Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Parenting 101

I’ve learned a few lessons recently.

I know with parenting it’s a massive learning curve that we all have to experience, but for me there are some moments that stand out, either because they strike a chord, or because they cause me all sorts of anxiety! I can be really hard on myself when I feel like I’ve made a parenting mistake. I have a hard time shaking it off.  But I do try to remind myself that making mistakes is great for learning, and that I’ll know better for next time. If that doesn’t work, I just wait for something else to come along so I can worry and obsess about that instead.  On a positive note, I have learned three brilliant lessons over this past week that I know will give me good value for many years to come (and set me up nicely with the babies, who I'm hoping I will make far less mistakes with...)
Here’s what happened last week:
1.       A trip to Mr B’s kindy class. This one is more of a realisation than a mistake.  I actually did pretty well with this. After weeks of promising to bring the babies in for Mr B’s show and tell day, I finally got it together to bring them in last week. I had been putting this off for ages because they were either unwell or I was afraid of them getting unwell from the visit (from kindy germs – my paranoia). But once they’d turned one, and with the end of the year fast approaching, I had to make it happen or I knew I’d feel awful for Mr B. So we scheduled it in so that Mum could look after Miss P for me while I took the babies in to see Mr B and his kindy mates. The plan was for Mr B to ‘show and tell’ his baby brothers and then I would read a book to his group. I specifically chose ‘Dogger’ by Shirley Hughes for this as it’s one of my favourites.  Naturally I ran a bit late and when I lugged my pram in clumsily through the kindy door, causing the welcome bells to jingle, Mr B came running out from his group room, clutching 'Dogger' under his arm. His little face was priceless, and I'll never forget it: flushed cheeks with big eager eyes, a mixture of excitement and anxiety. I realised he’d probably spent the last few minutes awaiting my arrival and listening out for the kindy door opening. He may even have been worried I wasn’t coming. That was when it struck me how important these things are to kids his age. This is the age when they worship their parents, right? They're embarrassed by us later down the track. So my coming into Mr B's kindy made me a hero in his eyes. Shucks. He did a brilliant job of show and tell and I must say, I think I did a pretty good job of reading ‘Dogger’, although a couple of times I lost my place when I dared to look away from the book and at the group. Stage fright. They're only 5 year olds, but an audience is an audience.  Lesson learned: Never underestimate the importance of being around for the kindy/school stuff.

2.       I didn’t back-up my son. Mr B, the babies and I were in the supermarket, checking out some stuff for Miss P’s party. Mr B was messing around with the babies in his usual affectionate/overenthusiastic way. I was scanning the shelves. A lady came up to Billy and suggested he be more gentle with Baby A, who was the lucky receiver of Mr B’s attention. I bristled slightly and willed her to move on, still scanning the shelves for cake ingredients. However the lady kept harping on, telling Mr B to be careful with the babies the way I am with him and then told him not to poke Baby A in the stomach. She was really getting on my nerves by this point but I still kept my mouth shut and she eventually left. Now, her heart was in the right place. She wasn’t being nasty to Mr B, she was just offering what she thought to be helpful advice. I don’t know, maybe she didn’t think my parental presence was enough guidance for Mr B. But she still came across as interfering and she still gave my son a hard time, when surely that is my place to do so if I decide it to be necessary? I choose not to jump on Mr B every time he goes near our babies, otherwise I would be at him all day. That is my parental decision to make. He is not aggressive with them, although he does get overexcited, at which point he is told to calm down. And anyway, the babies are big enough to let me know if they are bothered by their older siblings. Most of the time, they love the attention, however crazy it gets. So I left the shop feeling miffed that the woman interfered with my parenting and more miffed that I took the passive stance and kept my mouth shut. But then I stopped short. Something much worse had just taken place. I didn’t back up my son. I let her criticise him and parent him while I was right there. I suddenly hated myself for not saying ‘Actually, he’s very good with his baby brothers’, or ‘Thanks, but he’s ok’, some sort of indication that I had his back. I couldn’t believe I’d just let him take this stranger’s chastising while I stood there and did nothing. What did this teach him? That I wasn’t there for him? How will he learn to stand up for himself in an assertive way if I don’t show him how? I felt awful, so I stopped him in the street, made sure he was listening, and said ‘Don’t worry about what that lady said to you. You are really good and gentle with your baby brothers. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything.’ He shrugged, got back on his scooter, and took off. But I felt better, and I know what I said meant something to him. Lesson learned: Be there for my kids, and show them what it means to be assertive.

3.       I rained on my daughter’s candle parade. I did a terrible thing at Miss P’s party. After we all sang Happy Birthday, she leaned over to blow out the candles, and I leaned over the top of her and blew them out for her. She instantly turned to me accusingly. ‘Yay, you did it!’ I exclaimed. ‘You blew them all out!’ She softened slightly, a bit confused by how it had all happened, and we moved on. Happily, we have the whole thing on video, which she has watched over and over again, meaning she has seen exactly what happened. Which is that I stole her candle-blowing moment from her.  I've apologised to her, and explained my actions. Look, in my defence, the first time she leaned over to blow, her hair dangled dangerously close to the flames, so I pulled her back. That is on video, my friend. You can see that my quick thinking virtually saves the day. It is a savvy mummy moment. Then the second time she leaned in, I had a sudden thought: ‘Damn, I forgot to teach her how to blow.’ Precious soul that she is, Miss P cannot position her lips into a blow-shape in order for air to come out of her mouth. Instead, she tries to blow through her teeth with a semi-closed mouth. I remember thinking, weeks ago that I should really take her aside and give her some blowing lessons, so she’d be ready for her birthday candles. But alas, this job slipped my mind and so here we were on her big day, at her biggest moment of the party, and I ruined it. I really wish I hadn't jumped in so quickly, it was a poor decision. And it’s all there on camera. If I could do it again, I'd let her have her moment of trying to blow the candles out, giving her the space she needed to be 'a big girl'. But the good news is, her actual birthday isn’t until Christmas, at which time I will give her a lovely new cake with candles to blow out, which she can do all by herself. I will just make sure her hair is tied back. Lesson learned: Give my children space to learn before diving in to help.

Phew. I guess you could say it's been a big week. I'd love to hear some of your lessons. Any parenting realisations for you this last week?

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