I hear young couples discussing the “best” time to have a baby and I chuckle to myself. Seriously, you are already over-thinking it. You can’t plan or prepare for the caper that is parenting. You just need to dive in head first and brave your way through each new crisis as it erupts. Look, I know you’ve seen those cute babies in the tv commercials looking oh so delicious. What you didn’t see was the behind-the-scene footage of screaming infants and the smell of poop as each in turn managed to deliver a big one just as it was time to shoot.
What you need to know is that parenting is a staged process. You need to pass the challenges of each level before you emerge at the end, grayer, tired, somewhat defeated but hopefully still upright.
0-5 They’ve handed you a newborn, congratulations you’ve passed your L’s
Every other gig in your life requires more preparation, study, practice and testing before you are regarded as competent. Parenting, not so much. Sure read the baby books, but trust me the baby won’t be on the same page as you for most of the next five years.
At this stage of parenting you need certain skills.
- The ability to sleep not just standing up but while walking from room to room in your house rocking a crying child. You should be able to manoeuver around every piece of furniture with your eyes closed. Of course the ability is severely tested when your navy husband arrives home and messes with the system, that is closes the bedroom door, which you walk into face first because you DON’T OPEN YOUR EYES when you go to get the bellowing baby at 2.00am.
- A duck and weave technique to avoid the flying food when they hit solids. Because they insist they CAN FEED THEMSELVES despite the complete lack of the necessary coordinating skills to move spoon from plate to mouth.
- The speed of an Olympic runner to chase the three year old who thinks it is a great laugh to run away in the shopping centre.
5-12 Hallelujah you’ve graduated to your Red P’s
Right you can smell your independence – for six hours a day somebody else is responsible for your little angel. The plans you have for how you will spend that time, you’ll write a novel, you’ll scrapbook all your photos, you’ll catch up with friends for lunch. You soon discover that given the driving time back and forth (and the fact you keep on putting up your hand for reading groups, fundraising bbq’s and covering books in the library) 3.00pm can roll around pretty darn fast.
The vital skills at this point.
- The ability to recall every stray piece of maths and english you ever encountered in your life and a creative dexterity with cardboard and toilet rolls. It’s hysterical, but the teachers actually believe the children are capable of completing homework sheets, home readers and an assortment of disjointed projects. Just remember in households around the world the same arguments are taking place; “I don’t know how to do it”, “But haven’t you done this in class?”, “That’s not how the teacher does it”, “But the answer is right”, “You are doing it wrong”, “Look just write this down for God’s sake so we can get to bed before dawn”.
- A strong heart to wear the myriad of disappointments inflicted on the tiny soul in this time line, when they don’t get invited to the party, when they miss out on qualifying for long jump (seriously, couldn’t everyone just have a go on the day of the athletics carnival?), or when they come last in the race.
12 – 18 The end is nigh you’re on your Green P’s
Look you think you are getting the hang of this parenting thing, then one morning your little darling wakes up a completely different person. Welcome to the teenager.
Here’s what you need now.
- The negotiating capabilities of a UN Inspection team on a trip to North Korea. So help me you will have to justify and explain every decision you make and in most cases the teenagers will still unleash the nuclear missile anyway.
- High level driving skills and the ability to create a home-away-from-home in your car, because that’s where you are going to spend most of time. There will be parties, part-time jobs, after-school activities all of which require your taxi service.
- Good quality car insurance when it comes to teaching them to drive.
- A second job – teenagers cost money, lots of money.
18 + You’ve got your license
Holy cow, uncork the champagne, you’re home alone. Enjoy it while it lasts because here’s what will follow.
- Hours of phone counselling over heartbreaking boyfriends, exam stress and crappy jobs.
- Hang on to that second job – there’s uni fees and unexpected bills that keep cropping up you know, like rent and electricity.
- Don’t redecorate their room just yet – like boomerangs they have a tendency to return – just when you had started to enjoy your hard-won freedom.
Disclaimer for Hippie Child’s friends who read this blog – the photo at the top is NOT her, and if by chance Princess Child’s friends start reading it’s not her either. I don’t think my god-daughter reads so I reckon I’m safe in using her image.