The Best Advice.

At the birthday party of a ten year old girl, a group of mothers looked on anxiously while talking about their children. While the little girls danced to Taylor Swift and compared their collection of silly bands, the mothers were deep in discussion.

“How long did you breastfeed for? Was it exclusive or did you supplement with a bottle?” asked one mother.

“Was she dry at night by two, or just dry during the day? We moved to pull-ups by eighteen months” said another.

“Did she have a sippy cup or did she go straight from breast to a cup?”

It sounds unbelievable doesn’t it?

That’s because it is.

It never happened.

By the time your child is ten, your nipples will be safely tucked away inside your bra. If you were to pull them out at the local coffee shop it’s possible you may be arrested. There will have been 964 new experts in children’s sleeping patterns, and you will groan and change the channel each time they pop up on the telly to promote their new book. The aisle in the supermarket with the wet wipes and the boxes of Huggies will be a complete mystery to you.

Children will win awards at school and no-one will say “I hear she was the first in her baby group to use a straw”. No-one looks at a child and says “I really like the way they walk, I bet they walked by ten months, they look like they’ve been doing it longer than everyone else.”

The game of my child is going to turn out better than your child has ended, because everyone has realized it’s irrelevant. The baby that could point to the blue blocks and stack the hoops faster than anyone else is now failing Language Arts but blitzing in Geometry. Parents have learnt that each week there will be another hurdle, maybe it will be social, perhaps it will be scholastic, we all pray it wont be medical.

Your challenges this week may involve not making the basketball squad or falling out with a best friend. You will try and stay calm while you work on fractions, listen intently to the project on sharks, and be genuinely interested while you are given the task of quizzing the religious definitions of certain aspects of Judaism.  You may find yourself wiping away the tears at the orthodontist (both yours and hers), and then bursting with pride over the courage displayed while being vaccinated, again, both yours and hers.

First words, first teeth, weening and first steps are all captured in photos and video clips, their dates are immaterial.

Having four children in four different countries has meant that I have received four very different approaches when it came to parenting advice. To wrap or unwrap, to control cry or to attach, to breast-feed for at least 4, 6, 12 months or more. To circumcise, to what in the hell would you do that for? You can have one drink. You can have no drinks.

My four children, unsurprisingly, have different levels of intelligence and physical abilities depending on what it is that they are doing at the time. I would hazard a guess that none of it is related to whether they sat in a stroller or spent more time in a baby sling. The one pregnancy that I technically got everything right for, has not resulted in a child any more brilliant than another. The unplanned pregnancy, the one that didn’t receive the vitamins and the forethought, is interestingly the child who is supposedly quite gifted. This could be luck, this could be life.

When I look back at everything I was told and every book that I read, one piece of advice stands clear of everything else. It came from my obstetrician in Malta. A brilliant man with the kindest heart. A man with six children of his own.

As I was packing my bag ready to leave the hospital with a brand new third little traveler, Dr Muscat walked in to my room to check on how I was and joked about how the easy bit was over. I was now heading home to three children under four. He stood over the third little traveler and looked down at him with a very sincere smile and said “you are very lucky” and then he looked in my direction. “Both of you – you are very lucky”.

“Take him home and cherish him. Remember to take a moment to really look at him and love him. It is the very best thing you can do for him”.

It’s simple but it’s true. Don’t get caught in the hype, don’t beat yourself up, don’t over think it.

Just love them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00730557217264985056 manycoloured-days

    What a great post! This is something every single first mother should read. My youngest, the 14 month-old has already lived in three different countries and is just about to move into her fourth, has been through the hands of four different nationality pediatricians and countless, often contradictory advise and we are sailing through! Of course she’s my third but I remember so well those first-time mum, nerve-wrecking talks. Just love them. You said it perfectly well.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Very freaky, my third had passed through 4 different countries by the time he was 5 months old. Same thing, such different advice handed out along the way. Thank you xxx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08404421856986720832 Kerri Sackville

    Gorgeous. Beautiful post honey x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03623997911568143459 MsCaroline

    So odd, I just started working on a post about this today – my boys are 15 and 18 – and I was thinking back to how terribly important it all seemed when they were small and we were all so worried we would make that one critical mistake that would ruin them forever. On the other hand, as a high school teacher (as well as a -ahem – ‘seasoned’ parent) I can also tell you that, when they get to be this age, no one can tell who was breastfed or bottle fed, who started reading early, whose mum stayed home/vs whose mum worked, who had only organic food vs fast food in the car. But you can definitely tell when kids are loved by their families. Beautiful, beautiful post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15709892778460619439 ClaireyHewitt

    My first ob said much the same thing. But instead he said, ” I want you to go home and just stare at your baby for as long as you want, and tell your visitors to go away until you feel like seeing them.”

