Becoming a parent for the first time is one of the most daunting experiences a Mother or Father faces. There are so many questions which need answering - apart from the most obvious - how could anyone in their right mind have trusted someone so unqualified in newborn baby-minding to take home this tiny/living/breathing/pooing/crying bundle? I mean, surely there should have been an exam to pass? Did I miss it?
But in all seriousness, we can never, alone, find all the answers to all the questions. How much milk does my baby need to drink? And if I'm breastfeeding how can I even tell? Are they sleeping too much? Too little? What temperature should their room be? How do I stop their incessant crying? Am I going mad? And honestly, is it normal for them to excrete marmite from their bottom just after they're born? (Sorry - you know me - I couldn't not mention poo somewhere)!
Books, of course, go a long way in providing some of the answers, but there's nothing quite as in-depth or honest as hearing it from other Mothers and Fathers - people who are experiencing the same fears and anxieties as you. Some parents-to-be join NCT groups. Other new parents partake in Mother and Baby bonding sessions at local community centres. Some meet through friends. Some meet in parks, at play centres. But however they meet, these friendships forged through having children of similar ages are invaluable and often life-long.
When I gave birth to Renée almost 5 years ago I met a number of other Mums with newborn babies, some of who are still my friends now. Some, inevitably, became friends purely because we had babies of the same age and I was eager to make friends on behalf of my children, as well as for myself. But others became friends because I genuinely liked them, with or without children. Children had obviously brought us together, but I had found kindred spirits who would have been friends if we'd happened to meet any other way.
But this is all pretty obvious. Surely there is more to this post than me repeating all sorts of things that you already know?
Of course there is (did you really doubt me)?
So last week, just before Renée went to bed she asked me what we were doing the next day - (she has this habit of asking for an itinerary for the following day before she goes to sleep and can only sleep if the itinerary is to her satisfaction).
"Well", I replied. "You've got school. And then after school Mr B is coming to play."
I expected, of course, a big whoop and a smile and an easy drift off to sleep dreaming about the escapades her and Mr B would get up to the next day, because Mr B had been her friend since she was born and his Mother was one of my 'kindred spirits'. But I was a little shocked, if not even more disappointed at her reply.
"I don't want Mr B to come and play."
"Oh no. Why not, darling?"
"He plays too rough. And he wants to play boys' games. And he doesn't want to dress up."
"But I thought Mr B was a good friend. I thought you liked playing with him."
"Well I don't. And I don't want him to come. Can you cancel it Mummy?"
Oh dilemma. What to do? I hadn't seen Mr B's Mother for a while and was keen to catch-up... but I didn't want Renée to be upset. And if I cancelled, did it mean that Mr B would never be invited round again? Was this to be the end of their life-long friendship? Would this be the end of my 5-year friendship with his Mother?
Eventually, I persuaded Renée to let Mr B come round one last time as I convinced her it was too late to cancel, but that I would be extra-vigilant of Mr B's rough behaviour and if after that she still decided that she didn't want to play with him then I would see the Mother on her own. She seemed happy enough with this.
As it turned out, Mr B wasn't rough in the slightest, Renée managed to persuade him to put a fairy princess outfit on (how on earth she did that I have no idea), and there were even tears at the door when neither of them wanted to part. And she's already asking when he can come round again. So a good result for all concerned.
But it has got me thinking. Pretty soon, it won't be me in control of who's invited over, or who Renée chooses to be her friend. I always used to ask myself this question - was it worse if the children got on, but you didn't like the parents, or if the children didn't get on but you really liked the parents? I still don't know the answer to that one, but I think we're almost at the stage now (at least with Renée, if not Edie) where that question might be irrelevant. Renée will choose her friends and I will choose mine and we might meet in the middle somewhere, we might not. But until then, if she could be friends with the boys and girls whose parents I like, I would be extremely grateful.
hayley balozi posted a blog post
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