Child 1 Arrives
Child 1 arrived and we were full of theoretical knowledge.
I’d read the books (all the books) on having a child and conveyed this information to my husband, we’d been on two parenting courses and I’d filled a notebook with everything I had read or heard.
The notebook had pictures on how to bath a baby, when to expect your child’s teeth and in what order and how to put on a nappy, in amongst a million other things.*
Baby goes toddler
After focusing on all the things baby I found that we had completely neglected looking into how to raise a child.
At the time I didn’t know the first thing about what to do when my baby turned into a little person, when the big blank canvas turned into a little mover with big ideas and a huge personality.
Unfortunately, this was really where I needed to know what I was doing. In hindsight, I now know as your baby changes into your child you have to be ready for raising them. You have to be ready to guide them and help them develop into the best versions of themselves.
My first born is a headstrong, determined and inquisitive child. He has a memory like an elephant. My son never forgets a thing unless he’a pretending to. He doesn’t miss a thing and will pick up on any opportunity given to him.
As my son has become a big boy I have learnt that I need to set the path or he will determine the rules of the game and try force me to play by his rules.
What I’ve learnt from first has made me change the way I raise my second
Now you know the background, I’m going to share with you how what I’ve learnt from my first has made me change the way I raise my second.
Before we get there I want to share one point that runs through the below. The sooner you start, the easier any change be accepted by your little one. Regardless of whether the change is a routine, an activity or a behavioural change. The sooner you do it, the better it will be. I learnt this the hard way.
Now that I’ve set the scene, I’m going to share with you how what I learnt with my first helped me better raise my second.
These are the 5 lessons I’ve learnt from having my first baby. Some of these have been intentional and others have just happened in the normal course.
Now, with my second baby well on her way to becoming a little girl the below are very clear to me, so much so that I am able to share them with you.
Lesson 1: You’ve done okay
With the best intentions, you’ve done okay.
As I’ve said above, prior to actually becoming a parent, I was completely clued up and prepared for being a parent. And then I became a parent…
My son didn’t go by the book. Any book. He didn’t sleep from day one, he had jaundice then colic and just didn’t want to sleep EVER. He fed though and for that I am grateful.
With a lack of sleep coupled with all the expectations I had piled on myself I felt awful and guilty that everytime something went wrong I was causing life long damage.
What I realized after a while – maybe 18 months later, maybe 2 years later – is that with great intentions, a true commitment and patience (by the truckload) it will be okay.
There will be awful days and you will get things wrong but it will be okay.
You will not do permanent damage washing their hair with body wash or forgetting to give them a fully balanced meal. They will survive and they will keep growing beautifully and in 18 months or 2 years you will definitely forget that ‘awful’ thing you did.
Lesson 2: Be stricter
You’ve got to be a little stricter sometimes.
It starts with this gorgeous little bundle entering your world who just makes your heart skip a beat.
Then (drum roll please)… the delicious smelling miracle develops its own personality and willpower and becomes naughty, naughty in an exploratory inquestive manner.
In the process, while they’re discovering everything around them they also push boundaries and push all your buttons. It’s amazing how they know which buttons to push – they’ve only been around a couple of months or a few years!
It’s so easy to let them off the hook when they’re little, my favourite justifications include:
- “But look how cute he is”.
- “How did he know how to do that, it’s so impressive, at his age he shouldn’t know how to do/ say that”.
- “He’s tired just leave him be”.
- “He’s excited just leave him to do it”.
But what I’ve learnt is what’s cute at 1 isn’t cute at 2 and it’s even worse at 3.
If you let them do it in the first instance they will continue to do it again and again and it will become the normal, acceptable behavior.
You have to be strict, stricter than you want to be or think you need to be. Not strict in the punishing sense but strict in the consistent sense.
This cute little bundles need to know boundaries, they need to know what they can and can’t do in your house and with you so that they take that out into the world with them.
Lesson 3: The Bump will not kill them
That bump will most likely not kill them. In a horrible situation my daughter fell out of our bed at four months old while breastfeeding. I have never felt so awful. She fell face first onto a plug. Her scream pierced my heart. She is fine but I was traumatised.
I’m not talking about the concern you feel over a temparature or a small mark on your child’s body. Being worried about your child’s health is perfectly normal and acceptable. It’s good to be concerned – it stems from our inherent protectiveness.
What I’m talking about is that awful awful moment when completely by accident your child trips over your toe and bumps their head. Or when you turn your back and they fling their arms out and hit something hard. Or when they jump on the bed for the 100th time and fall off and you feel so incredibly guilty. That’s the moment I’m talking about.
The guilt moment.
It sucks, they’ve hurt themself and need you but this is all part of the learning curve. With a lot of sadness in your heart, it makes them stronger and resilient. This also teaches the little one how to deal with hurt, pain and sadness.
Lesson 4: Life isn’t about being entertained, stimulated or happy all the time.
I had heard that children were sometimes more interested in the box that the gift inside. It took me having my first child to see this for myself. I soon learnt that this rule develops into other aspects of providence.
It’s so easy to fall into a trap where you want to give your children everything because you want them to know that you love them. You want them to know that you cherish them but it can do more harm than good.
As I’ve learnt from my first – and it’s a hard lesson to learn – children need to learn gratitude, value and appreciation and the only way they can learn this is if you avoid spoiling them.
The other aspect to this is that your time and your attention is far more important that taking them for a treat or buying them what they want. Your attention is the ONLY thing no one else can give them.
Lesson 5: Every day is only 24 hours long
I’ve alluded to how hard the early months of baby number 1 were and really it was, alone with no friends who had kids and my family living 1000km away I had days when nothing would go right and I had no support. I wanted to sit somewhere and just have a good cry.
It was hard but you know, what I know now, on my worst days and there are some of those now that there are 2 kids and our family lives on a different continent, the bad day is only 24 hours long.
A new day means a chance of a better day.
You know how it is with kids, things change in the blink of an eye and by extension, tomorrow may be (and probably will be) completely different to today.
You’re going to be okay
I’ve said this before. I know that you’re doing okay or going to be okay because if you’ve taken the time to read this, you genuinely care and that in itself is a massive piece of the puzzle that is parenting.
Good luck and if you have time let us know what lessons you’ve learnt – sharing these insights helps us all!
*If you’re wondering what happened to all this theoretical knowledge – check out the What to Buy When You’re Expecting Series.