Stephen Smyth lives in the village of Rhydyfelin, near Pontypridd, with his daughter Ayda (6) and son George (3). He described the birth of his daughter as “emotional and life-changing”, and becoming parents as the missing jigsaw piece for him and his late wife Teresa. Together, they embraced the parenting challenge, agreeing they would give it their best shot and “enjoy the ride.”
As parents, they put time and patience above everything and gradually settled into a routine that worked for them. When Teresa fell pregnant again, they received the devastating news that she had cancer. They vowed to fight it together, with Ayda and George as the glue that helped them to hold it all together. Sadly, seven months after George was born, Teresa passed away, but Stephen had promised to raise their two kids in a way that would make their mummy proud and is now determined to do just that.
“Nobody can tell you how to parent your kids,” says Stephen. “It’s about finding your feet and what works for you and your little ones. Any parent would be very lucky if everything fell in to place, so be patient, give it time, and you’ll get there.”
Sure, you can read countless books and blogs, or research things online, but that probably doesn’t prepare most people for becoming a mum or a dad. I think we all have it in us to be great parents. Maybe some take to it quicker than others, some are more apprehensive than others, but I’m certain we can all do it.
Much like an apprenticeship, parenting is about learning on the job. Day to day, there are ups and downs: sleepless nights, illness, appointments, family visits. Nothing is ever really straightforward where little ones are concerned, but that’s half the fun. It’s about finding solutions that work for you and your family: you’re a team, after all. That said, while nobody can tell you how to be a great parent, hearing about other people’s experiences and getting the odd tip from someone who has been through it before can help along the way.
For example, we used to take Ayda out in the car on the odd night when she wouldn’t settle because someone had mentioned that to us and it worked. Another friend with children had also recommended getting a cheap stroller because it’s easier to get in and out of the car, lend to family members or just store away. It makes more sense than an all-singing, all-dancing super stroller that does about 12 different things, but that you rarely use. It’s always harder with your first as you don’t realise these things; you want everything to be new and the best you can afford. So those kinds of tips can prove invaluable.
But, if you’re a first-time parent then you’ll find your feet pretty quickly regardless, don’t worry about that. Maybe not because you’re a natural or it was something you were born to do, but because you don’t really have a choice. It’s daunting and scary at times, of course, but exciting too.
Don’t get me wrong, parenting isn’t a chore, but at times it’s no picnic. It’s a magical experience seeing your little one being born into this world. You want nothing more than to protect them and give them as much love as you possibly can. Their first words, first teeth, first crawl and step – you’ll witness it all, and the emotion and pride you’ll feel is like nothing else. But how you approach parenting them is down to you. Every child is different, as is every situation you’ll face and every challenge put in front of you. You overcome hurdles, you develop your own style and you find a way.
As I said, I think we all have it in us to be great parents. It is a skill, but I don’t think you could ever really say it must be done in a particular way. For me, learning on the job has been the best and only way.