Hands up those of you who knew parenting would be so hard. Who knew parenthood meant being the expert on so many matters without actually having the experience to back up the expert status? Who the heck knew what being highly sensitive was really all about before they became a parent?
As my children get older I’m finding it harder to just wing it, difficult to take it day by day and hope my parenting choice was indeed the right option for my child. Because often, as it turns out, there was probably a better choice that could have been made.
I hope my eldest son will not always end up being our family guinea pig; I hope we’ll have done enough things right to help him be the best he can be, whatever he chooses to be.
I realise that parenting is a learning experience every single day. Parenting is the sharpest learning curve that exists. There is never a right or wrong answer when it comes to parenting. And each day that passes gives me the chance to be a better mother tomorrow.
I also understand how being the mother of a baby was the easy part, even though it didn’t feel like it at the time. The sleepless nights, (oh the sleepless nights!) the questions about the constant crying, feeding and worries about keeping a little bundle safe were all real. Alarmingly real. Yet looking back the challenges a newborn bring all seem manageable now. Third time around there are few doubts about your own abilities to look after and care for a newborn. Not easier, but definitely more manageable.
Making the right choices for our eight year old however is a whole new ball game. There is no precedent when I make decisions about my eldest son. I don’t have experience to go on. Getting it wrong with my eldest with the knowledge that at least I’ll get it right for my three year old is not a path I want to go down. I want to get it right the first time around.
I’ve learnt that parenting is largely about trusting my instincts. Something needs to feel right. As a highly sensitive parent I am convinced that we have a parenting intuition for a reason – and I believe in mine – but at the end of the day parenting is a judgement call every time a decision is made. There is no right or wrong. There is no one right answer that fits all children. Each child is unique. With individual needs. With different operating instructions. Each requiring something different from our parenting toolbox, which only gets better equipped with each day that goes by.
During my eight year long parenting journey I’ve asked myself many times if I actually know what I am doing. Parenting is full of firsts. Even when you’ve seen a first day at school before with your eldest child, there comes another first day at school…..and another. Three children, three firsts. All different. Three different versions of highly sensitive. And with each first I ask myself if we’ve done it right, if we’ve made the right decision. Do we need to up our game for the next time? Can we do better?
And the answer to that is of course we can do better. We can probably always do better – with hindsight, experience, wisdom. I’m sure we’ll find we could always have done something different. But it doesn’t mean we didn’t do it right the first time around. We’ll always do our best the first time, the second time and the third time. And I’ll keep hoping that it’s enough.