A Child's Experience
I have travelled with my daughter to several countries over the past 12 months. There is one thing that has really stood out to me, and that is how we treat our children. When we have been in each of these countries, my daughter has been either 4 or 5 years old. She is my only child so will always be considered my baby by me. Although I am definitely guilty of having expectations that may not be relevant to her or her age group. Let me explain, but first, let me preface by saying that I can only speak from my own experience.
When our babies are only 4 weeks old, in Sydney, we are placed in a Mother’s Group. It is totally up to the individual as to whether they are a part of the group, or whether they decide to opt out entirely. Each to their own. I was lucky enough to be blessed with a beautiful group of women to experience the early stages of motherhood with. The only thing that I can fault about the experience is our own need to keep up with the crowd. As new mothers, we are all experiencing everything for the first time. Luckily, we have this group of people who are able to commiserate or celebrate each little achievement with you….. but every child is different and every mother’s experience is different. Babies sleep through the night at different times, they get teeth at different times, some take a bottle, others don’t, some are fussy with sleep, some want/need to be rocked or fed to sleep…. the differences are endless, just like each Mother’s patience and comfort in their own journey (often new identity) as a mother. Although as new mothers, we are constantly talking about and comparing our own experiences with others. This is when it all begins.
I believe that in our society, we put such high expectations on ourselves as parents and on our children. We are under the (mis)conception that we have to do it all- cook, clean, be an amazing parent, teach our children, don’t give them too much screen time (or sugar!!), work, or not work, balance EVERYTHING! Then, we want our children reciting the alphabet as soon as they can create the sounds, or to be able to count or name colours… then we rush them into sleeping in a toddler bed or to toilet train or to sleep through the night…. way too many expectations… again, I can only speak from my own experience. It took me a really long time to loosen up.
Look, I am aware that I sound like a hippie at the best of times, I am ok with this. However, through travel, I have realised that I definitely put too high expectations on my daughter. I know she is smart and capable so I expect her to act this way all the time or have less patience with her when she is acting in a way that is out of character.
I am learning that it is important to allow our kids to just be kids. To be patient with them when they’re tired or tiring(!). To allow them to have those days when they are not as perky or when they forget their manners. It’s ok to be strong on the importance of manners, but to gently remind them rather than lose our tempers.
I learned this the hard way... on every trip we have taken, my daughter’s behaviour has changed. Each time, it took until we were home for me to realise that my little girl was trying to cope with so much. Lack of sleep, new environments, new routines, different places to sleep, moving around, different climates and different languages. All of this whilst also trying to balance growing and maturing and learning her place in the world.
In every single country we have been to, the locals ask what ‘the baby’ would like, they refer to her always as ‘the baby’ (she has been 4-5 whilst on our travels). As this becomes such a common theme, it really got me thinking. When we are overachieving for our children or pushing them to reach certain milestones, who is it for? Where did we learn this and why? I have started to think that it is maybe something that is less common than I was lead to believe. In the counties that we visited, my baby was treated her age, she was not expected to sit still or have immaculate manners, she was always allowed leniency because of her age. This has been one of my biggest take aways from 2018, to allow my daughter to be her age, not the perfect child. I will always continue to teach positive manners and a positive way of life but I hope to always do so whilst respecting her age, her moods, her need for time out and her space.
Let them be your baby. Let them not race to the next milestone. I say this full of Mummy guilt as I have wanted my baby to hit milestone after milestone, now I feel she has hit them too fast as she is about to start going to school and I want everything to slow down again!