The longer I am a parent and the more I watch what is happening to our world in terms of violence, crime and desperation, the more I believe, as parents, we have lost the art of relying on our own instincts when it comes to bringing up our children.
By this I mean, remembering how we were brought up, relying on our own values and having an understanding of what it is we really want for our children – not what the world “expects” us to want for our children. I’m not saying that a change in parenting can fix all the problems in the world, and I also know there are many socio-economic factors that come into play that can’t be fixed easily. However as a fairly mainstream parent, I feel that we have lost the ability to be ordinary, which is resulting in our children growing up with over inflated expectations of what the world should be offering them.
I believe most kids are too pampered and are not being taught to tough things out and I put my hand up as being totally guilty of doing this. I am a divorced parent and have two teenage boys. I have see-sawed between disciplining and pampering my children for the last 10 years. Why do I do this? Because I feel guilty. Why do I feel guilty? Because I receive so much information about being a perfect parent and when I fail I feel guilty and pamper my children in an attempt to alleviate this guilt. I also do it because my children aren’t with both parents all the time. I do it because I work long hours and can’t spend as much time with them as I think I should. I suffer from “mother guilt” which I believe should be extended to be called “parent guilt” because I’m sure many dad’s feel the same.
As parents, we are constantly looking for advice – affirmation we are doing the right thing. We are also looking for simple, effective ways to help us have kind, loving and obedient kids. We look for this in newspapers, magazines, parenting books and anywhere we can get a snippet of information that can guide us. I should know, I have a shelf in my bookcase dedicated to parenting books. I’m not knocking these as in times of desperation I have found solace in their pages.
I don’t live in an ideal situation, I have shared care with my ex husband for the past 10 years and we don’t have the same parenting values. Many experts will say this is less than ideal situation and as parents we should get our act together and put the kids first, but, hey listen to this newsflash, no one lives in an ideal situation. There are so many variants on what constitutes a family these days it is very difficult to rely on all these “experts” telling us just how we should be raising our children in their ideal world.
Here’s another newsflash!! I’ve smacked my boys, I’ve yelled at them, I’ve said nasty things to them in the heat of the moment, I’ve made them feel guilty, I’ve ranted and raved and carried on like a fish wife. I’ve read books on parenting in a desperate attempt to work out why my children are so bad, and then felt incredibly guilty about the emotional scars I’ve now thrust upon them as a result of my bad parenting skills. What happens next is I’ve tried to make myself feel better and lavished them with love and material things in a pathetic attempt to alleviate the guilt. I bet any parent, particularly a mum, reading this would be nodding their heads in agreement. So often we all get caught up in this vicious circle.
Don’t get me wrong, the people who write these books are well educated and their methods have been tried and proven. In an ideal world these methods probably work a treat. However in the real world, the average mum and dad work long hours, come home tired, the kids are tired from a long day at school and after school care, homework needs to be done, dinner needs to be cooked, washing, ironing, cleaning up and maybe, if they are lucky, mum and dad get to spend 5 minutes alone together at the end of the night.
During this period everyone’s patience is tested and arguments and defiance reign. Kids get yelled at, sometimes smacked, mums and dads can get testy with each other and at times things are said that noone means. This is real life.
I am an ordinary mum who is trying to do her best to bring up happy healthy children in a world that is becoming more complicated by the decade. Most of us were brought up with yelling and some smacking because most of our parents didn’t have access to all the current material on parenting. My parents were far from perfect (oh you have no idea – that’s another blog), as were many of my friends parents, but we have all turned into decent people who are trying to live our lives respecting others and trying to do the best we can.
We’ve all done the wrong thing at times, we’ve all hurt other people and we’ve all made bad decisions. We all have our own problems, some of us suffer depression, some of us need anger management, some of us are calm and unflappable and so on. I think we are losing sight of the fact that this is what being a human being is about. It’s about living our lives – it isn’t about being perfect. We are setting our kids up for a lifetime of disappointments by trying to make their childhood perfect.
I believe that if we weren’t made to feel so guilty about this need to be perfect, we could get on with the job of giving these precious kids of ours an extraordinary life by being plain old ordinary parents.
My ordinary wants for my children are that they stay healthy, be kind and respectful to others, find many moments of happiness, learn to deal with sadness, disappointment and pain and, most of all, know how to love and be loved. I don’t care if they don’t make the A Grade soccer team, or the debating team or become the dux of the school. I do care that they try their hardest, enjoy playing sport and choose a profession that suits them, be it a doctor or a taxi driver.
Let’s focus more on being ordinary. I believe if more parents were made to feel good about being ordinary parents, rather than being pressured to be perfect, our kids would grow up with a more balanced perspective on life.