I'm not a great parent.
I was astounded when they allowed me to walk out of the hospital with a helpless, newborn baby twelve years ago.
"Where's the instruction manual?" I wanted to shout. "I have no idea what I'm doing here! I'm an amateur!"
They say it takes a village to raise a child. And in the old days you would be surrounded by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings who would all help teach you, and your offspring, how to do the growing up thing.
These day we are much more geographically spread out. We don't have the same support network of older, wiser women.
We muddle along, confused by the conflicting advice of the 'experts,' like Gina Ford and Supernanny. We rely on our girlfriends (who are also making it up as they go along), and smug, self righteous strangers on the internet.
Just as we start to feel like we're getting good at the whole baby thing, we suddenly have school aged kids, and a whole new set of challenges. Start feeling a bit more able to cope with those, then BAM - they grow a foot, a crop of pimples and become smelly, hormonally challenged teenagers!
It's no wonder we need a good glass (gallon) of vino at the end of the day.
It's only now that I see what a useless parenting prop alcohol is....
I was putting the children to bed last night, when I realised that my house is now peaceful. Nobody shouts. This is a major change from few months ago.
When the children were small, I would get them into bed by 7pm. The bedtime routine was pretty exhausting - tea, bath, milk, nappies, stories, cuddles etcetera, times three. But then I could sink back into an armchair, with hours of 'grown up time' stretching ahead of me.
As the children grew up, however, bedtime got later and later, and wine o'clock crept earlier and earlier.
My evenings would go something like this:
5.30pm - children all home from various schools and after school activities. Pour glass of vino while making kids supper.
6.30pm - Pour second glass of vino while trying, in vain, to get them to focus on their homework.
7.30pm - Pour third glass of wine while getting them in and out of bath and ready for bed.
By this time it would be around 8pm, and I'd be trying to do bedtime stories and get supper ready for husband while getting more exhausted, frazzled and - let's face it - drunk.
The combination of tired, stressed and drunk would lead, inexorably, to SHOUTING!
By the time Mr SM was back from work (at around 8.30pm) I'd be yelling at the three children in rotation, desperate to get them into bed as quickly as possible so I could sit down with the husband and share a(nother) civilized bottle of vino with dinner.
But one thing I've now learned about bringing up children is that the only real way to teach them is by example.
You can't tell a child not to swear, then swear like a trooper around them. You can't teach them manners and kindness if you don't display them yourself. If you show them that alcohol is necessary to have fun and to relax they'll believe it. And if you yell all the time then so do they....
So we did not have a peaceful house. I would yell, and the kids would all yell. At each other. At me. At their father.
The mornings involved just as much shouting as the evenings, as I'd be tired and grumpy, and the getting ready for school routine was all just a bit much.
But now I don't mind that the children aren't going to bed until 9pm. I enjoy having the extra time with them. We spend ages over stories. I teach them how to cook while getting supper ready for Mr SM. We chat about our days. I'm not constantly trying to get rid of them.
And mornings? I love them! I wake the children up by saying "Wakey wakey! It's another glorious day!" I am punch-ably chirpy.
I hardly ever shout any more. And if the children ever do, I say, very quietly, "Please don't shout. We don't shout in this house." And I am not being hypocritical.
I am still very much a work in progress as far as parenting goes, but I have, at last, created a home that feels happy, relaxed and peaceful. It's still sometimes very noisy, but that's because we're laughing and dancing to bad disco music.
If anyone was ever foolish enough to ask me to write a parenting manual, the very first page would say: Put down the vino. It is not your friend. Alcohol and children mix like oil and water. The wine witch is not Mary Poppins....
Love SM x
Related post: Cravings and Tantrums