A few years back I helped out at a church parenting course. I was meant to be manning the book table, but during the sessions I was able to sit in. It was very interesting, and I took a lot away from it, but when I think back on it now, and on some of the comments I made I cringe on the inside. It’s totally true: Before having children you have all the answers on parenting, but after having children, you have none! Textbook advice, unemotional, without the broken sleep and hormones of having your heart slowly but surely leave you make it easy to lay down parenting laws.
Here are five things that we swore blind would or wouldn’t happen when we have children. Oh, how I laugh at myself now.
1. We’ll always sleep in the same bed, no matter what. They will also sleep through the night from early on.
Ah, silly, silly people. When no matter what is a knee high windmill that delights in kicking you – accidentally – in the face, or tries to crawl in between your body and the mattress. My husband, a light sleeper by nature, soon moved into the other room. Sometimes we’ll spend a night together, but we play musical beds all night long and end up in our separate rooms anyway. Now we just enjoy the precious moments, curled up with our little ones, aware that this won’t last forever. A bittersweet reality, but worth it, for the love of cosleeping.
As for sleeping through, Ameli didn’t until just before Aviya was born. Never. She woke a number of times a night. Even after Aviya was born, and she was sleeping through, Ameli still woke up numerous times a night. What the childless experts don’t understand is that you can’t just walk away and close the door, and still call yourself an instinctive mother. I honestly believe that in teaching mothers to go against their instincts, we are robbing women of one of our greatest powers, that sixth sense: instinct.
2. My daughter will never shriek
Unless of course, she’s around 8 months old, and learning to use this new skill we call a ‘voice’. Or two and learning to express her feelings. Or 3 and gets excited by the ABSOLUTELYAMAZINGSIMPLYPERFECTABSOLUTELYBRILLIANTMYFAVOURITETHINGEVERBUBBLEMACHINE (that’s absolutely amazing, simply perfect, absolutely brilliant, my favourite thing ever, bubble machine, for those without 3 year old girls.)
3. My children will respect me enough to listen to me
Yeah. Sure. Until you realise that it has little to do with respect – maybe it does later on, I’ll let you know when I get there – but for now, it’s about testing limits. It’s about exploring and flaunting boundaries. It’s a perfectly natural, and more importantly, necessary, developmental stage to go through.
Children need to feel heard as much as they need to listen. Respect goes both ways.
4. I WILL smack my children. They WILL be disciplined.
You know? Spare the rod, spoil the child. Until I realised that discipline and punishment weren’t the same thing. I understood that being gentle didn’t mean being permissive. I’ll be honest and say that both gentle parenting and learning not to say no all the time are a work in progress for me. They aren’t naturally occurring, and Ameli has specific traits that trigger huge anger issues in me, based on things out of my own life, but I’m learning and trying and that has to count for something.
5. My children won’t fight
Well, Aviya is only 14 months old, but boy, oh boy, can they play off each other. I think rather than forcing them never to have disagreements, arguments or fights, I’ll be better served to teach them to deal with their issues in a gentle, peaceful way, helping form life skills, and bonds of sisterhood.
It’s amusing, actually, looking back at these perceptions and realities. It leaves me curious about the things I still think about tomorrow, and the next day, and the rest of them, and how they will differ from my expectations. Its a journey and one I look forward to.
What have you found totally different in your expectation of parenthood and children, versus the reality of them?
Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (posts will be live and updated no later than afternoon on June 11):
- My little gastronomes — “I’ll never cook a separate meal for my children,” Maud at Awfully Chipper vowed before she had children; but things didn’t turn out quite as she’d imagined.
- Know Better, Do Better. Except When I Don’t. — Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy was able to settle in her parenting choices before her children arrived, but that doesn’t mean she always lives up to them.
- Judgments Made Before Motherhood — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks back on her views of parents she came in contact with before she became a mother and how much her worldview of parenting has changed!
- A Bend in The Road — Lyndsay at ourfeministplayschool writes about how her visions of homeschooling her son during the elementary school years have changed drastically in the last year – because HE wants to go to school.
- I Wish Children Came with Instruction Manuals — While Dionna at Code Name: Mama loves reading about parenting, she’s not found any one book that counts as an instruction manual. Every child is different, every family is different, every dynamic is different. No single parenting method or style is the be-all end-all. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if parenting were like troubleshooting?
- The Mistakes I’ve Made — Kate at Here Now Brown Cow laments the choices she made with her first child and explains how ditching her preconceived ideas on parenting is helping her to grow a happy family.
- I Only Expected to Love… — Kellie at Our Mindful Life went into parenting expecting to not have all the answers. It turns out, she was right!
- They See Me Wearin’, They Hatin’ — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different contemplates putting her babywearing aspirations into practice, and discussed how she deals with “babywearing haters.”
- Parenting Human Beings — Erika Gebhardt lists her parenting “mistakes,” and the one concept that has revolutionized her parenting.
- Doing it right: what I knew before I had kids… — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud, guest posting at Natural Parents Network realises that the number one game in town, when it comes to parenting, is judgement about doing it right. But “doing it right” looks different to everybody.
- A synopsis of our reality as first time parents — Amanda at My Life in a Nut Shell summarizes the struggles she went through to get pregnant, and how her daughter’s high needs paved the way for her and her husband to become natural parents.
- Theory to Reality? — Jorje compares her original pre-kid ideas (some from her own childhood) to her personal parenting realities on MommaJorje.com.
- The Princess Paradigm — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen had planned to raise her daughter in a sparkly, princess-free home, but in turn has found herself embracing the glitz.
