This isn’t rocket science but I think everyone needs to be reminded of this fact occasionally.
Last night’s ‘weird thought had whilst sat on the toilet’ was prompted by a recent Facebook discussion I took part in. This was a conversation about how disheartening it is for ‘normal’ people to see status updates on Facebook that read: ‘Just back from a fantastic weekend with the kids hang-gliding – we had a brilliant time!’, ‘So pleased that [name of child] likes eating raw carrots and broccoli rather than sweets!’, or ‘[name of child] knows her 232 times table backwards in Swahili – what a star!’
The question that was posed was: what would be your negative-parenting status update? This threw up lots of responses which included many bad parenting examples (or perceived bad parenting examples) and a lot of guilt regarding lack of time spent with children rather than time spent doing other things or working.
This debate was very interesting because it turned out that everyone who commented could cite both good parenting times and bad parenting times (of course, this is obvious), many people talked about struggling to balance work and home life and everyone talked about why it is that people share the parenting highs on Facebook. Is it really that they are perfect parents? Are they really trying to make other people feel bad? Is it just showing off? I don’t think it is, I think the people who talk about their broccoli-eating, hang-gliding children are ‘normal’ people. They are just trying to assuage the guilt for the bad times that we all have by highlighting those few positive moments. it is a self-affirmation of their occasional good parenting moments. ‘See – I can get it right sometimes, look world!’ I know this to be true because I do it.
The debate concluded with the thought that we all need to tell ourselves and our friends now and then ‘I can do a good job’ even if most of the time we feel as if we are battling against a tide of well-known and well-trodden parenting errors. Those good times when we spend a rare day building a tent out of towels in the garden make up for the many days spent dragging children to and from school while we tap on our phones or reply to emails or when we feed them chip butties or chicken nuggets that have never seen a chicken. Our children will remember the tent-building more than the being dragged and the nuggets.
Then later on that same day I had a bad parenting experience. My youngest son decided that just after I’d got into the bath was a good time to have a poo accident. Did I leap out of the bath to help him? No way! Instead I issued instructions on what to do to him from the comfort of the bath. This was perhaps not the best strategy, in hindsight (rather, I should have shouted for his older brother to help him). As my youngest son took his trousers and pants off, the poo travelled at some speed across the room landing splat on the carpet. So in the end I had to get out dripping water all over the floor and sort the mess out.
I have many other examples such as this one of me not doing what I ought to do. Generally, I work too much, I use ‘in a minute’ too often, I let the youngest make his own breakfast sometimes, I get the oldest to take charge when I’m on the phone, we spent a lot of time in the school holidays doing nothing, we’ve never been to Legoland or abroad, I don’t do enough jigsaws with the youngest and I am rubbish at getting the other two to practice their weekly spellings and timestables (I can’t even remember the last time I sat number two boy down to practice his spellings – January?).
But a few days ago we were at a local National Trust cafe and a lovely old lady took the time and effort to tell me ‘you have three lovely boys’ which gave me that gooey warm feeling inside all parents crave. That same day number one and number two son begged me to buy them a set of Oxford School Reference books in the National Trust second-hand bookshop. It can’t all be bad then. And I did post about this on Facebook (but then I also posted about the flying poo).