Now I’ve been parenting for 9 years, I know there are only three rules or pieces of advice that are worth anything. Two of them I have written about before:
- Buy a coat with a hood. Not for them, for you. You will never, ever, ever be able to handle an umbrella and a buggy, or worse an umbrella and a walking toddler. Not with grace, not with any usefulness, barely without taking someone’s eye out.
- Never do anything Christmas Eve or a Birthday that you are not prepared to do every single year on that same date for the rest of your entire life. Just don’t. Believe me. There’s a sub-rule for this, which is more positive and will save your life. Every year on the 23rd of December stick a roll of sellotape in your bra and you will be sorted. Honestly, it might make your bra pinch but you will save Christmas more times than you can imagine.
The third is a morphing of advice, taking mumsnet and other internet forum lores, and all the things handed down by prevoius parents as they tickled your new born and looked sympathetic: ‘this too will pass‘ ‘hold that thought’ ‘enjoy it: it doesn’t last for ever’ ‘they are only young once’, but disposing of the potential for self blame at the end of a rainy Thursday when all you’d really like is a pint of Prosecco and the chance to do a poo in peace. Possibly at the same time. And you don’t especially care whether they eat organic kale risotto, or chocolate coin sandwiches with frozen peas straight from the freezer.
It arrived as the best advice often does, in a moment of comfort (I was beside myself as my son was unwell and so was I, and I hadn’t slept for what had felt like years). And like almost all the best advice I immediately forgot it. The friend who was with me had a teen and a 10 year old. He said, ‘it is okay, my son made me a bacon sandwhch this morning’. We talked about things maybe getting better and he described a normal domestic world I couldn’t understand through the prism of my world which felt like with was crumbling into freefall.
Then on a shit wet day, many years later, my son sauntered into the lounge and said ‘Do you want a tea?’. And then made one. On his own, with the right amount of milk (ish) and in a nice cup. I realised, you know, things really might be okay.
So in the freefall and the strangeness and the bum wiping and the left-over untouched brown bread, going dry on Ikea plates as the dishes pile up, when you just need to try and remember where the stocking Birthday presents you bought early to get ahead of yourself even are, not to mention what everyone needs for school or nursery tomorrow, just remember this:
3. Embrace the choas whenever you can, in hindsight you’ll realise it is the best bit, until they can make a cup of tea.