There are a few things that really matter when you’re the parent of a Small Person:
- You should never intentionally cause your Small Person harm (sometimes, of course, there is an errant elbow to the head or a bouncy ball to the shin. This is unavoidable and not an indictable offense).
- You should give your Small Person food when they’re hungry and water when they’re thirsty and hugs when they need them.
- You should, to the best of your ability, keep your Small Person safe from external dangers.
- You should make sure your Small person is warmly clothed in Winter and cool in Summer. Or, if you live in Tasmania as I do, just have a look at the weather report for the day when it comes to dressing as whichever season it is may or may not relate to what the weather is actually like outside. And then pack a jumper anyway.
- If your Small Person is sick, you should get them to a doctor, do whatever the doctor says to help them feel better and hug them lots until they do. Also, prevent sickness wherever you can, for the sake of your Small Person and all other Small People.
- You should let your Small Person know they are loved, often.
And … That’s about it.
As far as I’m concerned, they are really the only “shoulds” that go with parenthood. The rest is a bonus, and up to you. This includes the following:
- Breastfeed if you are able to and if it is what’s best for you and your family. As my gorgeous obstetrician pointed out, his was a mainly formula-fed generation and there were still Nobel Prize winners and Olympians and brilliant novelists and artists in his generation, and they didn’t all drop dead at thirty. So formula is not the devil.
- The amount of “screen time” your child has is also up to you. I have very fond memories of the children’s TV I watched as a kid and I don’t think long mornings in front of Saturday Disney and Rage did me any harm. My Small Person doesn’t watch much telly yet but that’s mainly because there’s only one of her and I don’t have multiple other Small People to entertain and I’m not a big TV watcher myself and I’m just enjoying indulging my inner child by playing with her. I don’t have rules about it. I’m sure she’ll watch her share as she gets older. We’re just winging this thing so far.
- Use cloth nappies or disposable ones depending on what’s best for you and your priorities. We worked out that buying the Naty by Nature brand was actually better for the environment given Tiger was a Winter baby and we would have had to run the dryer constantly to get her nappies dry. We liked them so we stuck with them. Also, I’m not a domestic goddess by any stretch of the imagination. I probably would have given her hideous diseases by not washing her cloth nappies properly. So we’re a disposable nappy family and I’m okay with that.
- Feed your older Small People however you see fit, however your budget allows, attempting to be healthy wherever possible but sometimes failing. Tiger was going to eat “everything”. Today she ate grapes for lunch. She refuses to eat peas. We’ll get there.
- Utilise the marvellous invention that is day care if that’s what is best for your family. I’m staying home with Tiger because, at the moment, I’m privileged to be able to do so and I enjoy it. I was in day care from a very young age and I enjoyed it. I’m sure Tiger would love it too. If a time came when I needed to put her in care I would not hesitate.
- Help your Small Person to sleep however works best for you. Tiger napped on top of me for the first twelve months of her life, beside me for the next six and is now sleeping in her cot but only after I hold her until she’s nearly asleep. F*** the sleep experts. This worked for us. But it wouldn’t have if I had other children. Or if I went to work earlier. Or any number of other variables. It Just Worked For Us.
- Use a stroller. Or a pram. Or a carrier. Or a sling. Or just hold your Small Person in your arms. Whatever. As long as they’re safe, whatever. Tiger has never liked the stroller much. I’m unco so I hate the stroller big time. Hence, Ergo-baby. We love it. But another Small Person who wasn’t Tiger might hate the Ergo and love the stroller. Hence, whatever.
- Read to your Small Person. Or don’t. I personally think reading is awesome, so I do it lots with Tiger and she loves it. But your child might be a future Olympic athlete and prefer running, or they might be a future botanist and prefer looking at plants. Or they might be a future chef and prefer cooking. Or maybe they’ll just come to love reading later. Don’t stress. Let them be who they are.
There are a million other ways that every family works differently. I’ve only addressed a few here that have been of particular concern during my parenthood. And I, obviously, have no clue whatsoever what I’m doing. Tiger is my first child and on an almost daily basis you can find me crying into my soy chai, gasping, “I’m stuffing it all UUUUPPPP!!!” but the one thing I have learned in this parenting business is that many people have an opinion about how you choose to interact with your Small Person. You can listen to some of the advice or all of it and it will probably do your head in. Equally, you can try and tell others how they should go about things but, really, I think what’s important is that we stop judging and start being a bit kinder to each other. Because being a parent is the best, best, best thing in the world, but it can be stressful. You’re in charge of a Whole Other Person and what bigger responsibility is there than that? So don’t be too hard on people doing it differently. They’re just doing their best too.