There's plenty about being a parent that comes naturally to me.
I instinctively know what to feed them. I know that good food has a big part to play in their childhood, just as it did mine.
I know to love them, to give them plenty of cuddles and to listen.
I know to read to them every day and nurture their love of books.
I know that less will always reward them with more.
As they've grown, I instinctively know that a slower, longer childhood is right for them. And that they should spend time in the garden watching food grow.
I'm very grateful to have instincts like these. No matter what anyone says or what I see, I am never swayed. It's so comforting to have that instinctive backing. To know what is right.
What doesn't come naturally to me, though, is huge and fills me with guilt. Every. Single. Day.
I don't know how to deal with the fighting, the mood swings, the episodes of rage. Instead of waiting for calm to creep back in, for them to find their centre, then talking about it sensibly, I get sucked in and swept along.
I've been reading how sibling conflict is an opportunity for communication. But I'm failing miserably. (Unless raising my voice counts as communication?)
If it was a four-year-old Kian clashing with Kian as he is now, I imagine I wouldn't get so caught up. Kian is more resilient and he moves on quite quickly. I imagine I might even let them sort it out for themselves. But it always feels so much deeper with Luca. Uncontrollable. Intense. The distress lingers and it affects everything. It's the highly sensitive thing that I still know very little about.
This morning, as I baked cheese and chive muffins to fill their lunch boxes, I realised that instead of feeling proud and grateful that it's easy for me to wake up and rustle up something delicious for their lunch, I felt niggled that I'm only really doing part of my job.
Filling their tummies and reading to them and loving them is only really part of the job. It's the easy part. It's easy to bake and cook from scratch (for me, anyway). It's easy to read. It's easy to cuddle and be close. Because it's calm and enjoyable. It's easy to parent when you've got calm and enjoyable.
It's hard when everyone is overwhelmed and angry, in a struggle. I wish I could better tune in and know exactly what their needs are and how to talk and nurture them back. That's the hard part and I wish it were more obvious.
I wish it were more obvious: tuning into my child and being able to connect and work out what they really need on an emotional level and being able to think 'you're acting this way because..., so all I need to do is this', and know in my heart of hearts that I'm doing a great job.
I know, as parents, we're human too, carrying all sorts of issues that still need resolving. I accept that, and I know nothing is ever perfect, but I'd like to feel – just once – like I can pat myself on the back.
I find myself wondering if it'll all turn out OK. In spite of all this stuff that isn't obvious to me.
What was obvious to me today, though, was I needed music and I needed to make banoffee pie. So I danced in the kitchen to Michael Bublé, and when the boys came home, we danced some more.... (before several moments like the kind I describe above).
And now, I have a bowl of buttery, biscuity, sticky and creamy. Where it's going to end up is very very obvious.*
Do you struggle with the emotional stuff too as a parent? Do you have one child you always worry about? Do you wish more of parenting was instinctive so that we didn't have to spend our spare time reading advice?**
* I'll post the banoffee recipe tomorrow.
** Speaking of which, I have a copy of Simplicity Parenting here from the library thanks to a mention from Greer. But it's been sitting on the coffee table for a week. Next to Tessa Kiros' Apples for Jam. Guess which one seems to fall into my lap first.