My baby Faire is seven years old today. It has been seven years since we started this parenting journey together. What a trip it has been!
I am a big sister, and I was the main childcare provider to my younger siblings, from a pretty young age. Frankly, between that and working with infants and toddlers in a childcare setting for many years, by the time I was ready to give birth to my own child, I was exhausted from all the caring-for-others I'd already done. I wasn't sure I had it in me. But I did. Although in all honesty my parenting looks different from what I had pictured long ago. In the typical Early Childhood field, it's about playdough, water tables and sand tables and sparkly paint and a book area and a music area...yeah, I don't parent like that. My children just live along with me, cooking in the kitchen, looking at books from a pile somewhere (although I honestly have tried the book area - the books just never stayed there!), experiencing nature when we're out and about. When I tried to run my household like I ran a daycare centre, I started feeling my mental health slide down, heading towards the place I was in when I finally left my job. Maybe because that feels like a "have to" and raising my kids always feels more like a "want to" to me. (Check out Krista's blog for a great post about the "have-to"s).
With Faire, I have struggled through all the rocky patches of self-doubt, and with each new "should I be?" I am more easily able to let go of the "should"s and just trust that I am parenting well, and my kids will not suffer. We are always busy, but we do not live a go-go-go life at all. I really don't want to and I don't want that for my kids. So no, I don't get the community centre guides and immediately fill our calendar with every activity I think might interest them. But Faire loves art and we make sure there are always art books full of blank pages, and sharpened pencil crayons (thanks to her Daddy) for whatever story she wants to tell with pictures. And as time passes I have come to realize that that is enough. If she (or any of them) shows an interest in something, then we do what we can to nuture that. I will admit, though, that I do sometimes feel a pang of self-doubt when a friend will tell us that their little one is signed up for soccer, little league, swimming, and ski lessons, and oh, hasn't Faire tried tee-ball yet? But I let that go. Because I have recently learned something yet again: They need to be ready.
Faire did NOT want to take swimming lessons. But she was three and everyone else was doing it, so I signed her up. Twice. She didn't hate it exactly, but she never "passed" because she didn't want to do certain things and no amount of cajoling was going to get her to do them. So I gave up, which felt right to me, but I worried as everyone else's kids learned to dunk and blow bubbles, and whatnot. She loves the water, she just doesn't want to put her head under it.
Fast forward to this past Fall, and I sign her up again. Her and her 5 year old brother, who has never been in a swimming lesson in his life. Has actually spent very little time in swimming pools in general compared to other kids his age. I am worried that they will have trouble "keeping up" with all the kids that have been in lessons since toddlerhood. Um, no. They were ready and they took to it (pun intended) like fish to water. Loooooooove swimming lessons. Faire spends most of the lessons under water, which she refused to do all those years ago. So I spent less time and money and stress just waiting for them to be ready. Lesson learned.
There have been many other lessons learned about trusting myself. And they all began with Faire. So when I say that parenting her baby sister Isla is easier, it only is because Faire patiently waited for me to get comfortable with what felt right to me. I was proven right everytime to, if I do say so myself. She makes it easy for me. Faire is one totally awesome kid. And I will totally take a little bit of the credit for it too.
Now that I've rambled, I'm off to bake that girl a birthdy cake.