I became heavily reliant on the internet when my son was a tiny baby. And I literally mean tiny. He had been termed "failure to thrive", a hideous diagnosis for any parent to hear. The best support I found was online where groups of mums gathered in forums to provide solace, comfort and advice for other people whose children were in a similar predicament.
I became familiar with the weights of babies across the globe, I celebrated when someone's baby put on even 50 grams and I commiserated with the mothers who cried at every weigh in. I received support and understanding and many a weight gain trick that sadly only seemed to work on me, not my child.
As my son grew up I transferred my source of primary anxiety to the fact that he was an awful sleeper. Again there were myriad websites where I found women awake with their offspring at any hour of the night.
And so it went for all of those childhood years. Whenever there was an issue I was surrounded by literally hundreds of people in the same position as me. It was a wonderful time to parent, as you understood that what you were going through was normal, maybe not always pleasant, but not unusual. There were people from the next suburb and people from Canada, Germany and South Africa (and every other country on the globe) going through the same thing.
Just one click of my fingers and hundreds of helpful stories and people joined me in my living room.
I'm not sure exactly when I stopped going to Google for support, but it was probably at the time my confidence about my own parenting started to overtake my anxiety. There is far less parenting advice for mums of 15-year-olds than the mums of two-year-olds. And there is a good reason for that.
It is safe to say that one of the best things for me about parenting a teen has been my lack of fear that I'm doing it wrong. I no longer worry about what other people think. I have parented long enough to know that I know my son better than a text book and I know what works for us better than the mum down the road or the parent on the other end of the screen.
Don't get me wrong, unfortunately the judgement from others is still there. I tell people about something my son is doing and I get all the usual reactions: "you shouldn't let him....", "I would never do that", "it's not good for teenagers to...", "No, you should rather ..." But these words roll off me like water off a duck's back. It's good and refreshing to hear people have alternative opinions but they literally make no difference to the decisions I have made.
When my son was young I needed validation from the outside world. Motherhood was the most important role I had ever taken on and I wasn't sure that I was doing it right.
It was a bit like when I first learned to drive -- I needed to learn what to do so I never killed anyone and never created major traffic jams where I would cause things to move in directions I hadn't intended. But now that I have been driving for long enough I'm confident of doing it correctly, seamlessly, so no one else is negatively impacted by my movements.
It's the same with parenting. I am sure people have different ways of getting to the same place, different stops they make along the way and, at times, a completely different mode of transport to get there, but it works for them. Just like my way works for me and my passenger.
I no longer listen to the back-seat drivers, I don't fret about the people who don't agree with me and I can tell you for sure that the drive is much more peaceful because of it.
These days I am still reliant on the internet -- but now it's mainly because I'm trying to get everyone to agree with my political views. Something tells me that may be even harder than parenting.
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