Halfway through the early years

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A while back, my daughter turned 2.5. Two and a half years old. She is a little person now. She has a favourite colour (red), she enjoys being silly and giggly, and she spends a lot of her time living in a happy, imaginary daydream world of toys and fun.

Jellybean is (just about) an autumn baby. She will start school in 2018. A couple of years away.

Although she starts preschool in January, starting school is a much bigger step. From then on, the majority of her days will not be with me; they will be with other people.

That is scary. 

It's exciting, too. I'm excited about school days: nativity plays and bookbags and seeing her work for the first time. But I'm not in a massive hurry for them to arrive. I'm happy we've still got two years of (mostly) being able to decide what to do with our days.

So, here we are at the halfway point, really. Just over halfway through the before-school years.

I love who she is right now.

I mean don't get me wrong: it's exhausting. Exhausting in a different way than when she was a baby. Now we get sleep (well. Most nights) but she requires SO MUCH MORE input to keep her entertained. When she was a baby she would spend hours staring at a blank wall. Now? She spends her time trying to find out how to climb up stuff, or hide behind stuff, or crawl underneath stuff.

She is little and brave and funny and sweet.

And I want to do this bit right.

The thing is, kids are pretty sheltered when they're at home all the time. When they get to school age (especially nowadays) they get assessed and judged and measured. I believe that most teachers are good people, and passionate about their jobs, and will protect their kids against the churning out of perfect-academic-non-creative-non-questioning-quietly-compliant-Conservative-government-dream-children ahem ... I mean, excessive government interference.

Right now, she is a two year old: she believes she can do anything, literally anything, from strapping herself into the car seat to buying a dinosaur from the supermarket. Over time, she will start to realise the limitations of reality, and she will start to learn about herself. Her strengths. Her weaknesses. Her own personality. What drives and motivates her.

But as she gets older, she will start getting judged and measured by people whose job is not to judge and measure. Like her peers. Like wider society. Like advertisers and marketers. She will start to doubt her capability. At times, her dreams will be narrowed and her sense of purpose will be threatened.

I can't do much about that. That is life.

I can only hope to start her on the right foot.

Me being me, I try not to only ever tell Jellybean that she is beautiful. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against the B word. I think she is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. But I try and keep it balanced. I tell her that she isn't just beautiful, but that she is clever and kind and funny. Because she is. I'm not about to allow her to feel that her only 'thing' in life that she is good at is being cute - or that being prettier than other people is something to strive for.

I don't believe you can underestimate the importance of encouragement for children. Not just in words, but in actions: giving them a chance to stretch themselves, to accomplish something on their own that they couldn't do before. Jellybean is almost aggressively independent now - to her, the thought of me helping her put her shoes on is almost ridiculous. I celebrate that independence (sometimes through gritted teeth) because the look of pure joy on her face when she manages to do something by herself is amazing. She tries, and fails, and tries again, and eventually she masters it and I get to feel very proud and have to sit on my hands to stop myself from bragging about it on social media.

My daughter won't be good at everything. I know her already - she is a sensitive, emotional soul. I can already anticipate the kind of situations that she might find difficult in the future. It's not my job to make her more aware of those. It's my job to hold her hand while she navigates them, until she's old enough to do it on her own.

We are encouragers as parents. Not without boundaries, obviously. Not without a little bit of realism. But I want her to know that we believe in her: that we feel she is capable of, if not succeeding at everything she puts her mind to, then capable of trying and working hard to get there.

I feel like that's the most important thing we can impart to her at this stage in terms of future confidence and success. Not necessarily how many after school clubs we can afford to put her in or engineering useful friendships for her. I know these things matter: there's an obvious gap between rich kids and poor kids in terms of future success prospects, and it would be delusional to think that privilege doesn't matter, or that more wealthy parents might be able to afford better opportunities for their kids. But that kind of thinking, long-term, drives you insane: the thought that the rich and powerful and influential are born rich and powerful and influential and that life is full of massive inequality is enough to make a woman kind of angry. Pointless anger that doesn't achieve actually achieve anything. We have to do what we can to set her up for a good future, wherever she ends up.

Besides, riches and power are futile things to chase after anyway, right?

She does have a really good childhood when I stop to think about it.

Which is really, right now, all that we want.

Linking up with:

Cuddle Fairy

Let's Talk Mommy

And then the fun began...

My Random Musings


  1. What a lovely post with so many important messages too. I do tell my children they are beautiful/handsome/gorgeous all the time but like you I also tell them they are clever and wise and witty and so on. I firmly believe in the power of encouragement. Thanks for linking to #sharewithme

    1. Ah thank you :) yes, I'm definitely a firm believer of encouragement! At least while she's still little and can't moan at me for being embarrassing x

  2. Such a beautiful post and I love all the photos. Encouragement is so important and that reminder of being halfway through the early years really resonated with me. My eldest is also only just an autumn baby and is due to start school this year. Those early years have all flown by so quickly but I think I have tried to make the most of them. My youngest though it at the halfway stage. Once they're at school there are so many external messages that they receive and that encouragement from us as parents is the one thing we can do to help give them confidence to withstand some of those messages.

    1. It flies by, doesn't it? Occasionally I stop and ask myself if I'm really making the most of it, but I think I am, mostly. Some days are harder than others, I don't think you can cherish every single moment, but we try, and that's the main thing :)

      Confidence is key isn't it - I think this is something she will struggle with (although I could be wrong!) so we're trying to lay a good foundation now so that, like you say, they can deal with more negative messages later on.

      Good luck for your eldest (and you!) with school this year, I really hope it all goes well for you x

  3. Such a fabulous post Megan.

    I was anxious about my first going to school. In fact I've kicked against (internally) every new 'cycle' for both my sons. The eldest was really shy and wouldn't say boo to a goose all through primary but in secondary was really popular and he was the centre of quite a big group (I do have to say that he still has the two close friends through primary and also the large group though secondary and he's 23). His confidence just soared. There were times when I was in absolute despair having tried (both husband and I) to do the best we could and yet ... like the time eldest was truanting and all those hormones :) I absolutely dreaded him going to Uni three years ago but it's been the best thing ever for him. I'm now dreading him getting a job in London etc hahaha Different anxieties at different ages isn't it!

    I have to say that both of them have grown into young men I have a great deal of respect and admiration for. They don't remember too much about the rich life we tried to provide (and I don't mean financially) but they do remember us being around when they 'fell' and the unconditional support and love no matter what.

    You are an awesome parent and I've no doubt you will navigate all the twists and turns in a considered and loving way. xx

    1. You never stop worrying as a parent I think! You're right, different anxieties at different ages ...

      Thanks for your lovely, kind comment. We try our best, I think that's what matters xx

  4. I love this. You're so right, it's sad when kids start to realise that actually, anything isn't possible and I think it's something to let them hang onto as long as possible
    Thanks for linking up to #BloggerClubUK :)

    1. I love their sense of imagination! Definitely want her to hang onto it for as long as possible. Thanks for reading :)

  5. So true I have been there myself and now MM starts next September and I can't believe the house will be empty with both kids at school. I swear there were both just babies. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me I hope you will continue to share your amazing blog posts with Charlotte over at Mummy Fever starting next week. #sharewithme

    1. Ahh bless you, hope it all goes well! That must be a really weird feeling to have a quiet house when they all start school. So many emotions! I will keep sharing, thank you :) x


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