I know it’s unfashionable to ‘blame’ parents for the behaviour of their children but I think the time has come for every parent to accept responsibility for their children’s conduct, even starting with a crying infant. Let me be the first one to step up to the plate.
True confessions: After I’d spent five days in hospital following a C-section for the birth of our first son I came home to spend a week, just a week, with my husband on hand as a helper. He knew nothing yet wasn’t prepared to listen to me telling him what to do and how best to care for our newborn baby, just 6 pounds 12 ounces at birth!
I’d had a very stressful and long labour, coupled with the eventual major surgery and recovery time involved in having a C-section (often forgotten about in modern discussions of childbirth), but had a great start the next morning nursing this tiny creature, immediately named Daniel - after the Elton John song - middle name Stephen, after my brother.
I spent the next few months wondering if I would ever recover from the exhaustion. My parents came when Daniel was 3 months old - I discouraged them from coming over from England earlier to help me, despite my desperate need for tender loving care, because I knew my husband would be very jealous of their presence and I didn’t want to spoil his connection with his first born baby.
My in-laws caused inordinate stress with their weekly visits in which they did nothing, usually asking questions like: “How do you fold a queen size sheet?” or “what shall I cook for you?” - when a woman is so exhausted she needs to be nursed and cared for and know that her baby and her feeding practices (nursing or bottle fed) are being equally respected.
Despite my exhaustion, in those first weeks of recovery of December 1977 I walked our quiet road carrying this baby who virtually doubled his weight within a month! On demand nursing works! However, I didn’t have the benefit of an understanding pediatrician, nor an understanding husband and certainly not any family members to aid me. I was tired, isolated, very lonely and only when I finally got fitter could I spend many hours walking around our neighbourhood pushing our baby and singing to him laying in the lovely pram my sister-in-law had passed on to us.
However, the lifting of the baby car seat was more than I could often manage, especially with a rapidly growing baby sitting in it. The folding umbrella pushchair was awful for a tiny baby - it just squashes them and folds them up (another handmedown piece of equipment) - we should have ditched it!
So our little baby often remained in his car seat on our living room floor with me sitting in a chair, exhausted.
In hindsight I now take full responsibility for my contribution to our son’s current problems based on those early months - they really do make a profound difference!
Our beloved eldest son has today missed an international flight! By 3 minutes, according to him. He was at Heathrow airport this morning in good time but apparently just miscalculated the time he needed to go through security.
We have all done these trips for so many years by now he should know to allow sufficient time - not that he hasn’t missed cross country flights on a relatively regular basis!
However, there are three of us (his two parents and his brother) at this end trying to adjust our work lives to ensure that he’s picked up at the Miami airport, tomorrow not today. “Why?” you may ask. Because we love him and miss him and really care and that is simply what we do!
I am now gravely concerned for Daniel’s future and any relationship he may form and children he might have. I don’t see how he can bear any responsibility for a family life if he doesn’t step up to the plate now for himself.
Recognising that I was dreamy as a child and teenager I also realise that I was bossed around a lot in my youth by my mother and teachers and so it took me a while to develop my strengths - I hope I’m not too late, at least for me!
I am culpable for my son’s current issues and so it falls upon me to make it right.
I wasn’t aware of what a critical difference early care makes in the rest of a person’s life, but now I am absolutely convinced that we are being derelict in our duty as parents if we don’t do the right thing or at least ensure that those who are caring for our babies are genuinely caring and responsible, be they family or caregivers.
Now I get it - I hope I can still make a difference in Daniel’s life for the better. I’ll keep trying until my dying day. That’s my job - I’m a parent!