Being a Young Parent in 2019
How we balance criticism with creating life.
You know, one of the first things a stranger said to me when I took my newborn daughter out for the first time, was, "Oh, you're too young to be a parent!" But, as much as Pauline, the waitress from Pizza Hut, might've offended me that afternoon, as I scoffed my face with sundae sprinkles, I never quite took it too close to heart. Because I felt like I could prove the bitch wrong someday. And it started off by complaining to management and getting a £20 refund from our next order. But that was besides the point. I was going to prove to this stranger and anyone else who doubted my parenting methods that I was capable of raising a child. Even if that did mean having to lose the balloon hats at TGI Fridays. Because, you know, I'm an adult, and adults don't wear balloon hats. Unless on special occasions. But anyway, as I was saying.
At twenty-two years old I was technically still considered a young parent, despite the fact I didn't have as many candles on my caterpillar birthday cakes anymore. I was still treated like a kid who didn't know the first thing about being a parent. But that was the older generations perspective. And when I was seen out in public with my daughter I'd be stared at like a cave troll clutching a deflated rugby ball.
I wasn't overly sure how to raise a child, nor was my twenty-one year old fiancée. But, we were ready to do whatever it took to raise the best damn baby girl in the whole world. It meant, of course, having to nut up and age ten years in order to drift away from the child's mind of embracing late nights out on the town and pub crawls in the seventh circle of Hell. But it was a journey both my wife-to-be and I were prepared to make together, as a team.
Diving into parenthood for the first time is similar to storming the trenches on a battlefield; you're going to get A LOT of fire from the enemy. Or, in this case, the elderly, the relatives, or, you know, just anybody ever. Everyone has it out for you it seems. But, that isn't really the case after a while. We do, however, tend to think everybody is out for us when booting up the baby tutorial level on our systems, though.
"Oh, you're holding them wrong!" or "Don't forget to put nappy cream on!" to name a few of the many million pieces of 'advice' we've all heard ten times over. It's all things we sort of appreciate at first, but soon enough learn to despise hearing from anyone that isn't either the mother or the father of the baby. Like, it's appreciated, but not when it eventually becomes an endless slur of criticism and bad feedback. It's sort of like nails to a chalkboard; nobody wants to hear it.
Being a young parent means having to prove to not only yourself that you're capable of crafting a life, but also your parents, too. Because, annoyingly, at times, they're always there and refuse to leave unless you tell them you know what you're doing. And, even now, as I prepare for my third child at twenty-five years old, I still have to sit exams for my mum every time she sees the kids. Because, as a mother, she insists she knows best and will always look to guiding me to the alternative of what I've already chosen. Say, an outfit, for example. Now, I'm no Gok Wan, but I do know how to dress my daughter so she looks reasonably fashionable. But to my family? She needs work, honey!
I've been trying to fend off critics for almost three years now, and even after I've managed to ignore the voices in my head telling me I'm far too young for kids, I can't help but feel them still judging me or my wife. But that's life, of course. And when it comes down to it, everyone's a friggin' critic.
At first, it kind of bothered us both. Say we were taking our daughter out on a walk after only a few weeks of being home. Something like that should've been simple. But it wasn't. At all. It was patronising. Again, due to the thousands of eyes that seemed to cast themselves upon us as we strolled through the streets with our second-hand pushchair and sleep-deprived eyes barely open enough to see our irises.
For a long while, you tend to receive the cold shoulder from a lot of people, and if anything it just makes you want to retreat back indoors and shield yourself away for eighteen years until you can't be judged anymore. But things aren't as easy as that, and eventually you have to face the music and embrace the choir of critics with your own ensemble of war drums.
Being judged is a problem a large portion of new or young parents face, and as much as we appreciate the occasional gesture or tips of the trade, it sometimes might be better left unsaid. Because, honestly, we're all trying to work it out in our own time. It's not a race to see who can teach a baby to walk, talk and fill out their own tax self assessment forms first. It's a journey made from stepping stones that parents should hop one cobble at a time, without the interruption from clingy bystanders or pushy relatives.
The transition from teenager to young-adult is a tough one. And although I ditched the clubbing lifestyle at nineteen, I still know a few people who only just left it as they discovered they were pregnant. And that goes for many hobbies we took up as kids, too. We aren't all just hoodlums seeking anarchy under a banner of armageddon. We're human, like anybody else. We just want to enjoy our lives as best we can before the baby takes a large portion of it away.
Sadly, a lot of people see us as just that. They see us as irresponsible absinthe-sucking club rats who're barely capable of keeping their own heads above water, let alone a child's. And it's that exact pessimism that capsizes us when do eventually decide to change courses and steer towards new horizons filled with cot toys instead of Tequila slammers.
People have the ability to change. And pretty bloody quickly, too. Why? Because we have to, of course. For the sake of our future children, we learn to grow up and become the exact person the child will need when they do finally embrace the world someday. And yes, that means leaving behind a certain lifestyle that we may've been greatly accustomed to, but nine times out of ten a parent is perfectly fine with that.
At twenty-two, when I first heard the news I was going to be a Dad, I didn't know what to think. But deep down inside, as much as I wanted a baby, I still couldn't help the fact that I was fearing the thought of my young-adult life slipping away through my very fingers. And, to be honest, I thought I'd lose everything. I thought I'd no longer be able to travel the world or be able to stay up late writing my books, or even leave the house for some petrol and be home again before the kettle boiled for that matter. I thought having a baby would take that all away from me. But, it didn't. It didn't take anything from me.
Instead, it added to my life. SHE, was able to fill a void I never even knew existed until the moment I saw her fill my arms for the very first time.
Sure, it takes a lot more time to do the basics, but nothing is impossible. It just takes a great deal of persistence and determination. And if you're okay with re-scheduling a dream or two to another month or year, you'll be just fine.
When I said I was afraid to lose everything before my daughter was born, I meant it. But, believe it or not, in the two years she's been here with us, I've written two books, and I've travelled to many, many places abroad. And, I've even managed to get petrol and be back before the kettle pinged, too. Because, like I said, nothing is impossible if you've got the persistence and determination for it.
Young parents will always be under a line of fire no matter what. That's just how it is. But anybody can be a parent, and a great parent, too. Just look at me for example. I was able to raise two kids into toddlerhood and still manage to emerge somewhat victorious. And by that I mean they walk all over me and make me watch things like Mr Tumble. But that's okay, because it's all worthwhile when I hear the blissful words, "I love you, daddy" every now and then. That's enough to make me remember why I love being a parent and how I wouldn't change it for the world.
People will love you. People will hate you. But so long as you are you, your partner is your partner, and your child is showered with love and affection, there's no busybody in the world that can take your family away from you.
List the pros and cons of parenthood and you'll definitely see it lopsided with the benefits totally overpowering the negatives. And as for the ones who feel the need to stare twice when you walk outside your door, well, you eventually learn to stare back twice as hard with nothing but a cheesy grin on your face as you proved every last one of them wrong.
Oh, and if you ever see Pauline at Pizza Hut, remember to squeeze her for those discount vouchers, too. They're worth far more in value than any of her criticism is, that's for sure.
- J Tury
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- Jordan Tury