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I’ve realised something recently. I mean, I’ve always known it, but it wasn’t until recently that I really realised it. Like a big smack in the face. I may or may not have been rocking back and forth in the corner too…
What I’ve realised is that there are about a million ways you can mess up your child. And by you I mean me. There’s a million ways I’m probably messing up my child.
This parenting gig is tough! Like, seriously! I’m far from perfect at it, some days I scrape by with a ‘good job’ or a ‘participation award’. Other’s are a bit better. But far out there are some big decisions to make.
There’s a whole lot of responsibility going on when you have the entire life of another human being to deal with.
I mean, I knew all of this. Like when he was a baby and he depended on me for everything, food, nappy changes, sleep, comfort, love… Everything. But even as he has grown and most days he can wipe his own butt and get his own food out of the fridge (for some reason he always chooses the carrots or the beans) I’ve realised there are still so many ways I can (and probably do) mess him up.
1 – I’ve Let Him Eat Food He Has Dropped
The 5 second rule doesn’t apply in our house… it’s more like a minute rule. It’s not like I let him eat everything he has dropped… like when he drops his apple on the floor in the supermarket that’s a bit gross. We don’t do that. But if it’s at home and he drops a bit of meat on the floor then he picks it up and eats it.
Maybe I’m introducing all kinds of bugs into his system (building up immunity right??) or maybe I’m psychologically damaging him by making him eat the food he has dropped off the floor. Who knows.
2 – I’m Not Sending Him To School At The ‘Right’ Age
This was a big one. His birthday is two days before the ‘age cutoff’ for the recommended start age for school. We tried sending him to a pre class to see how he would go. He did not cope. He went from being at family daycare with just 3 other kids to a combined group of daycare + kindergarten with about 40 kids there. Huge difference.
So we decided to wait another 6 months. Which means he will start school a year later than what he could have. Which probably means he will be bored in class, act out and be naughty. Maybe he will be teased for being older. Maybe he will be fine. Maybe I totally messed him up.
3 – I Don’t Read To Him Every Single Day
For a long time, I would read bedtimes stories every night. We would read books by Roald Dahl and Dr Seuss, we would snuggle in bed and we both loved it. But then we started having difficulties at bedtime so we changed out reading times. And then some days they just dropped off.
I’ve read the studies that say you should read to your child every day. I don’t manage to get there. Maybe I’m messing him up. Probably.
4 – I Haven’t Taught Him To Write His Name Yet
I’m in Facebook groups for mothers and they are sharing how amazing it is that their two year old is writing their own name. Here’s my 4 year old who has a good go, but I haven’t actually tried to teach it to him yet.
Maybe he will be behind. I don’t know. But I’m sure he isn’t going to get to 10 years old and not be able to write his name. And I don’t believe the kid who could write his name at 2 is going to be better off when he is 10. But maybe he will. But if I teach him to write his name, maybe I’ll teach him the wrong way to write and that would actually be worse.
These are the things that keep me up at night. Crazy!
5 – I Make Him Do Chores
I don’t personally think this is messing my child up, but I know so many parents who would disagree. My son has chores. He has had chores for as long as he could understand what we were asking him to do. And he is a champion about it.
As he gets older his chores list becomes more varied. Right now, at 4, he makes his bed and tidies his room, he puts his own clothes away and he vacuums the floor. He packs some of his own lunch for daycare and he helps in any other way we ask him to. He even chops the ends off the beans when we are preparing dinner.
And you know what? He actually asks what he can do to help. Maybe he will resent me for it one day and maybe all those other parents are right. But I’m not going to stop him from doing chores.
6 – I Let Him Spend Too Much Time Watching YouTube Kids
For real. This morning he spent an hour with his headphones on watching YouTube kids on his tablet. Do you know what that means? It means I had a whole hour of total peace and quiet. It means he was learning his colours from the internet instead of from me. And it means I was able to drink my coffee while it was still hot.
They always talk about the negatives of kids and technology, but there are so many positives too. Especially for parents and their sanity. But let’s face it, technology isn’t going anywhere. Maybe I’m messing him up by letting him use it. Gosh, he is even better and faster than me at working out where things are. But maybe I’d be putting him at a disadvantage by not letting him use it and pretending it didn’t exist. This parenting thing is bloody hard!
7 – I Give In Super Easy When He Cries
My husband always has a go at me for this and I know it’s not helping. But I am like butter in his hot little hand when he is upset. I would do anything to not see him cry. I think it’s a throwback from him being in NICU when he was born. Maybe it’s just a mum thing. But for sure, I’m definitely messing him up with this one.
8 – I Let Him Stay Up Late Sometimes
His bedtime is 7pm. In the last week he has been in bed at 7pm once. He has me wrapped around his little finger and he knows that if he asks for more cuddles or ‘just 5 more minutes so I can cuddle you pretty please mama’ that I’ll cave so fast and he can have all the cuddles in the world.
No, staying up late doesn’t mean he sleeps in more of a morning. This is a myth created by those who don’t actually have children. So he is getting a bit less sleep. Probably messing him up. Parenting win.
9 – I Swear In Front Of Him Too Much
A while ago I said to him that he has to stop Mummy when she swears and say ‘don’t swear Mummy’. Somehow, that got lost in translation and he now says ‘don’t whisper Mummy’. It’s cute! And sometimes I swear just so I can hear him tell me not to ‘whisper’.
Funnily enough, he has said one swear word and knew immediately he wasn’t supposed to say it. He said sorry and hasn’t done it again.
10 – We Don’t Always Stick To A Routine
As you can tell from the above ‘bedtime’ that we rarely stick to, we also don’t stick to a routine. I know they say kids thrive on routines but come on. Have you ever tried to have a regimented routine in real life? My husband works a rotating roster and is on call as a Paramedic, there is nothing routine about that. Then trying to fit you know… LIFE in around that is crazy.
Our inability to keep a routine when he is a child will surely mean he will probably never be able to keep a job though, right? (I’m sure he will be fine).
11 – He Is My Little Best Friend
I’ve read all the parenting books and articles that say you should be your child’s parent, not their friend but I disagree. I mean, of course, you need to be their parent, and despite my ability to give into him easily, I still enforce discipline when needed. He doesn’t completely walk all over me.
But how awesome is it that I am his first friend. And he is my little best friend. We spend so much time together, we do so many things together. We talk over babyccinos at the cafe and go shopping together. We even have little tiffs. And then cuddles. He tells me I am his best friend. And I say the same to him.
I don’t care what the books say. He knows he is loved and has a best friend always in me.
12 – We Don’t Do ‘Classes’
Maybe this is why I messed him up with the whole going to school early thing. If I had taken him to classes he might have coped better interacting with more kids. I see parents all the time talking about the kindergym classes and dance classes and music classes and sports lessons they are taking their kids too.
Maybe I’m a lazy parent and messing him up. Maybe he will be fine. Maybe I’ll have damaged him forever.
Parenting is freaking hard. We make so many decisions based on what we think is right for our kids at the time and sometimes we get it right, sometimes we might get it wrong and other times we just won’t know. I literally stay awake at night paranoid about the decisions I make for my child.
But at the end of the day, I’m doing my best, he is happy and healthy and loved. Can we really do anymore?