Parenting Algorithms

So I’ve finally accepted that, having two children under three is not very conducive to writing long, well researched articles about aforementioned children’s development (hats off to those of you who manage!) Yet being pregnant and having children, with all of the neurological, psychological and emotional changes that entails, somehow leads to a surge in creative thinking (and sadly not always the time to actually create). So, as an interim measure, I thought I’d get some of these ideas down on virtual paper, and would love to hear your thoughts too. These may be anything to do with pregnancy, birth, child rearing, motherhood… And are mostly thought of while elbow deep in porridge encrusted bowls and soap suds.

So this morning’s thought of the day

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came while I was simultaneously washing the dishes, packing lunch, calling out to a crying baby, kissing my partner goodbye and listening to the ominous sound of silence from my toddler. In each and every moment of life as a parent we seem to run through countless calculations, constantly in the background like a trading floor ticker tape. From the small (do I finish washing these plates or check that the baby isn’t eating the Sudocrem again?) to the big (does the warmth of the child minder make up for her perpetual lateness?) to the very very major (do we uproot to live in the catchment area of that really great school or chance it with the local one?), it can seem like every choice we make- from the tiny to the great- will have an impact on our children’s lives.

And if we don’t get the algorithm right (we finished washing the dishes and now we have to clean sudocrem off the carpets, change the whole family into new clothes while trying the persuade the toddler not to eat the food from under the highchair) it can feel a whole morning has gone haywire. And that leads to stress, and guilt, and a heavy heart.

But often, when working out these equations, we are adding in extra assumptions that lead to a flawed result. We add a perceived ability to read the future, and a heightened sense of responsibility. Yes, maybe if you’d put the baby down when you first realised he was tired, he might have fallen asleep, and you might not now be rocking him in your arms while singing ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. But he might not. Maybe nothing you could have done would have made him fall asleep. Maybe he’s teething, or growing, or his sleep patterns are changing. Maybe actually you can’t control much of it at all and you just need to keep him safe and warm and fed, and that’s enough.

Sometimes we need to notice the ticker tape in order to silence it for a little while. And enjoy quietly washing those dishes while the chaos continues regardless.

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