Having completed three qualifications, moved countries nine times and been married for thirteen years, I at last felt ready to immigrate to that unchartered and daunting territory, called motherhood! What on earth has my reluctance been about, I often wondered?
As for many other first time mothers, to me, motherhood seemed exciting, on the one hand, but filled with about a million “what if’s?” on the other. What if, I weren’t a good mother? What if, I repeated those unforgiveable little errors my parents had made? What if, I simply did not know how to raise a happy child? And so on and so forth, ad infinitum!
A degree in art and another in art psychotherapy led me to working in the UK with vulnerable children, parents and often, single mothers, focusing mainly on creating healthy attachment and bonding between parents and their children. Here, I met parents who struggled to bond with their children, often due to the less than sufficient parenting they had received themselves as small children. Parents were encouraged to hold their babies and to talk and sing to them. And they were also taught how to draw with, play, listen to and interact with their other children. For some, the hurt of their own childhoods seemed insurmountable, but for others doors to greater attachment and bonding with their children opened widely. In this setting, I learnt that perfect parenting was not achievable, but that good-enough parenting really was good enough. Children that were loved, heard and listened to bonded with their parents and became well-attached young people and adults who in the future, would be able to carry these parenting skills forward to raising their own children.
Pregnancy arrived with a mixture of awe and anticipation! Unleashing a tornado of feelings and expectations, emotions and fears. The in-depth knowledge of three sisters, with quite a few offspring between them, resulted in a baby room that resembled a mini M&S; stocked to the brim with toys and clothes for all ages, from newborn to at least middle school.
Fast-forward and one baby boy later, I was back at home from hospital and preparing little Alexander for his first peaceful night at home. But, “oh, no!” My M&S shelves sported no pyjamas! “Do babies even wear pyjamas?” I wondered. And so, I called my sister, who was camping with her tent somewhere in Africa, to ask whether babies wore pyjamas when they went to bed at night. Little did I know then, that it was at that precise moment that my children’s book series, Alexander’s Questions, was born?
Writing and illustrating seemed to be the ideal way of combining my experience in art therapy with my love for both books and children. I wished to create humorous books in which adults listened to their children; filled with vibrant, busy illustrations to enhance the reading experience and in turn, encourage invaluable bonding between parents and children.
Alexander, the hero of the books in the series, Alexander’s Questions, is an inquisitive boy who is perpetually hunting for the answers to important questions like, Do Grannies have green fingers? Do Daddies have ants in their pants? Are Mummies scared of monsters? and now in my upcoming book, Do Babies wear pyjamas? Importantly, the adults in the book listen to Alexander and my aim is to tap into the small reader’s fresh and unrestricted view of the world without explaining everything from an adult’s point of view. Humour, word play and misconceptions, play a pivotal part in engaging young readers.
In Do Babies wear pyjamas? Mummy calls her sister, who is camping somewhere in the middle of Africa, to ask whether babies wear pyjamas when they go to bed at night. Mummy’s sister could not hear very well, as just at that moment, lions were roaring outside her tent. Instead of hearing the word ‘pyjamas’, Mummy’s sister hears “bananas”. And thinking that Mummy was looking for a recipe with bananas, Mummy’s sister shouted recipes for banana milkshakes, banana muffins, banana smoothies, baked bananas, banana jam etc.
To find time to spend with your children is not always easy. Outings are expensive and the day is only so long! In my opinion, reading with your child is not only a very affordable and enjoyable activity, but also the most wonderful way to listen to, communicate and finally attach and bond with your little one.
Snuggling up with a book at the end of the day when your child is tired and ready to go to sleep is a sure way to create a safe, comforting space in which your child feels loved and supported.
Adding reading to your bedtime routine, also cultivates a positive habit that does not only help calm young minds at the end of a busy day, but will soon become a lifelong habit of approaching sleep in a calm and peaceful manner. Little did I know, when I started reading with my own children as babies, what a valuable investment I was making, not only regarding these benefits, but also in my future relationship with my children?
And now, many years later when my Alexander does not live in an M&S room anymore, but rather in a distinctive teenage pad, the occasional ‘what if’s’ still sneak up on me; those moments of doubt most parents endure. For me, motherhood has been and still is the most wondrous of all journeys, with ups and downs, highs and lows, craters and magnificent views. And in my heart of hearts, I am finally sure that as a mother, I have been good enough!