Raising children is pretty tricky really. Despite wanting to be a mother all my life, when I managed to produce our first child, William, I really had no idea what to do with him. Penelope Leach became my new best friend as we struggled with sleeping, feeding and crying. (and looking after the baby). I liked that she didn’t make the baby the enemy that required beating into submission, or at least the occasional truce. We learned as we went. I’ve heard it said that “The first child, like the first waffle” should be thrown away.” Though I would hesitate to throw WIlliam away, and my husband, a first born, is a pretty acceptable human being, I understand the sentiment. As new parents we were certainly making it up as we went along.
Consequently I felt a little less anxious about raising a second child. We’d been through it once, and with WIlliam’s health problems had experienced a range of issues. William was two years old, and walking, talking and pretty fun to be with. Surely a second child would be more straight-forward.
Jonathan’s delivery was worse that William’s (which had been no picnic), as he decided to come face first. But he didn’t need an incubator, and his face recovered quickly. He always had a beautifully shaped head. And, joy of joys, he didn’t have excema or any allergies. He fed well and was gorgeous. His eyes did some funny things, but we figured/hoped that was just being newborn. The first six weeks were pretty idyllic really.
How we found out he was blind is a story for another day. We will now fast-forward a few months. We are starting to come to terms with having a child out of the ordinary. But all the rules have changed. Blind babies do things differently. And being the parent of a blind child requires some extra skills and seems to require super-powers. I search through library books and try to find out what we need to do to parent our Jonathan. It is a daunting and worrisome time.
Then one day I am in the University of Otago library, in among the books on parenting. I find one produced by the magazine, Exceptional Parent. I open it up and start reading and find the sentence that changes my life: “There are many good ways to raise children”.
There are many good ways to raise children. That is it. There are many wrong things to do, but there isn’t one good thing that we have to find out. If I do things differently from someone else, we can both be right. I am freed from the need to find the one right way to raise my sons. I would never say that all we have done and continue to do is the right way for anyone else. But I do know that most of the time we did the best we could under the circumstances. Given the time again, there are things we did that I wouldn’t do, and things left undone that I would attend to. But mostly it was ok. We were not the perfect parents to William and Jonathan, but neither were they perfect children. But as a family I think we have done ok.