When I was small, I like most people can remember thinking my parents were just invincible. They were completely infallible to me.
There was nothing they didn’t know. They always had the answers for everything and the solution to every single problem, big or small lay in their wise hands. I had complete confidence in them and their ability to do anything. If I needed help with my homework, they were there. If I had a bad dream, they’d be on hand to console me. Boowie’s eye fell out? (Boowie was the teddy of my life.) No problem they’d sew it back on. Fell over and scraped my knee? Mums magic kisses would fix it in a flash. Someone being mean to me? They’d have the right words to make it better. Once I remember when I was very small, maybe 4 or 5, another little girl was being mean to me and I went running to my dad in tears and he said to me, ‘well if you have red hair (as this little girl did) then your leg falls off.’ Okay it probably wasn’t the best thing to tell me, but you know what, it made me feel better and I believed it hook, line and sinker. From then on, said red-haired girls taunts never bothered, me because I knew her leg would fall off any day.
I guess the point I’m trying to make, is that to me, my parents were superheroes and they still are to be honest, but now that I’m a parent, what I’ve realised is, they weren’t these omnipotent uber-beings. They were winging it the whole time.
When I became a mum last December, from the off I desperately wanted to give my son that same feeling of complete confidence, love, safety and trust, that my parents gave me. I wanted to be one of those superheroes. The only problem was, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I mean I knew more about looking after a puppy than a human baby. Before the baby came along I had never changed a nappy or even spent any real time with babies! I was and still am, the ultimate mammy novice, learning as I go, so how could I ever hope to give my son that same safe feeling I had as a child?
But then it hit me like some divine bolt of providence. My parents were exactly the same as me. They didn’t have some magical parenting manual with all the answers written down. No, like me they winged it. They somehow manged to project this feeling of being calm and in control to us as kids, yet probably they were shitting it most of the time, just like I am. I can never remember them being panicked or overwhelmed or not knowing what to do, even though I know there were times when they must have been at their wits end with us when we cried for hours on end or drove them up the walls with mischief. And I can never remember my parents being sick, even though they must have been. No my parents weren’t these all-knowing demi-gods, they were real people with the same worries and insecurities as me. They probably questioned themselves on a regular basis and found themselves feeling defeated and confounded in equal measure when they had tough days.
Now that I’m a mammy, I’ve learned that no-one knows what they are doing as a parent. I know you hear people say that all the time, but I never really believe it to be true. I mean how could it? But in reality none of us have all the answers and truth be told, most of us are all winging it, yes even that perfect couple you secretly despise because they seem so ‘together’ and have all the answers — the truth is they probably find themselves about ready to scream when their kids won’t go to sleep either.
I think the trick is to try and appear like you know what you’re doing, in front of your kids anyway. For me, this has been really tough because I’ve been filled with such self-doubt and worry, but I have been getting better at it. Now when my baby boy cries inconsolably, instead of freaking out, I pick him up and whisper nice things in his ear, I walk him up and down, I rub his back and tell him I love him and I do it all with this pretty awesome sense of confidence that I don’t recognise at all. If someone was watching me they’d probably think, ‘hey she’s got her shit together,’ when in reality, I haven’t a bloody clue what I am doing and I’m just trying whatever works. I’m not sure if that makes me a superhero, but maybe one day, if I’m lucky my son might think of me that way.