The expectation vs reality of being a parent.

In case you hadn’t noticed, parenting is hard, and although people joke about the lack of sleep, the time that you and your partner will no longer spend together, and rapidly disappearing money, I think that these are issues which ought to be considered a bit more seriously. The only real insight most of us have into parenting, is a collection of anecdotes told about ourselves or our siblings, ranging from the mildly amusing to the toe curlingly embarrassing, recounted by our own Mum or Dad. Never-the-less, many of us become parents with little regard for how much our lives will be changed as a result.

 I was talking with a very good friend a few nights ago, about how it is just as well that we aren’t told about how tough parenting can be. We reached the conclusion that if we were to really think about becoming a parent, with a list outlining the pros and con, the human race would rapidly become an endangered species. Our existence would be largely propped up by those who, for whatever reason elected not to use contraceptives.  As it stands though, the population continues to expand at an ever alarming rate. I am however, certain that there would be some people who would actively choose to have families. I am so sure because I am proud (most of the time) to say that I can be counted amongst those few lunatics.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a Dad. I think it probably started when my youngest sister was born and I fell head over heels in love with her.  She was a beautiful baby (although eye wateringly large), and had a lovely temperament. At twelve years old, I had an almost adult perspective of her early life, and was given the opportunity to help as much as I wanted. I recall getting up in the night in an attempt to soothe her, or carrying her to my parents if I was unable to calm her down (although it is entirely possible that I imagined this). I changed some of her nappies, got her dressed and helped to bathe her. I took her on walks and did whatever I could to spend time with her, and I absolutely adored it. In turn I am fairly sure that for her early childhood at least, I was her favourite.

It has been one of the great privileges of my life to watch that chubby little baby grow into an absolutely stunning young woman. Not only is she beautiful but she is intelligent and funny too, and I have always wanted to witness that in my own children.

Along the way I watched how my parents brought her up, and of course how her three older siblings were raised. As many children do, there were several instances when I decided that I wouldn’t subject my children to particular things. I can’t remember too many of these instances, but I think the vast majority of them involved me being punished! It goes without saying, that I am probably guilty of these very same behaviours with my own kids. One thing I certainly have no intention of doing with my children, which my Dad did with the elder of my two sisters, is to take her on a field trip to a local quarry, looking at different moss and lichen species. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the man who was leading the excursion, was almost terminally boring (as you might expect). In his defence, Dad didn’t even bother to pretend that that particular cloud had a silver lining, and has felt forever indebted to my sister.

Along the way, I have picked up a couple of ideas for traditions I would like to inject into family life. For instance, Fraboo (and ultimately the two boys too) and I will point two fingers at each other, like a gun, and say “10/4 good buddy”, to affirm our love for each other.  I hope that over the years it will come to mean “I love you” and that they can say it that to me when they’d be too embarrassed to say those other 3 words.

We also have a number of tickle monsters who live on our house; the Claw, the Grip, and the Crab but the most feared of all is the Spider, who can strike at any moment. The signal is always a hand gesture, subtly different for each one, which the older two (and some of their friends) are all too familiar with. These are two little customs which, for a long time I have wanted to bring to my children, and some of the many things which I dreamed about when I was imagining having a family of my own.

Despite all that having children does take from you, in my experience, so far at least, you get so much more back. To the uninitiated, it may seem like madness to start a family, but those of us who are in the know, are living proof that a list of pros and cons don’t count for much at all.


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