“Parenting is one of the hardest jobs you will ever do, with the least amount of training…”
It’s Thursday, and I’m preparing for another ‘Positive Parenting’ session; despite my initial reservations, the course and its methods are very effective. It’s true that a great deal of what I’m learning is common sense (which doesn’t help silence that inner critic), but I console myself with the notion that there are times when common sense eludes us all. And because understanding and a sense of comradeship underpins each session, for a couple of hours at least, my inner critic takes its place on the naughty step.
If you’d asked me years ago if I could ever see myself on a course such as this, I probably would have laughed! Being a mum was an ambition. I viewed myself and my temperament as perfectly suited for the task. My own mum was/is amazing. As a child with a brother 10 years my junior, I watched my mum and her methods with hawk-eyes, making a mental note of everything I later wished to imitate. It never struck me, as I watched the kindness and the patience, that in moments of solitude, she might have wept or shouted her frustration.
My son is incredible. He’s loving, funny, boisterous, determined, competitive… And he’s bloody-minded; to the point that he will argue, whilst spitting crumbs, that he is not eating a biscuit. I make no bones about the fact that I struggle with his strength of will, and make no apology for the fact that I don’t enjoy confrontation. But I also make no apology for him. And my reluctance to embrace the aspects of his personality I find challenging, is not his problem, but mine.
We set examples for our children every day of our lives. As I once did as a girl, children watch their parents carefully and mimic what they see. If we raise our voices, or interrupt, or put down, we can hardly be surprised when our children do the same. The blank canvasses that turn our worlds upside down when they arrive need the best of our behaviours to give them the best chance to succeed. All the time we wear the ‘Parent hat,’ we must remember that our children don’t know any better and that it’s up to us to show them. So, at the end of the day, when we’re tired, frustrated, unwell, or plain fed-up, we have a responsibility to place our knee-jerk reactions on the back burner – for adult company only – and react to that request for another glass of water with a patience that contradicts every one of our aching bones. In years to come, when our children are dealing with their own children, surely it will be better to be proud at their reaction to a similar request, than to wince?
I have often wondered why no-one, mum included, warned me about how hard this job could be. That amongst the talk of booties, and cuddles, bath times and gazing, no-one actually said, “there are going to times when you question your suitability for this task to the point of self-destruction.” But of course they didn’t. Because, for one reason, there’s also a lot of joy. And for another, learning to deal with a challenging child puts a whole new perspective on handling difficult adults.
And finally, but probably most importantly, if my lovely mum had warned that being a mother was one of the hardest jobs in the world, I might have misinterpreted that as a slight made against me.
And to this day (and possibly one of the reasons why I so wished to parent like her), my lovely mum has never, ever done that.
With love to mums everywhere – and especially mine. You’re doing an amazing job! Xxxx