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", 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.


  1. Aye. That's why I don't like shopping on a weekend. All the kids. :-P
    But, chances are they got home and placated her with junk food, tv, video games...or tried to send her to her room, which is probably useless as her room is overstuffed with stuff.
    Am I making assumptions? Yep. But I'm probably right.

  2. In Malcolm's class of 9 children 3 of them bring ipads to school every day to play with when they get bored. This is pre-k. Even if Malcolm had something like that he wouldn't be allowed to take it to school. I don't know if the families are especially wealthy or what, but I am just amazed at the kind of things those kids have to bring in for show and tell. I thought Malcolm had a lot of stuff because he has hand-me-down toys from my kids and his cousins.
    I have a what do you think question I will PM it to you on facebook sometime.

  3. Oh, a good commentary, to be sure. Your observations about parental respect really do carry. Maybe the parents in question feel themselves 'lucky' that their offspring IS respectful to others, and persevere with the intolerable whining at home all the time; picking their battles, as it were. Can you imagine? No doubt, there are many families who do.

    My youngest son, back when he was smaller, could be a very effective whiner whenever he was in any sort of market or store. It didn't matter what the item was, how much or how little it cost, he was (and still is to some extent) one of those "instant" kids--who want things "now." It's taken many years of work to get him to determine wants versus needs, and to realize that money ("even if it's only a dollar") doesn't grow on trees. We've left many a store with an unhappy fellow in tow. Oh well. ;)

    I hear what you say about the attitude, too. What is it about it that irks most everyone who hears it--and why would parents act immune to it? To me, it is a call to action. Maybe that's it...perhaps some parents put blinders on and do not see they need to insert themselves? ~ Blessings!

    1. A call to action, yes. Perhaps they do feel that so long as she's polite to everyone else it's OK, but I wonder if she really is, or if she sees her parents as weak enough to take it, and would be as obnoxious to anyone else she saw as weak?

      I see this as a "starting as you mean to go on" thing. They clearly didn't, they let it go, let it go, let it go......the longer these things are let go the harder they are to turn around. Small children test you out, when mine tested me at a young age they'd get a hard stare and "I beg your pardon?". Amazing how quickly they learn what that means.

  4. Nicely done. Too many kids and young people have no respect, and it comes from inadequate discipline.

    I admit I'm having trouble with my six-year-old's attitude, and many mothers I've spoken to with kids the same age have said the same thing: it's a phase, they're testing the boundaries, they'll get over it. Discipline consists of removing toys from their room or denying privileges, but much of the time the kids don't care. One woman said "It's all because we're not allowed to beat them now. If I were my mother, this kid would have a black and blue rear end."

    Oh, and the electronics at school? Not here. My daughter's school expressly forbids any such device. Any music player, tablet, hand-held game etc. is confiscated. It's a good idea to not bring such to school anyway, in case of theft.

    1. I don't want to start the corporal punishment debate, but I do think it's involved.

  5. Four or five generations ago, parents saw their role as parents as one of teaching their children work and manners. Mere cheekiness would merit a quick reaction. Rudeness was dealt with a tad more violently.
    Recently, an old schoolmate wanted to friend me on facebook. Some six decades ago, I went home with him for lunch, and he was very rude to his mother. Though I didn't say much to him at that point, the friendship was toast. I looked at his invitation and hit the deny button.
    I never wanted to be one of those old farts who are always horking on the kids, but sadly, that is just what I am.

    1. Manners have gone out of fashion. It really is as simple as that.

  6. When my kidlet was very young, I monitored everything she did and corrected her on the fly (nicely). Other parents told me I was too controlling. As she matured, I gradually released control because my philosophy was that self control begins with outer control (until it becomes habit.) The result was a very well behaved teen the teachers complimented and other parents envied. Sure, I made mistakes. And I apologized for them and then tried to do better. But overall, it takes effort to raise a good kid, however you manage to do it.

    1. It takes effort, and it takes thought, but it's not rocket science. It's really all about the messages you send. I sometimes find myself wondering what message parents are trying to send, and if it's not obvious to be, how the hell a child can understand, I don't know. That's why I believe in punishments fitting the crime etc. But I could go on all day about it. The simplest thing of all to me is that you give messages that teach the child how to be a good adult later on. Isn't that what we are all trying to do? I'm really not sure some are.............

  7. I had a wonderful moment yesterday. The kidlet (who is away at college about an hour from me) called me to say the 2 hours she saw me on Saturday wasn't enough and that she missed me. I have no idea if that has anything to do with parenting skills, but it sure was sweet to hear.

  8. "My kids came first." Yes, this is frequently missing. AND the flip side is devoting too much to the kids, or giving them too much power, and not daring to discipline them for fear the tender little psyche gets damaged. The woman in the store has most likely read too many psychology books. If you ever wrote one, complete with disclaimers, it would most likely stand head and shoulders above anything else, and be a gift to humanity.