Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Bad Habits

When you have a baby, everyone warns you against getting into bad habits. "Don't pick them up every time they cry!" they say, "they'll expect it every time!". Never use a sling, or they'll be clingy. Don't feed them to sleep, they'll never sleep through. Definitely don't ever let them sleep in your bed unless you want them there at 12. Bad habits, they tut ominously.

I never found these bad habits at the time and I find them even less so now. I got into bad habits, I'm still trying to get out of them. Bad habits are not loving your child too much, being too available to them or undertaking any kind of solution which keeps them happy, quite the opposite. I did every one of the "bad habits" for babies and toddlers. Fed to sleep, co-slept, picked up when he cried, even gave into pleading on occasion. I regret none of it, and treasure the memories of him falling contentedly to sleep next to me, peacefully, with no fear or dread of bedtime.

I do regret getting into the bad habit of not saying "I love you" enough. It doesn't come easily to me, and although my own mother regularly said it to me I found it hard to say it back, it was often mumbled and muffled or just plain avoided. I don't know why this is and it's always bothered me. When I was 14 I wrote her a letter trying to explain this, and I think she still has it.

I have made an effort to try and say "I love you" - at bedtime, at kindergarten drop off time, when I leave the house. It's helped. And the look of happiness and pride on his face reminds me how important it is. It took about two weeks until he started saying it back, I think that's how long it took him to really hear it and believe it, that reminded me as well how important it really is.

I got into the bad habit of saying no. This is another thing that they tell you is a bad habit, not saying no enough, which isn't true. It's easy to say no too much. No we can't go to the park. No I don't want to play. No, later. No, not right now. No, I don't want to hear you. No, you are not important to me. No, just leave me alone. I didn't say the last three of course but I am sure he has heard them, implicitly, with all of the other "No"s. I am not very good at changing this but I would like to. We played Uno today, which I didn't want to do, but enjoyed.

I have a bad habit of hiding myself away and not engaging with anything real or human, unless I can do it through a screen. Of course, he copies this. It is a struggle to drag him away from minecraft. But when it does happen, it is beautiful and he has a wonderful time. I need to remember this and do it more often too.

I read something recently which I thought was brilliant, I could not find the original source, but the author described a "Nice, nice, nice...furious!" cycle that she found herself in with her children. I have to say that I smiled as I read this as I can totally see myself in the same thing. That is one I am happily breaking. It still happens but less so. And we are happier.

What are your bad parenting habits?

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