(Part 2: self)
Back in the olden days I taught infants swimming lessons in Wimbledon. I worked 6 days a week; mostly singing nursery rhymes and playing with babies, but also trying to find ways to explain physical movements to little kids that were only just learning their own names.
I loved it.
I loved getting to know the families and watching the kids grow, I loved watching them learn, and most of all I loved the reward that came from helping someone conquer their fears.
I also had a lot of time to watch families.
Babies with their moods, their development, their body language. Toddlers with their stories, their demands, their tantrums. Children with their fears, their questions, their pride.
Parents with their babies, their toddlers, their children.
My job gave me this amazing access to literally hundreds of families, and with it came so many impressions on what to expect when my time came. How to hold my baby to show him/her that they are safe, that I am confident. How to talk to my toddler to show him/her that they are listened to, but I am in control. How to show my child that he/she is an individual, but I am always there, always supporting, encouraging, and disciplining.
Cut to 6 years later and the realization that not only do children change the game hourly, but your instincts do, too.
I know not to cling to my baby; that will make him sense my fear and panic.
I do not always know how to tell that to my arms.
I know that a tantrum needs calm, it needs patience, it needs love.
I do not always know how to provide those things, when (for whatever reason) I cannot find them within myself.
I know that my child has his own mind and needs freedom to be himself.
I do not always know how to explain that there is a time and a place for freedom of expression, and even then there are limits.
Yes you may play in the mud, run as fast as you like, sing ‘twinkle twinkle boat, row row spider, what you aaare’, but no, you may not throw mud at other kids, run towards cars and scream your glorious new musical interpretation at your sleeping baby brother.
I want to raise an individual, but I do not want to raise a dickhead.
I was so lucky to get some experience with kids before having them, but really nothing prepares you. It’s all well and good to have an idea, and yes, sometimes a screaming kid will listen to the calm voice of a friend/family member/teacher/stranger and suddenly behave, but that technique may have failed 9 times already for mum/dad that day. That kid may just be shocked into agreement. That kid probably won’t be testing their boundaries with that person the way that they do with their primary caregiver.
I’m glad I had some experience, but it’s so much easier from the outside.