I started this parenting by writing a list of 30 things I’ve learnt about parenting, but it turns out I’m feeling so relaxed over this bank holiday weekend it’s made me a bit ranty - the liberation of time has helped me to release words perhaps.
Parenting is so often discussed (it’s something you just don’t even think about before you become a parent, and then once you are you wonder how you couldn’t possibly have discussed this in minute detail, because when you become a parent it quickly turns into an obsession (or is that just me), but one of my biggest “a-ha” moments was when I discovered that there is no such thing as a parenting expert. I had always known how to find expert, well-researched information - I’ve done this through school and university, researching A level topics for my own teaching, looking into the benefits of Vitamin K or how to make the best chocolate cake (if in doubt, look up Mary Berry version, though I am a Delia devotee) - and so I rather incredibly thought that in order to find out information about how best to raise my children there would be non-judgemental, information filled “how to” guides.
The reality is that a lot of these “experts” have not lived through the emotional equivalent of a meteor crashing into your life (meeting your own small person) and are offering one, fixed way of how to parent. Do this and this will happen (this isn’t a snipe at any one method - it’s just an observation as to how many different types of parenting experts there are who seem to base their expertise on little science-based research). Realising this left me baffled, bewildered and a bit cross. I do think that upholding principles such as remembering that there is always more time that you think, that making sure everyone is fed, watered, (reasonably) clean and knowing they are loved is absolutely essential, but that’s about it, surely?
Every child is different. Every parent or set of parents are different. Observe, reflect, take action that works for you all.
I also felt the need today to have a rant about a series of judgements people have made about parenting (and I bet I made a few of them before becoming a parent, because - let’s be brutal - I had no idea and was smugly naive).
- The people who say “oh, it’s lovely that “Dad” is so involved!” He’s their Daddy. He made them. They are his world. He’s not “involved” - he’s their parent.
- “It’s great to see a Dad helping out so much” - I refer you back to point 1.
- “Wow - you really like to work! It’s a lot for their Dad isn’t it.” Two MASSIVE triggers here as I’m sure any mum can relate to: the inferred translation being: “wow - you really DON’T like your kids do you! Dads should be the ones working while you tend to the kids, you selfish mama!” This attitude is not ok.
- “My kids will eat ANYTHING, but then I made sure they tried loads of different flavours when they were little.” Oh right. Mine just ate pouches of pear, only, exclusively, for three years. They’ll all eat different things in the end, what’s with all the competition.
And now here’s a couple of things I judge about - and I know it’s contentious to share that we judge, but on these matters I feel uneasy...I know that speaking from a situation of great privilege and opportunity I have no right to judge, and yet I do. Deep breath, Laura, and off you go...*
- Smoking anywhere kids are = not cool. We know it hurts their exquisite little systems - just don’t please.
- Kids who never ever get breakfast - and no, I’m not talking about those who are unable to have it for reasons of great inequality or financial hardship (this is why FREE SCHOOL MEALS are a non-negotiable in my eyes Teresa, and stop cutting in-work benefits - the relative poverty level is higher than ever) - I mean those who are being rushed rushed rushed, plonked at school without money to get something at breakfast club and then are restless, tired and unable to concentrate all day. It was one of the first questions I would ask a child who was struggling at school in my role as a Head of Year or form tutor - “have you eaten today” - letting children start their day with nutritious body and brain food is absolutely essential.
- Telling kids they’re stupid/fat/ugly/worthless - I mean, why would you?
I shall leave this blog with my three favourite bits of parenting “advice” that always make sense to me:
- This too shall pass.
- Never go to bed on an argument
- Anything said at 3am when you’re sleep-deprived and the baby/toddler/child is testing you doesn’t count.