Mum-of-three Anne Johanson has some light-hearted advice on parenting, for anyone who'll listen.
We are in the exciting position of having two sets of expectant first-time parents within our family, as both my brother and husband’s sister are due to give birth soon. Luckily for the novice parents involved they have my husband and I, veteran parents of nigh-on ten years, to rely on for invaluable child-rearing wisdom. They haven’t asked for any yet, but I am sure they will…. any day now. Thus I have compiled a handy A-Z on Parenting, just waiting to be handed over. Any day now…
A is for Anxiety. This will become your overriding emotional state. Some of this is completely rational and of obvious evolutionary benefit. This is why I was wide awake at 2am this morning resolving to never let my children swim in fresh water in Queensland in case they are taken by a croc. However, some of this anxiety is completely irrational, and surely a function of modern parenting. For example the anxiety that by choosing the local kindergarten for its proximity you have somehow set your child upon a path of educational oblivion ending in a stint in a borstal rather than Harvard.
B is for Bottoms. Or rather what comes out of them. You fancy yourself as an intelligent witty person, able to hold your own at dinner parties with informed conversation on the TPPA. Once your baby arrives however, with that first meconium-filled nappy, you will be a pariah, regaling all and sundry with the fascinating contents of little Johnny’s latest nappy or toilet training escapade.
C is for Cakes. Learn to make them for between mother’s groups, birthdays and school fetes, you will average one a week. Best to have a gluten/dairy/nut free recipe up your sleeve as well.
D is for Dummies. No, not you for having children in the first place, but rather something to put in the baby’s mouth to stop the crying. These are a godsend, and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. You can secretly let them have it until they are seven when you will start stressing about possible orthodontic bills.
E is for Entertainment. Not yours, obviously, but your children's. From the first games of peek-a-boo through to attending playgroups, organising play dates and finding ways to fill the interminable summer holidays, you will realise that your primary role as a modern parent is to keep your child entertained. Somewhere in the recesses of your mind you will remember your own parents simply ordering you outside to play and long for the good old days. Eventually you will capitulate on your former vows to remain a technology free family and just buy your kids their own iPads.
F is for Facebook where you will bore your friends rigid with status updates on your gorgeous and developmentally advanced child’s every move. You will notice the comments will gradually dwindle as your baby gets older. This is because several of your friends have blocked you from their newsfeed.
G is for Guilt. Right up there next to anxiety this is a pretty constant state. No matter what you do you will feel guilty about your decision. Stay at home, go to work, it doesn’t matter, you are always wrong.
H is for Housework. Now when you give your house its once a week clean you can put your feet up after and smugly enjoy your handy work. Not so when you have children. Even if you spend the entire day cleaning, it will still look worse than when you began.
I is for Illness. There is a whole world of strange communicable childhood diseases that you shall become acquainted with. Sure you have heard of chicken pox, but what about roseola, impetigo, slapped-cheek syndrome or hand foot and mouth disease? Add these to the three bouts of gastroenteritis, six head colds and two ear infections a year and that is a lot of time at the doctor’s. Now is the time to stock up on your ibuprofen and paracetamol.
J is for Juggling- career, home, family, Netflix time. You will become very adept at this. Also actual juggling, if you really want to become a hero to your three year old and their friends.
K is for Karma. Within the realms of Parenting, as in many other things, what goes around comes around. Say, for example, pre-children one were to be a teeny bit judgy about a friend’s perceived lack of boundary setting with their little darlings. One could almost say that such a sniffy individua almost deserves a very spirited child of her own. This may or may not have happened to me.
L is for Laundry. Right now you struggle to put on a load once a week. After all most of your clothes are corporate suits that must be dry-cleaned, or cashmere sweaters and silk blouses that must be delicately hand-washed by vestal virgins. All this will soon change. Every Saturday I tell my husband I am off to do the laundry and his reply is “Ok, see you on Tuesday hopefully.”
M is for Mince. Acquire a taste for this, as the majority of your meals will soon comprise of it. Burgers, meatballs, spaghetti Bolognese, chilli con carne (not spicy though Mum!) if you are feeling very adventurous. This is because you will lack the imagination and indeed the will to come up with anything new. Also your children will only have one meal in common that they all enjoy.
N is for Netflix as mentioned above. Think of this as your new social life. Lying prostrate and pyjama clad on the couch saying “Pass the chips, dear” is social, right?
O is for Online Shopping. Any other sort of shopping, with a little person under the age of five in tow, should only be attempted in extreme emergencies.
P is for said Pyjamas. These will become an acceptable form of all day attire but please, for the love of God, not on the school run or in the supermarket.
Q is for Questions. Endless questions. You shall encourage your first baby to speak as soon as possible only to regret it when they are four and just won’t shut the heck up. All you want is five minutes peace. These questions range from the impossible to answer (“Who would win in a battle between a werewolf and a giant robot-baby?”) to the downright hurtful (“Mum, why is your nose so big?”). Be warned, only appropriate and logical answers are acceptable.
R is for Routines. Some families eschew them, some swear by them. You may, like me, endlessly research them and implement several on your first-born in the fruitless quest to get them to sleep when you want them to. However, it is only a few years and three children later that you realise, it was not you who decided on the routine, but the child themselves.
S, and I just couldn’t decide whether this should be for Sleep or Sex. It doesn’t really matter anyway as you won’t be getting much of either.
T is for Toys. Looking around your minimalist and Scandinavian-inspired décor it is hard to believe that soon all of this off-white, feng-shui chic shall be overrun with enough coloured plastic to have fuelled the Chinese economy for the past year. You may tactfully request that Grandparents (the biggest offenders) desist from purchasing cheap nasty tat for Christmas, or indeed subtly let it be known to other parents that little Johnny would prefer books for his birthday party this year. But still those damn things will take over your home no matter how many clear outs to the skip, sorry I mean charity shop, you make. The thing about toys is that much like Gremlins, they are self-propagating. If you leave two plastic toys on the kitchen floor overnight, by morning there will be six in their place.
U is for Unhinged. Of course you are all Zen now, post antenatal yoga class, lovingly caressing that bump in shiny-eyed anticipation of all to come. But soon you too will be seen stumbling wild-eyed and incoherent around the supermarket at 10pm muttering “Gripe-water, for the love of God will someone just show me where the gripe-water is”.
V is for Vaccinations. You will soon realise that something you always took for granted, i.e. possibly the most important medical breakthrough in history, has suddenly, within the realms of first-world Parenting, become a fraught minefield. Social media is overrun with zealots expressing their views on the topic. Please consult your health professional and not Dr Google!
W is for Wine and Whining. There is a direct correlation between consumption of one and level of the other.
X is for X-rays. Expect to spend some time in A and E getting these.
Y is for Yelling. I have seen my most mild-mannered friends become apoplectic and shouty when their children are misbehaving. The main flash point seems to be in the car. Possibly because you are pretty certain that no one, apart from your kids, is able to hear you there.
Z is for Zero or Zilch, the number of regrets I have about becoming a parent. It has been one hell of a ride so far, but totally worth it. Enjoy.
Oh, and you’re welcome!
Anne Johanson is a mum of three living in Tauranga. She has recently emerged from the trenches of parenting pre-schoolers and once again has the time and strength for some freelance writing.