The news headline that sent me into a Motherhood panic

I really should stay off the Internet more often. I mean, really, shouldn’t we all? I can’t even remember now where I read the headline I’m about to share with you. Perhaps it was an article that was shared on a parenting group or perhaps it came up on my Instagram feed. Wherever I saw it, it doesn’t matter. What matters is how that headline made me feel (unintentionally no doubt) and how I’ve now (thankfully) come out the other side of feeling stuck with that feeling we so often get as parents…”I am not doing a good enough job for my child.”

“A child’s personality will be mostly formed by age 5.”

I didn’t even read the article. I didn’t even click the link or tap to read more because that headline alone sent me off on an instant spiral. Jasmine turns 4 next month which, according to the headline, means I have one more year of parenting to get it right, right? I have one more year to nurture her love of the outdoors and instill a strong sense of identity. I have one more year to turn out a well-rounded, emotionally secure, loving, kind, motivated, polite child with multiple interests and hobbies who will be successful and, and, and, and…. You can see where my mind went with this.

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I immediately started to doubt myself. I started to look at the things about Jasmine that are challenging (*that are in fact age-appropriate and developmentally normal but challenging nonetheless) and question whether we are doing enough to tackle those. I started to regret every single time I’ve let her watch something on Youtube, use a tablet or watch Peppa bloody pig, for fear that I’ve now damaged her brain forever and I will have created a screen-addicted zombie with no real life skills or ambition. I started to doubt whether we’ve taught her enough important lessons, like how to lose a game graciously, how to tidy up toys and how to stop saying “poo poo bum bum” whenever the mood strikes her (*all are still a work in progress.) I started to feel this sense that I have to really use this next year to pull it out the bag as a Mum if I want her personality to be “just right” (*approved by society) by age 5. I must try harder. I was stuck in this thought pattern for a while actually but let me tell you this. Once the initial panic dust settled, I was able to see my own feelings more clearly and they could be divided up like this:

  • 5% motivation (we could definitely do with reducing our screen time and working a little harder on the tidying up)
  • 95% fear

I was fearful that I hadn’t done enough. I was fearful of the fact that Jasmine still hits us or screams when she’s having a hard time (*it’s always the child having a hard time not giving us a hard time) and this meant she was going to have an aggressive personality. I was fearful that her resistance to listening sometimes (*um, hello, she’s a child) meant she was going to be a defiant teenager. I was fearful that I had made 4 years worth of mistakes and would need to spend the next year of her life dedicated to getting everything right (*perfect parenting DOES NOT EXIST).

But then, then came the softness and the forgiveness. Then came the deep breaths and the rational thinking. Then came the overwhelming LOVE that I have for exactly who Jasmine is right now, in this very moment, challenges and all. The headline didn’t set out to make me feel inadequate about myself and even more so about my child, that’s just what I allowed it to do. Perhaps a child’s personality is mostly formed by the time they’re 5. Perhaps there is a whole load of scientific research to back that up and after all, Jasmine has had her Jasmine-isms since day one! But what I refuse to believe (and what the voice of fear was telling me) is that there won’t be ample opportunities in the coming years for learning and growth. Children, teenagers and young adults are constantly forming their identities, their value systems, their preferences, their moral compasses and their unique sense of self and it is our job as parents to guide and support them through this whole process.

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Instead of listening to that voice of fear I chose instead to focus on the following questions:

What are the traits I see in my child that I am most proud of?

What are the gifts and skills that my child will and already does bring into this world?

What are the things I see in my child and admire about them that I wish I did more of myself?

What are some of the ways that my child amazes me every day?

I am so proud of both my children and who they are turning out to be. They are both shining stars of light and if I do say so myself, if the stop clocked now and all their learning was done, I’d still be so proud of their personalities and I’m pretty sure you’d feel the same about your child too!

We worry as parents because we don’t have a crystal ball into our children’s futures and we probably never will! We just have to trust that loving them deeply and showing it too, is enough. We have to trust that we are here to facilitate in their becoming who they are already destined to be, not to control who we or anyone else wants them to be. We also have to be kind to ourselves along the way, knowing that we only know what we know and do our very best with that.

Parenting…the never-ending journey of trusting both yourself and your child.


