It’s amazing how different parenting hypothetical children is to actual parenting. I had a whole lifetime planned in my head. How many children I’d have, what we’d get up to at weekends, craft sessions at the kitchen table…of course, they’d both be geniuses, sporty, musical and best behaved children in the world. Because obviously we can create and control everything, right?
When you actually become parents that’s when you realise that you was basing all this on seeing parenting from the outside. Or maybe the rose tinted glasses of social media and the world of TV. Surely if you follow Super Nanny’s steps then you’re children will always ‘toe the line’?
No one ever thinks ‘I’m going to give birth to a child/ren with disabilities’, ‘I’m going to have post natal depression’, ‘I’m going to lose my job and then work new hours where I cant attend any school functions’. Frankly, no one knows what life will throw at them. But there’s no harm in having ideas to aspire to. After all, it will shape our parenting as it gives us a sort of ‘aim’ and understanding of our ideals.
When I had J, I realised that I wasn’t as patient as I thought. I remember before he was diagnosed with the milk allergy he would cry for hours. He wouldn’t sleep which meant I wouldn’t sleep. I would love to say that I ‘ohhh and awww’d over the cot, gave him all the time in the world and swaddled him close to me. But in reality I sat next to the Moses basket reminding myself to rock gently. Reminding myself that this screaming creature was a poorly little baby. Surely I didn’t need to remind myself? Why was I having to tell myself this? Well, that’s because I was tired. I was on the hormonal comedown and I was scared that J would always be like this. That I couldn’t help him.
Once the allergy was sorted he was happier. He’s never been a good sleeper but he was better and more content. I slowly started to sleep longer between wake ups. I adjusted to not sleeping straight 8hrs anymore. I learnt how to prepare the new formula and things settled. I learnt to check ingredients on everything and to make dairy free food. That became our normal. And despite me thinking I’d ruined our ‘bonding’ on those emotional nights, we have an incredible relationship.
Now I have two children. Two beautiful boys. What do I see in our future? Well, I see the boys being best friends and playing together. I see J standing up for F. I see F asking big bro’s advise. I see family holidays together and fun day trips. But will that be our reality? J is autistic…J has additional needs his brother may not have. How will that affect this bond or dynamics of younger/older siblings?
A social media friend of mine, Mrs Madhouse, has had to readjust her parenting expectations due to disability. Both her children need different things. They react differently to environments. She has been contemplating having a Christmas adventure with her son next year…without her daughter. Some may be horrified. I am not too proud to admit that pre-children I would think ‘wow, how can you leave a child out like that?‘. However, through living life with a child who is disabled by different environments I get it. Her daughter will be happier at home, with family/respite. She’ll have her routine, her ‘things’ and her needs fully met. She’ll be happier than going to somewhere new, that might not be disabled friendly and means change in routine. Surely it’s not inclusive if she is forced to go somewhere she’d be unhappy? The family could just never go away. But that’s not fair on the son (or the parents). He deserves to have memories and experiences. He deserves to have time to do things his way and not having to stick to his sisters routine. He’ll be happy on holiday.
Surely that’s what’s important? Making our children happy?
At the moment my youngest is a baby and so I haven’t had to really face too many challenges yet. Yes, it took a while to balance my eldests needs whilst youngest was spontaneously feeding and pooping way too regularly. Now life has a rhythm to it. I plan and prepare so that things work for us. At the moment Baby F doesn’t want anything more than feeding, clean nappy and attention. He’s happy in his bouncer or on floor with his toys. This means I can do things with J and give him the routine he needs.
But once F starts walking, will I be able to cope taking them both out by myself? When F starts wanting to go to the play park that J can’t handle, will we still go? When J sets up his toys, will he be in constant state of anxiety that F might knock one out of place?
I don’t know, but until I come to that bridge, I’m not going to try and think about to how to get across. The good thing is that the world of blogging and social media has meant that I have a world full of parents that have ‘been there, done that’ and can give me advice. I can see how things work (or don’t work) and learn from that. It’s not time to stop planning or dreaming of the perfect future. There’s nothing wrong with doing that. But it is time to be adaptable and keep asking myself … what’s best for us as a family?