s it. At the moment, that is my grand plan, a hugely watered down version of my original grand parenting ideals. Around these values I am relying on my gut instincts and definitely winging most of it. I admit I don’t have a clue what is the right decision most of the time and the questions are getting considerably harder to work out. Like a parenting Rubik’s cube;
Child 1 – “Mum! Can I get Skype?”
Me – “Errrr, let me have a think about it”
Child 1 – “All my friends have an account and I’ll let you read my messages”
Me – “Do most of your class have it? Who has it?”
Child 1 – “Everyone does. I’m the only one that hasn’t got it (not quite sure about that one)
Me – “Go on then”
Child 2 – “What about me, can I get Skype?”
Me – “Not a chance. Come back to me in three years”
This kind of conversation happens at least ten times a day at the moment and I know it’s going to get rockier and more complicated as they get older. A Tesco’s cashier took one look at my girls last week as they were bickering about something or other and said “Good luck in the teenage years. I also have two girls.” She then dropped her gaze and I swear I heard her chuckle. So I guess I’m going to have to get to grips with totally winging it and just hope that the majority of the time my instincts are on the money. I suppose that the ultimate test is whether the children are mostly happy and achieving what they are capable of. So far so good – at least most of the time.