- Healthy Eating With Kids: Ideal vs. Real — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs had definite ideas about what healthy eating was going to look like in her family before she had kids. Little did she realize that her kids would have something to say about it.
- How to deal with unwanted parenting advice — Tat at Mum in Search thought that dealing with unwanted parenting advice would be a breeze. It turned out to be one of her biggest challenges as a new mum.
- How I trained my 43 month old in 89 days! — Becky at Old New Legacy used to mock sticker charts, until they became her best friend in the process of potty training.
- My Double Life: Scheduling with Twins — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot was banging her head against the wall trying to keep up with the plan she made during pregnancy, until she let her babies lead the way.
- Parenting in the land of compromise — As a holistic health geek trying to take care of her health issues naturally, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama regrets that her needs sometimes get in the way of her children’s needs.
- Practice Makes Good, Not Perfect — Rachael at The Variegated Life comes to see that through practice, she just might already be the parent she wants to be.
- 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering: How to Free Yourself and Your Family — Sheila Pai at A Living Family shares in theory (blog) and reality (video) how she frees herself from 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering that can damage the connection, peace and love she seeks to nurture in her relationships with family and others.
- 5 Things I Thought MY Children Would Never Do — Luschka at Diary of a First Child largely laughs at herself and her previous misconceptions about things her children would or wouldn’t do, or be allowed to do.
- Policing politeness — Lauren at Hobo Mama rethinks a conviction she had about modeling vs. teaching her children about courtesy.
- The Before and The After: Learning about Parenting — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work reminisces about the perspective she held as a young adult working with children (and parents) . . . before she became a mother.
- Parenting Beliefs: Becoming the Parent You Want to Be — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how we can make a mindful decision to become the parent we want to be. Decisions we make affect who we will become.
- The Great Breastfeeding Debacle — In Lisa at The Squishable Baby’s mind, breastfeeding would be easy.
- What my daughter taught me about being a parent — Mrs Green asks, “Is it ever ok to lock your child in their bedroom?”
- Sensory Box Fail! — Megan at The Boho Mama discovers that thoughtful sensory activities can sometimes lead to pasta in your bra and beans up your nose.
- Montessori and My Children – Theory vs. Reality — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares her experiences with Montessori parenting and describes the results she sees in her now-adult children.
- I Like The Mother I Am Now More Than The Mother I Intended To Be — Darcel at The Mahogany Way thought she would just give her kids the look and they would immediately fall in line.
5 Things I thought MY Children Would Never Do
Hum, I’m trying to think about what I thought my pre-parenting years. I can’t remember. It seems like I was always a parent.
Isn’t that funny!
I am sure I gave my fair share of eye rolls to screaming kids in a restaurant. Now, they are my kids being loud. Actually, they are not loud, but – sometimes… I’m the one who gets the eye roll.
Just wait till you have kids, I say! Haha!
Thanks so much for sharing your story! I love it!
Thanks Lisa. Yes, I also now have a couple of friends with just one baby, all under 3 and I see the way they look at me with my two girls and I can see the ‘I’ll never… ‘ on their faces sometimes, and I just smile. I just smile and bite my tongue, and wait.
There are definitely sibling dynamics I see in play already that I somehow magically thought we’d avoid… And I thought I’d have quiet children. Hahaha!
Oh, well. It’s fun once you learn to enjoy the realities and laugh at your old expectations!
Yes! It’s also a humbling lesson at not ‘assuming’ for going forward!
Ah, yes, the old standby “my kids will never”! As a mom of five, I knew everything about parenting. Til I had kids.
Lol! That I believe!
“I thought” will always be wrong.. Oh we have never been so wrong. Lol. But they are still our kids and we will love them no matter what.
Ironically, I love them more than I ever ‘thought’ I would, and I’m very grateful that I’ve allowed them to be themselves and not mini-me’s!
A huge thing I thought my kid(s) would never do is watch tv. TUH! I figured out that sometimes Netflix helps put dinner on the stove and gives mom some much needed quiet te to regroup.
I’m with you there! And what’s worse is my oldest didn’t have TV until she was 20 months, and my poor youngest has TV all the time 🙁
My daughter is 11 months old and still – every night – wakes up several times to nurse or to be rocked back to sleep. Next month I will be weaning her, and I hope to begin sleep training. I am NOT looking forward to it. Honestly, I don’t believe it will work 🙁
I’m curious as to why you want to wean and do sleep training when your instincts seem to say you shouldn’t? I would STRONGLY recommend reading What Mother’s Do by Naomi Stadlen before making big decisions against your instincts. It wont teach you about weaning, breastfeeding or any other contentious parenting decisions, but it will help you trust your instincts, and that’s the biggest gift you can give yourself as a mother.
Very best of luck to you!
I haven’t told myself that my kids won’t fight (because I’m much more realistic than that – heh), I do intend to raise them “without rivalry” as much as possible. It’s a work (on myself) in progress. We should do an online book discussion with that book!
That’s a great idea Dionna! I haven’t read it yet, despite wanting to! I always thought if you raise your children without favourites, there should be no rivalry, but now I realise that you don’t have to favour one child over the other for jealousy to occur – one child just has to FEEL that you aren’t being equal or all consuming in your love, and that’s quite sad!
I think the idea of punishment and discipline being two different things is difficult for many parents who have been raised in a culture, and therefore conditioned, to view violence against children as being not only acceptable, but required.
I think you’re absolutely right. I also thought it was my ‘Christian responsibility’ to do so. I’m so glad I learned differently.