I have spent most of my time as a parent feeling like I’m muddling through. From the early days with Baby Number One (when I constantly wondered why he did not seem to do anything the baby books said he ‘should’), through to now (a few weeks before Baby Number Two’s first birthday), our days seem to be a pick-n-mix bag of ‘let’s just try it and see how it goes’.
Sometimes, muddling through can bring unexpected joy. Like when your kids just WILL NOT go to bed at night (but it doesn’t really matter, because it results in cosy cuddles on the sofa).
Other times, muddling through means watching in bewilderment as your toddler goes apeshit about what you can only assume is some major catastrophic life event.
It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one muddling through – that everyone else knows what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. So it always surprises me when, while chatting to other parents – those who seem to have routines and plans and well-behaved children who never have a meltdown over a broken cream cracker – they say, ‘Oh, you know, we’re just muddling through.’
But you know what? This makes sense. Because when it comes to parenting that first tiny newborn, none of us have done it before. It’s a whole new world of responsibility, sleep deprivation, unexplained crying, and sleepsuits with roughly 3,000 poppers that never seem to line up properly. Then later, if a second baby comes along? Well, we’ve never had to entertain a fully-grown child while coping with all the above, either.
It turns out that, as parents, often none of us knows what the bloody hell we’re doing. We really are all just muddling through.
When muddling through goes well, it can leave you feeling like you’re clutching a winning lottery ticket on a blustery day: by some miracle everyone is smiling… but you know not to get too cocky, because the wind could change any second, whipping the ticket out of your hand and the smiles off everyone’s faces. This is called a Good Day.
And when it goes wrong? You can feel perplexed and unsure. You constantly doubt yourself. It can make you question whether you’re a good parent; question whether you’re good enough at all. It can leave you exhausted, frustrated and sometimes even in tears. This is called Never Mind, Tomorrow Is Another Day.
Now, I’m not normally one for imparting advice (because, clearly, I’m no expert), but in my three-and-a-bit years of muddling through, I’ve learned a couple of little tricks that seem to keep the peace, which I thought I’d share…
1 No matter how dire things seem, the addition of breadsticks will improve almost any ‘child meltdown’ situation by approximately 97%.
2 Fresh air, fresh air and more fresh air! It’s amazing how running around a green space releases tension. For everyone. (Some days we spend so much time outside, my kids think we live in the woods.)
3 Bring a tub of Play Doh/paper and crayons/playing cards/some Lego everywhere. Seriously, everywhere. Cuddly toys get boring fast, but an activity can keep them entertained for, oh, at least five minutes. Result.
But do you want to know the most important thing I’ve learned? The only thing that really matters is that you love your kids. If you do, then you’re absolutely nailing this parenting shit.