Mother Know's Best
Many people have said to me that babies don't come with an instruction manual. But actually I think they do - it's called mother's instinct.
After having my son I was inundated with warnings about how I was bringing him up. It all started when I couldn't get my son to sleep in a cot - books by Gina Ford and such like were proffered but they seemed insensitive to my views. We battled for months to persuade my son to sleep in a cot and one day I suggested, "can't he just sleep with us?". My husband said no until one night I counter challenged - "you want him in the cot, you get up in the night". From then on my son slept with us and we never regretted it.
I began to hide the fact I was co-sleeping from friends after hearing a lot of opposing opinions. I hid the fact I breastfed till he was 14 months, and as he got older I was besieged with comments about him "wrapping me round his little finger" because aren't children "manipulative and controlling"! I certainly never believed this, and at that time felt ashamed that I wasn't aiming to make him obedient as everyone else seemed to do with punishments and rewards. I have since found that by following my instincts I was doing something called attachment parenting.
When my son was around 3 years old, I began to default to an authoritative parenting style. This was due to my being pregnant with twins and feeling extremely tired and overwhelmed. It was so easy to slip into the role of telling him what he should and shouldn't be doing.
What I discovered was that the more I dictated what my child should be doing, the worse he behaved and the unhappier we all were. It was as if we were detaching from each other. After my twin girls arrived, things got worse. My boy was hurting and he felt life was completely out of control, and I felt completely overwhelmed. The fact I had a four year old destroying the house and peace at every opportunity made me resent him even more.
The turning point came when I packed a bag for him, I felt desperate. I knew deep down I loved him and wanted him with me, but still, I thought I couldn't cope so wanted to send him to a grandparent for a few days. My son sat on the step in tears, and I remembered how close we were, how I loved being with him - I wanted that back. I took his case upstairs and he got into bed with me and as he slept, I thought about what happened and how things went wrong.
I went to look online at recommended parenting books, and bought a few - Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting, and Naomi Aldort's Raising Children, Raising Ourselves and some self help books.
What I relearnt was that my instincts serve our family more than what I had learnt from my experience growing up, or from how I saw and heard parenting should be done in Western society.
Parenting should be fun not a battle of wills. We should be a model not a dictator. Respect is mutual. Trying to heal my family has been a journey that has brought up a lot of surprising truths. I discovered that I'm the one who is badly behaved, I'm the one with the problem. My children are my teachers, they show me my flaws and delight me with their eagerness to love and forgive. This very day that I write this, My son taught me stressed I always am, he told me that I scream and bark and I needed to parent better or he and his sisters would leave to find better parents. Fair enough I said, what shall we do now? So he showed my how we use to cook together - and reminded me that just being together was all we ever needed. My son looks at me with his bright grey green eyes and says "I love you mummy". And for the first time in a long time, I find peace