Monday, 11 February 2013
A Little Parenting Blog
Sit down, I am about to be harshly judgemental.
Here's a topic that crops up from time to time - parenting, or to be specific, mothering. Fathering is important too, obviously, but it's not something I've done myself. I didn't grow up with a father either, so I've always left my husband to it, having nothing to offer, and he seems to cope OK.
What I grew up with was an excellent mother. Not perfect, nobody is, but her flaws were not damaging, there is value in minor flaws in those who raise you. Allows you to be aware of the flaws in other authority figures. Allows you be aware that just because people are older than you they aren't necessarily wiser. Compared to many adults I came in contact with, she was a sheer bloody genius, but that's another matter.
She was a good role model, that's the thing. A good person. An ethical person. A hard-working person. Caring, honest, and funny too. I am aware that I was very lucky, because I could always be sure of her fairness and good nature. I was even aware of it at the time, because I saw how other kids' mothers were, and some of them were awful. In the entire time I was growing up - no, wait, actually in the entire time we had together - we exchanged angry words a total of twice, very briefly, and not once did I ever feel the need to complain about her to anyone else. I think that's fairly unusual.
I am definitely not the same sort of mother as she was. I couldn't be. She had one child, I have a tribe. She had a girl, I had mostly boys. She raised me in the sixties, my kids were born into a surprisingly different world. I was also dealing with kids with a range of different personalities, some quite challenging. Then again, she raised me by herself, being widowed when I was a baby, while I had the support of a husband, and a bloody good one at that. It was a different situation. In some ways I was stricter, because I had to be, while in other ways I was more permissive, because I could be.
But the basics I copied. My kids came first. No matter what else I had to do or wanted to do, their welfare was priority and factored into all my decision-making. It sounds so obvious, but we all know that is not true of some parents, maybe not even the majority.
I feel that I am a good mother. It seems to be the opinion of my kids, too. Definitely not perfect, but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding, and they seem to have turned out alright. To observers I seem to know what I'm doing, anyway.
I do not dispense parenting advice unless really pushed. I have decided it's a bad idea. You will never see me writing a how-to book. If somebody asks me directly "What do you think.....?" I might cave, but usually with discomfort, squirming, and lots of disclaimers. There are many reasons why not, including the fact that on many occasions I have it has gone badly, and, well, you learn. The main problem, I find, is that when someone says "What do you think.....?" they don't really want to know.
I'm not even sure I approve of parenting advice. I mean, obviously, it's going to happen in a casual way, but the idea that one mother can teach another how to taise HER kid, seems daft really. You don't live in that house, you don't know the kid as well as its mother does, you really don't have all the details. I'll talk about ideas with people, and if I'm in a bad mood I might be guilty of throwing out the odd "he's tired" if it's not obvious to the person concerned, but to "teach".......no, I think that's something you have to figure out for yourself. Your situation, your kid, work it out.
Which isn't to say I think every woman is capable of doing it. Clearly plenty are not.
Oh. My. Goodness. We were in a supermarket and I heard the plaintive whine of a nasty, revolting, sassy child. This child was maybe 12 years old, maybe a little younger. She was with her parents, and she was talking to her mother as if she were dirt. I could not believe my ears. We ran into this family 3 times altogether, and each time the brat was being rude to her mother. The first time she was demanding that her mother buy a gadget for cleaning the toilet that meant you didn't have to touch the toilet. No idea if this was the brat's job at home or what, but she was very loud about it, with lots of attitude when her mother wouldn't buy it. The second time she was pitching a fit about not getting something edible, I didn't see what. The third time was at the checkout. This was about everything and anything and was even louder. If that had been my child, she'd have been marched outside by her earlobe. But in fact it wouldn't have been my child because my children did not DARE speak to me like that. No, wait. That's not it. They didn't want to or didn't have any reason to, or......they wouldn't have thought of it. It wasn't in them. I made sure of that.
And don't bother telling me I was lucky. There are many, many things in my life that were luck, that I am grateful to the capriciousness of the dice-playing gods of fortune for, but this was not one of them. There is no way that luck is involved in this one. I raised 6 very different, strong personalities, all capable of much mischief and many creative ways of causing me grey hair, and I got lucky in quite a number of things, but the fact that none of them were OBNOXIOUS SPOILED BRATS was down to solid parenting, and that's final.
The fact that the mother of this creature was just allowing it to happen, repeatedly, or continuously, tells me everything. The one thing I heard her say, very quietly, when the child demanded a weird flashing light thing she'd picked up ("Everybody else has one!") was to tell her no, because she kept asking. The right thing to do, but about a decade too late by the sound of things. The father said nothing.
I was not the only person who noticed. Everyone was staring. The woman standing behind them at the checkout, recognized the shirt the brat was wearing as a local bowling team, asked her a few questions about bowling, and got straightforward answers. No attitude there. Perhaps the child is respectful to other people, but that's not enough.
This was not a trailer trash family. Nor were they wealthy. Just because she acted like Veruca Salt doesn't mean they had the resources to indulge her. No. They were regular people like you and I. Should know better. Should do better. My one hope was that when they got her home they made her clean the toilet, with her bare hands.