I inquired of their names and the day’s names seemed to have changed from the last time I had visited. We played with the babies, she carried some, threw down some, carried others upside down until she announced to her babies “Time to sleep I want to go play, Nyasha is waiting for me”. She took the dolls lay them side by side and covered them with my shawl before disappearing with her friend.
Ruvimbo is my six-year-old niece and her interaction with her dolls is a familiar pastime of many girls her age. The pastime forms our very first insights into the world of parenting. We name our children, feed them, bath them, wash their clothes, tuck them to bed and forget about them until convenient. Yes in our imaginary parenting world we can forget about the children for many days, we can just get another one, throw away the one whose clothes are torn and give away the one we don’t like so much.
The journeys of our childhood parenting play simplify parenting
As I give thought on all these practices and experiences, I begin to wonder if the fallacy is helpful at all in preparing us for the parenting journey. Are my peers who never got dolls but dealt with real-life siblings better prepared than myself? The journeys of our childhood parenting play simplify parenting, how I wish someone had told me that it’s a bittersweet journey. This is also true of many other life achievements such as education and sports. Not all days are glorious.
When my first child was born, oh!! there was labour of course, at least this came with adequate info in as far as how painful it was going to-be. With all the reassurances that the baby will be the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. No wonder they are called bundles of joy. I held my baby and felt accomplished I finally had a real baby to call my own. Breastfeeding a seemingly easy task I had done as a girl was suddenly not so easy, here there was a new term called latching. Suddenly I started questioning my competencies as a mum, my dream to be a super mum began to fall apart. I held on to my son dearly as I did my best to get breastfeeding correct over the next few days. My failures resulted in what they called nipple cracking which was literally wounds on my nipples. The nipples would hurt each time the child tried to latch again. Maiwe suddenly parenting was not as easy as I have believed all my life.
He would scream so loud
After a few attempts over a fortnight or so I got the latching right and I was super happy I had just joined the league of certified breast milk feeding moms. During labour I had pethidine administered to help me with the pain. I hear some of it sometimes crosses the placenta to the baby causing residual effects on the child. Whether due to that or was it adjustments, my son slept peacefully the first 3 days or so. Suddenly he woke up and maybe to the realization that he had a dedicated human being to his care. He would scream so loud, however, unlike Ruvimbo’s babies who would be given a command by their mum “go to sleep” and obey, my son seemed deaf. Otherwise why wouldn’t he listen to me his mommy?
Never a stroll in the park
My experiences above, are just but a highlight of the many truths many new moms face with their newborns. Raising children is never a stroll in the park, it calls for character, patience, endurance and above all knowledge. Knowledge on child development stages in the physical domain as well as psychological domain will help give a great deal of insights to parents. The kind of knowledge that equips you to deal with your child’s behaviour with a little frustration, but patience emanating from a deeper understanding that there is a future for the child you are contributing to.
Parenting is a period of trial and error
Many times as parents we believe we know everything that concerns raising children for we were once children ourselves and some like Ruvimbo had a chance to being a mother but as clearly indicated the experiences may not suffice at all. Most of what is learned about parenting is learned in one’s childhood, as no formal training takes place to prepare would be parents. Parenting is a period of trial and error. The growing child’s psychological development is largely veiled and unknown, with the physical development of children taking center stage. From the day a mother falls pregnant, the system will offer plenty of tips and advice on the child’s physical growth, development and well-being. The information given to mothers may not be as empowering enough to make parents masters in child rearing but they will at least be aware of what to expect. This unfortunately is not as true for psychological and emotional development.
Learn a virtue or a vice?
The formative years in child development are truly important for establishing patterns of emotional, cognitive and social well-being. One of the greatest psychologist named Erik Erikson spoke of how each development stage of a child presents an opportunity for the child to learn a virtue or a vice. Sometimes our inadequacy as parents will cause all the windows of opportunity to nurture vices as we fail to provide adequate experiences for the development of virtues.
Parenting training programmes
Given that there are very few if any schools on parenting where one can formally enroll like we do for law, accounting, social work and medicine to learn how to do the job right, where do parents look up to? Diverse parent training programs are available, one needs to explore them to find the one most suitable for them, which meets their parenting needs. Parent training programs involve purposive learning activities for parents attempting to change or improve their method of parenting in the hope of influencing the child’s behaviour at home or in other settings thereby reducing misunderstanding between parent and child.
This marks the beginning of a series on the psychological and emotional development of children as we attempt to bring knowledge to parents on this otherwise uncommon discourse MT