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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bad Parent

There is no book that teaches you how to be a parent; it's something you can only really learn by doing. Sure you can read books, watch videos and listen to other parents but that's no substitute for the experience.
You also can't get everything right first time. You might be expecting to lose a lot of sleep for several months and believe that you'll cope fine, but when you're sleep deprived you can't think clearly about all the other stuff. Stuff like how to have great bath-times with your baby or even precisely how much formula a baby can drink at 3 a.m. It takes lots of practice and mistakes before you can handle those early weeks.

Once you have your baby sleeping through the night you think you've got it made. I remember taking Sondra for a walk in the park one day and meeting an old friend.
'Hi Lisbeth. How are you and how is your little Angel doing?' Jean stuck her head under the stroller canopy and made silly noises at the baby.
'We're doing fine thanks.'
'She's kinda tiny isn't she?' said Jean. 'I mean my sister's new baby must be about the same age as yours and she's very bonny. In fact she's sitting up already.'
I looked down at Sondra and wondered if she was small for her age, I mean I'd never thought about it before.
'Well I'm sure she'll catch up. You're looking quite well, no bags under the eyes I see.' She laughed.
'No, we're out of the sleepless nights now; it get's easier. '
'Yes that's what my sister says. I say she should have got the hang of it by now, this is her 3rd baby after all. I think I prefer to stay single.' Jean's laughter echoed as she tottered off on her expensive new high heels. Jean's remarks struck hard. You always feel guilty when you're a mother, somebody else always seems to be doing a better job.

I did learn about nutrition and attainment goals for small children. I learned about toilet training and tantrums too. It was hard going and nobody ever seemed to notice how difficult life was for me.
I felt isolated and inadequate, I got depression and then I felt more guilty and more depressed until by the time I had my 4th child I wondered if I'd been a fool to ever become a mother.

My husband, Dick, is a kind man and I'm sure he loves me. He was there for me when I was at my lowest and drinking a bottle of wine every day before lunch.
'You are the important one Lisbeth. You're the one who matters to me. I want you to be happy and I work hard so there's enough money to make you happy. You wanted to be a parent more than I did, but I guess that's normal. I do like kids and I'd like to play ball with my sons and dance with my daughters, but not if all this is making you miserable. I hate it when you're so sad.'
'I love you too and I know you want what's best for me. I love you and I want to make you proud of the children we raise together so that someday when we're old we can laugh with our grandchildren.
'Maybe I was just a bit too young and foolish and I thought I'd be the perfect mother. I thought it was instantaneous. They gave you the baby and suddenly you were wise and good and loving. Now I know it's not like that. I'm sorry.' I snuggled my face into his chest and cried my heart out.

That crisis seemed to sort out my head and I got right back into my parenting job, which Dick had assured me was way more important that his work as an aeronautical engineer.

In the end I had 7 babies before I raised one successfully all the way. The people at the clinic were always sympathetic and so understanding, they said some of the best parents had troubles early on.

It never became routine. Every time I had to take a baby back and have it re-cycled I cried. But every time I came back with the new one it was easier to manage. I didn't get so upset when I made a mistake and consequently I made fewer mistakes each time. I guess I must have been a 'sensitive' mother because other people seemed to accept their failed attempts with a shrug and a laugh.

Now Dick and I are living in Seniors Paradise which is a very fancy and secure resort. Our grown children, Michael and Dawn pay all the bills and they too are getting married and raising children of their own. At last we can all laugh at those days when I thought of myself as a bad parent.

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