I can’t believe it but in just a few weeks time I will have 12 year old. What? Surely this isn’t right. How am I to be trusted to mould the impressionable young mind of a pre-teen safely through her adolescence. When she hit 10 I breathed a sigh of relief and gave myself a high five for keeping her alive for a decade but just 2 years later the fear is back that I am not grown up enough for this job. It’s such a tricky age, Ella seems like another adult in the house now, she’s good company, we share a sense of humour and in a lot of ways she seems so mature but then there are occasions where I’m reminded she’s still only 11 and maybe I need to stop teaching her to drive. As Britney Spears once said, she’s ‘not a girl, not yet a woman’ (fun fact: Milo heard that song and thought she must be a boy- solid logic) but I’m told it all goes down hill once they start secondary school so while we’re still getting along I thought I’d share some memories and things I’ve learned in my first 12 years of motherhood.
1. Taking it back to baby-hood, I shouldn’t have rocked her to sleep til she was 3 and too big to be rocked to sleep. Ella was not a good sleeper until she was about 6 or 7 really and I blame it on the fact she never learned to self soothe as a baby. When she was tiny it was anything for an easy life but that came back to bite me, hard. She sleeps well now, for those wondering.
2. She wasn’t in any way damaged by the nights/weeks spent with Grandma over the years. My Mum has been a huge help with my kids and feels very strongly that parents should take a break from their kids if they can. She’s given me a week of her holiday each year and looked after Ella (and then Milo) while I went away without them. This really divides strangers on the internet and aggrevates many but from one parent to another, if you have the opportunity, take it! One week a year wont kill them and it will make all the difference to you!
3. Kids truly do not care about the money you spend on them but they do keep a tally of the hours you spend with them and will make you feel far more guilty for spending an hour working at home than they will for not buying them that toy. When she was small I would read (and sing, I’m sure she endured this purely so I’d stay longer) Ella to sleep at night and that time that was just us are some of my favourte memories.. mainly because the time shortly after that until dawn was like something from a horror movie.
4. Whenever I see someone changing their body or their face I think ‘What if they had a child?’, now this is not a judgement, you do you, what I’m saying is that having a daughter has changed the way I feel about plastic surgery. Some would say I was being overly sensitive but growing up with the likes of Kylie Jenner as role models I don’t want my daughter to think something she’s inherited from me needs to be changed before she’s had a chance to live with herself. I would totally have lipo though, I’m not that principled.
5. I should have encouraged her to be more assertive. As a kid I was bullied and so I have instilled in my children the importance of kindness. Unfortunately I seem to have overdone it with Ella and she can be a bit of a pushover, she wont just say what she wants and I worry that someone could take advantage of that. That being said she’s also considerably more laid back than I am and ultimately she’ll still be a nicer person for it.
6. Following closely on, don’t assume your kids are you. They are totally different people and while you can encourage traits and behaviours they are going to be who they are. I’ve known people have 2 kids so different you wouldn’t believe they were brought up in the same house, all you can really do is support them and hope they turn out to be someone you want to spend time with.. oh and accept that they may not want to be a doctor when they grow up.
7. Don’t take what they say to heart, kids can be cruel and they know how to push their parents buttons. Ella splits her time between us and her Dad and when Milo was born she said she wanted to spend more days with him. She was obviously feeling left out and it was a time when I was emotionally delicate and sleep deprived. I was upset but it was a phase that didn’t last long and it would have done nobody any good for me to have held on to it.
8. Encourage debate and don’t assume you’re always right. Raising Ella has taught me enough in itself but she has come home with facts from school that I didn’t know and was genuinely interested in. We’ve argued over spellings, learned times tables together (because I’m a 31 year old Maths fool) and we’ve already reached the stage where I hand over new technology to her because I’m not willing to learn how to use it.
9. Nobody else wants to hear about your kids, with the exception of blogging and YouTube. I’m actually convinced that this is why internet sharing became so popular. How many people do you follow on instagram (for example) and you’re genuinely interested to see their family pictures and witty captions compared to the drivel on your facebook feed from your real life friends. See? Keep your stories about your kids to a minimum at work, nobody cares. Trust me!
10. When Ella comes home from school with a new story from her classmate I give her the look. The look says ‘Ella, this person is a pathological liar and you know you shouldn’t listen to them’ ..there are kids who have everything, are going everywhere and are basically living the junior dream. I taught Ella early on to take everything her friends tell her with a pinch of salt and to make her own decisions. In addition to that, don’t write anything down that you don’t want everyone to read and just generally don’t talk about people behind their back. In this day and age you don’t know who might be recording you. The moral? You can’t trust anyone..
11. She can talk to me about anything.. whether she likes it or not. I don’t think it matters who it is but they (especially girls) need someone who they (and you) trust that they can come to with issues they need support with. Whether it be sex, problems at school or just general curiosities. The internet can offer answers but it can’t replace a parent/friend.
12. Have fun together! I’m not a normal Mom, I’m a Cool Mom, y’know? I’m not very good at serious, I’m not very good at keeping a straight face at parents evening and I will be teasing her about every boys name she mentions. We dance around the living room, Milo and I wake her up by jumping on her bed, I occasionally decide to repeat everything she says because it drives her nuts, we laugh, we have fun, it’s lots of fodder for the therapist.
So here’s to 12, my beautiful, messy, almost teenager. Six more and you’re on your own so make the most of it!