    Thank god for mothers groups though, it saves us having to bore our other friends stupid with all the things we are worried about with tiny babies!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      “I want you to go home and just stare at your baby” – I love it. My first mothers group was my lifeline and I was definitely a little neurotic. It’s a fine balance between well informed and completely consumed. Kx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02609839832870097361 Unknown

    Thank you.
    Mother of a 15-month old

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02609839832870097361 Unknown

    Thank you.
    Mother of a 15-month old

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08109018150566511128 traceyb65

    ‘But you can definitely tell when kids are loved by their families’. gorgeous comment MsCaroline, and a wonderful post Kirsty … after stepping back from an overly competitive Mumma friendship this week, i realised what i want for my two (12 and 8) is to find a world that fits them, not to squeeze them into someone else’s definition of perfect. xt

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Im keeping that one for later “not to squeeze them into someone else’s definition of perfect”. Fantastic advice.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01994358630275446426 Chaos, Kids, Crochet and Cake

    Amen to that!
    My philosophy was always just to do what I felt was right for me and my family (if that meant staying in bed, cuddling, eating cake and feeding baby, then so be it) and got I bored very quickly with the whole toddler group comparisons. All 5 of mine are turning out ok, although I’m sure they’ll all have their own special gripes to discuss with their shrinks one day!
    What a fantastic world view your little travellers will have!
    Sandra x

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Your comment made me laugh out loud, every time I think I’ve managed to get it all spectacularly wrong I make a mental note to put another dollar aside for the the “therapy jar”. Kxx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10324845550553743658 Chantel

    If there was a better way to say “Amen,” I’d say it. This was quite simply, awesome. In fact, I’m posting a link on my fb–that’s how awesome. xo

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Thanks Chantel xx

  • http://www.easypeasykids.com.au/ Nathalie

    Love love love I have nearly finished a post called Parenting ; OMG we are doing it all wrong. Love is my advice :)

  • Celia

    Simple and smart. I love it. Want to share!

  • http://lifeofanexpatparent.wordpress.com/ The Foreigner

    Honestly, sometimes I fret and compare and sometimes I get on with it. It’s good to be reminded of what really matters.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      I’m the same, sometimes I get caught up in the schedules and the “shouldn’t we be doing” and then there’s a moment of clarity. It’s weighing up the two extremes. Thanks for the lovely comment. xx

  • kylie

    All that comparing seems so irrelevant 6 years down the track. Now I need to stop comparing boy twin to girl twin. They both have their strong points. Whatever their chosen paths, they will have my unconditional love and support.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09574721273010056362 Annieb25

    Love has always been my advice. If you give them love, always, they will be ok. They will always be ok. Lovely post. xxx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08939805218711968317 Mark Fendrick

    Not going to say much except “congratulations!”

    At last, someone who “gets it”.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09683804542905241704 Kathy the Teawife

    So perfectly put . . . thank you for reminding us about what is important. xoxooxo Kathy the teawife

  • http://vitalmommy.com/ vitalmommy.com

    Oh thank you. I’m in the midst of new baby angst with my second (6 weeks old) and have to stop myself from comparing him to my first constantly.

  • http://ninafatlemon.blogspot.ca/ THE Fat Lemon

    Fabulous post! I look at all three of my children and mostly wonder how it happened that they are so different and yet so individually perfect. I love each of them in different ways but all at the same time and it doesn’t matter to me how they started out or who I did what with. Love is all you need….

  • http://expatlogue.wordpress.com/ Aisha Ashraf

    What a wise doctor. I hope as many women read this as read the countless bloody baby books available that “tell” you how to have and raise children. Seriously, I could never get my head around how people would set aside their own judgement in favour of direction from someone they don’t know from Adam and have never met.
    People have been raising kids since… well, for a very long time – they never needed a book to do it before. Somewhere along the line advice turned into instruction and everyone got neurotic about it. Feed them when they’re hungry, teach them to think for themselves and love them, love them, love them. It’s simple enough.

