What All The Research In The World Couldn’t Prepare Me For As A Mother
When I’m faced with something new, I research.
I gather all the possible knowledge and tales of experience I can carry. Books, journals, magazines, people, Google, are all valuable resources.
When I faced parenthood at a young age, this was my tactic. Learn it all. Download the intel and execute exceptional parenthood.
It may seem that I grasped at a semblance of control over the uncontrollable for the illusion of being prepared. It did give me some peace though, and it armed me with some tools to use in moments that were beyond me. Most used was prayer; my mantra was a prayer for knowledge, wisdom and patience. I begged for the way to know what to do, the best way to do it, and to grow some capacity to withstand the struggles.
The thing that the research didn’t prepare me for was the overwhelming love.
I was full up with all this information on how to manage, handle, cope – and when my firstborn came, I was overwhelmed with love. This incredible joy, I was unprepared for. This breathtaking bond I had no concept of.
I was in awe. I submerged in the love, I respected and appreciated my parents in a whole new way, I opened up to my husband with a newly perceptible vulnerability and I received God’s love in an all-encompassing renewed way of being.
I was transformed. I didn’t expect that.
The love and the joy was a shock; TBH it threw me. In the best possible way. Eventually I adjusted to this new constitution of love that I was made up of now and the challenges came. Slowly sometimes, and all at once at other times, and I began to use the research and I was grateful for it.
Nine years on, the researched information is still there. It took root and is now part of the foundation of my parenting. The things I learnt to do for my calm assist me in every straining situation I face.
I remember reading Pinky McKay’s Toddler Tactics, more than once. This taught me to look at ‘battles’ with a background thought of “will this matter in five years?” to bring a larger perspective into the smaller situations. (For some Pinky know-how, check out her piece on taming toddler tantrums here.)
I remember reading that toddlers make a lot of specific demands. That the key in these moments was to give them choices. The ‘trick’ being that both the choices are acceptable to you but the child believes that they made the decision. When the child feels that they have made the decision, they are more inclined to be receptive to the instruction.
I use this so often. My seven-year-old needs to wear an eye patch to gain strength in the muscles of his previously operated on eye. He can be resistant to the eye patching and so I ease him into it. I ask, “Would you like to put the eye patch on now or in ten minutes?” He chooses in ten minutes, which was my plan initially but he feels more comfortable doing so. He is prepared and he has chosen to do so in ten minutes.
I remember reading that a toddler can have a strong will and that when telling them not to do something, they are likely to continue doing it, if they want to. However, if you tell the toddler what they can do, not what they can’t do, they are more receptive to changing what they are doing. When my youngest is playing unsafely with sticks, I invite her to come stack leaves with me. When she is jumping on my bed, I ask if she’d like to go to the trampoline. Giving alternate options steers the toddler away from unsafe behaviour and into preferred behaviour.
I am grateful for these parenting tools and the many others I collected from a variety of professionals and experienced parents.
Research can be so helpful! Equipping parents with resources will give them ways to navigate through the complexities of parenting.
What you can’t prepare them for, is how profoundly they will love the human they are parent to.
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Gabriela Antonini chronicles snapshots of her moments on her Instagram @g_and_tribe, in between racing one of her three lively children, sharing chocolate with her theologian husband, feeding her ever-hungry progeny or singing lyrics wrong with the hubs. She is often found with her nose in a book, at the beach, up a tree or carrying around a teapot. Born in Slovakia, a childhood spent in Melbourne, she now lives in Perth heartily appreciating its exquisitely mild weather.