We are never taught how to parent, it is just something we are expected to learn along the way, or at least that is how my husband and I have done it. There are so many different ways to bring up children and as every child is different. What works for one may not work for another. I think most people learn how to parent from their own upbringing and then ask their parents for advice along the way. Having James in Lithuania meant we really relied on friends for help and advice rather than family. I got lots of c section and breastfeeding tips from other mums living in Lithuania, everyone was happy to answer my questions and give me the advice I needed.
I think we are always learning from other mums and may not even realise it. When we are out and about, we naturally observe other parenting skills and tricks that parents use. Yesterday in the park, my friend and I were in awe of how organised another mum was with dressing her children appropriately for playing in a sand and water area. Her children both had those swim and sun protection suits on with matching hats, which my friend and I agreed that they were ideal for this sort of play, then once her boys had finished playing in the sand and water she stripped them down and put their normal clothes on. Her children played happily and changing them into normal clothes was just seamless. We were really impressed. We however, were not so organised.
James was playing in the sand and water in his shorts, t shirt and canvas shoes. He doesn’t usually play in the sand, or with the water, so I wasn’t prepared for this at all. I debated taking his shoes and socks off like my friend had with her son, but thought there was no point as he wouldn’t be playing in it for long. How wrong was I. This was something he was really enjoying and his shoes were already wet through and covered in sand, so I decided just to leave him to it. I was dreading when it was time to go back to the car, how was I going to get him out of these clothes, get the sand off him and change him into a spare set of clothes I always keep in my bag? The truth was I wasn’t going to do it without tears. I rinsed James’ arms and legs off under the water in the park and then we walked to the car, where the tears began. I am not sure if he was so upset because he was wearing wet clothes and shoes or because we had left the park where he was having fun. As we got to the car I opened his door and took his top off and swapped it for a clean one I had in my bag. I had a muslin in my bag that I was able to use to wipe some of the sand off him and then I got him to stand on it rather than on the concrete so I could take his shoes, socks and shorts off, this was all done while he was screaming, as though I was being very unreasonable. Next time I will remember James liked playing in the sand and water, and learn from the organised mum and dress James more appropriately.
We learn from other parents all the time. I learnt how to sleep train James from another mum, it worked for her so I gave it a try with James and it worked for us too. Learning what works for other mums can give you the confidence to try things rather than just thinking it won’t work. I look at the ways many of my friends parent and then think of how I could do things with James.
One of my friends made a wonderful nature trail sheet for her son yesterday with pictures of things they might see on a walk. It’s something I definitely want to try with James, he may not understand that we need to look for these things but he definitely knows the words for the things on the sheet she created. He always prefers going on walks where there are things for him to look at or play with along the way. At Crickley Hill he looks for numbers on posts along our route, at Sudeley Castle he likes looking at the maps, and the painted stones with bees and butterflies so I think creating a sheet with things to look for would be something that he may enjoy. It’s definitely worth a try and if he doesn’t understand it now, I’m sure he will in a few months.
When it comes to potty training I will definitely be asking my mum friends about how they approached it, how they cleaned the potty etc. When James started playgroup I asked my friends how their children found it, what name tags they used, what they labelled etc. When he comes to start school I will be asking the same. I think the problems come when you get unwanted advice and people start pushing their opinions on you despite often meaning well, but when you have asked for advice I think it is great to learn from other parents. Let’s make life easier for ourselves and find out how other mums have done things, because we can all learn from experience.