  • http://www.babybutler.com.au/ Baby Butler

    Such a beautiful post, brought a tear to my eye (in a good way) I am going to link it on Fbook and insist every new mum reads it!!! x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12124831265480163064 Smudgeblurr

    What a beautiful post Kirsty. Sitting here with my daughter kicking away in my belly (25 weeks tmo!) I am going to share this with my FB birth club as it is advice we all need to hear!
    Thanks x

  • http://www.mariatedeschi.com/mumsword Maria Tedeschi (Mum’s Word)

    When I was pregnant with my 4th baby, another mother of 4 said to me that she realised that children have ingrained personality traits that no matter what discipline or reward or otherwise you introduce, children are going to be the way they are going to be.

    Across her 4 children she raised them in a similar manner but they are all completely different. Now having had 4 myself I realised she was right.

    Which goes back to what you’ve said in this post. They just want us to love them and their spunky ways.

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11944798399375789864 Naomi

    Beautiful post, and so true, all of it, especially the wise words from the doctor.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17068258362329951567 Author Rebecca Mugridge

    Oh I just LOVE that final statement by that doctor!
    Great post-we all worry too much and should relax and enjoy our babies more, they are little for such a short amount of time x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10437498511254202582 Sarah-Jane

    I remember my first born not walking until 16 months and I was SURE there was something wrong with his legs (miraculously he walks fine at 12). Brilliant post. S x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02519482775650749822 sarah braaksma

    this is amazing I wrote a post this morning along the same lines.. we must all be pondering this thought at the moment! you wrote it beautifully! What a lovely Dr!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02072304081006798910 Diminishing Lucy

    Oh goddess, you give good blog.

    My OB, the one that rallied me through my totally unplanned pregnancy, was so similar. I can recall him looking at both of us about an hour after Lexie was born, saying “You two, you are made for one another. How lucky is that?”

    THis post, Kirsty, is fantastic, and so so true. I am now off to forward it to all the lovely mums in my original mummies group in Darwin – seasoned travellers all of them, all well grounded in anti competitive behaviour – we used to joke that when our kids were all teens no one would give a flyng fuck about breast v’s bottle…

    xxx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08609190990579743429 Kath

    Just lovely, Kirstie. So true, so perfectly written….. lovely.

    Oh and at almost-thirteen, the competition is no longer between the parents; it’s between the kiddlywinks themselves. Who has the trendiest backpack, skinniest jeans, newest top, longest hair, cutest bracelet, latest magazine.

    “Not me, Mum,” mine says. “I’ve already won the prize for being The Poorest Kid in Class, so the pressure’s off me.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10009232448247160974 ally

    Love love love this post
    So true Kirstie
    thankyou

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18254275544017629129 bigwords is…

    Lovely xx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09890862541890241422 Raine and Sage

    As the Beatles say “all you need is love”.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12345281191884731723 Darcie

    Aw! Loved this. All your posts make me cry!

  • http://motheringspirit.wordpress.com/ motheringspirit

    Absolutely loved this – linking to it today!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02983038582011876771 TryToFocus

    Beautiful post. Made me cry.

    As the mother of two I completely agree that no one will give a shit who did what and when in the long run, but it’s so hard to not buy into the madness when almost every waking moment is focussed on your little people and their needs and wants. I think for lots of mums it’s about still being “knowledgeable” about something. Having something worthwhile to share, a valid viewpoint, being a subject expert so to speak.

    I will share this post(and blog!) with my SIL who gave birth to her first child this week. Perhaps your post will give her own little a-ha moment.

  • http://mom-101.com/ Mom101

    Such a lovely post, Kirsty! I’m so glad you pointed me here. Yay for more reasonable parents in the world. May posts like this one create many more.

  • http://www.mummylion.co.uk/ catherine @mummylion

    my midwife told me to trust my instincts, so i have, and so far we are muddling along in our chaotic relaxed love-filled existence. i sacked off the baby groups last year, my sons 2.5 now. love your blog x

  • Jaya

    beautiful post.

  • http://www.pressealgerie-dz.com/ journaux algeriens

    thank you for this post

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09420852941644763293 Kym Hamer

    How lovely!