Motherhood, fear and overthinking: the school decision

We are in the midst of making one of the most important decisions we have ever had to make so far for Jasmine, her Primary school choice, and the significance of this decision has been weighing heavy on my shoulders. This is the thing with parenthood, isn’t it, that as they happen and as they unfold, particular moments can bear so much significance that they can become all-consuming. Over the last few weeks and months, ever since the day the letter arrived telling us that it was time to choose Jasmine’s school, I have spent many an hour considering this decision to the point where at times, the enormity of it all (or so it seems) has become overwhelming. I have not been able to switch off my over-analysis of each detail, each conversation and each classroom and have become ‘stuck’ on issues that have left me feeling exhausted, depleted and confused. I have sought reassurance from family and friends, hoping that someone would just say something that would ultimately help me decide. Yet deep down I already know that no matter how difficult it seems now and no matter how much it really does matter to me (and Jasmine), significant choices and significant moments in our children’s lives don’t stay significant forever. The choices, big decisions and memorable moments that once too all felt so mega, are now just smaller parts of our bigger journey, most likely etched in my memory as a Mother and erased almost entirely from Jasmine’s.

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So why then, despite knowing this, do I find myself so stuck when it comes to making Jasmine’s school choice? Why the overthinking to the point of driving myself crazy with it all? Why can’t I just make the final decision? Of course, I want the very best for her, just as all parents do for their child. We all love our kids beyond measure. We want them to thrive, reach their potential, succeed in life and ultimately to feel safe, secure, happy, loved and understood, be it at school or at home. But there’s just something so big about choosing a big school, after all, it’s where Jasmine, and then Summer, will soon be spending the majority of their time throughout their childhood. It’s the place that will harness what will hopefully be their love of learning, nurture their individualities, challenge their ever-developing brains and provide a well-rounded, fun, supportive and engaging environment, right?

But I am still terrified of getting it wrong. Even when being faced with the fortunate option of various good schools, I am still afraid to make the wrong decision. There is no crystal ball with Motherhood. There is no way of seeing our kids in the future or truly knowing that they’ll be “just fine.” Everything feels like a slight gamble, as if we’re placing bets on the best chance of a win, without ever really knowing what’s around the corner. It is certainly all a big exercise in releasing control over the things we, well, cannot control at all.

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So whilst I do think that careful consideration of a school choice and trying to find the best fit for your child (especially if they err on the side of sensitive) is vital and ultimately a huge expression of our deep love for our kids, there are several things that have helped bring my crazy overthinking brain back to more of a neutral place:

  • School is a big part of a child’s life, but it isn’t everything. There will be plenty of time and opportunities for Jasmine to learn from us as her parents and from her wider community and for us to enrich her life with a variety of experiences that will also forge her sense of identity, her desire to learn and play, and encourage her to embrace her uniqueness.
  • In a world where millions of children, and even more girls, are denied access to education at all, being faced with choosing between one good school and another becomes a relatively good problem to have. Sometimes looking at the bigger picture can really help to tone down our very valid, but often exaggerated concerns.
  • I trust in Jasmine’s ability to thrive, just as she is now, and to develop resilience when things don’t quite go to plan. I know that wherever she goes to school, not everything will always be plain sailing and that is, just life.
  • I trust in my ability as her Mother to nurture the child I know and love more than anyone else in the world. I know that I will sense her happiness or unhappiness and I know that I will always advocate for her, support her and be a part of her school journey with her, wherever that may be.
  • The significance of this decision will fade over time. As she brings home her homework and talks about her friends, as she learns to sound out words and learns how to add numbers, the weight on my shoulders will lessen and the joy of watching my first baby enter this huge new chapter of her life will take over instead.
  • It is a privilege to have a child whose “normal” needs will be met without me needing to fight for her. There are parents out there, many of whom I know and work with, for whom this decision really will be a monumental choice and where each and every detail about a school really can make a difference for their child.
  • I recognise the role of fear in the mix of this decision and I know that fear is our mind’s way of protecting ourselves from things we cannot predict or control. I fear her reaction to another big change, to bigger classrooms and to pressure to perform. I fear not being a part of her day or that she won’t tell me things that happen. I fear that I will miss out on her, hugely. But I also know that FEAR is just false evidence appearing real and the antidote to fear is to not only lean into it but to trust in the gut feelings that exist within us too, that everything will be absolutely OK.

When there is fear, there is work to be done on ourselves so that we can ease into these moments with greater understanding, focussing more on our children and their reality than on ourselves and the projections of our own fears. No one said it would be easy but it’s difficult because we care so much and that certainly makes me feel better.


Summer started nursery and suddenly, I fell to pieces

Summer started nursery yesterday, for just under 4 hours, and when I went to pick her up, I was told that she’d cried the entire time, other than settling briefly outside for a few moments and inside for a short nap in her Key Worker’s arms. My usually happy and hungry baby hadn’t eaten or drunk a thing all afternoon and of course, just to add insult to injury, she burst into tears the minute that I picked her up, crying out with a look of sadness and confusion on her gorgeous tiny face. I know this is an all too common scenario, not unique to me or Summer but a situation that unfolds for thousands of kids and their parents at the nursery drop off every single day. It’s not fun for anyone, least of all when as a highly sensitive mum of highly sensitive children, the experience becomes difficult to shrug off.

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