It was just daughter 1 and I for a couple of hours tonight. I cooked a special meal for her and I really enjoyed doing it. I wanted to do it. I kept an eagle eye on the time so that it was ready for her when she walked in the door. She asked about my day and I told her some of the little details that I wouldn’t normally bother with in a busy house, because they would get drowned out. In a busy house I lower my expectations of what I can achieve, yet I raise my expectations of my girls. I snatch at conversation and so it feels as if I snatch at parenting them too. I bark my expectations to them and struggle to find the time to listen to and explore their responses and explanations. In the quiet and calmness of the house tonight, I had the mental energy to let my guard down, in the knowledge that if it backfired I had the time to rectify it. In a busy house I cannot take that risk. There is no time for risks. As parents we must follow the parental code, laid down by…by who? Dictated by how we were raised, by the media, by how books tell us to do it? Tonight, with time and space, I felt free from these societal restrictions and I just relaxed and chatted. It was calmly liberating. Nothing earth shattering – it just felt so different from how I normally am.
It got me thinking about how as parents, we are so constrained by so many factors, all of which are setting our expectations of parenting. Our gut feeling gets lost amidst the Facebook feed and the Pinterest. We talk to our friends and other mothers at the school gate about how to manage a situation, but by then the moment has often passed. Save that thought for the next time it happens, we think. But the next time it happens we are fraught with anger and anxiety and a lack of time.
A lack of time. None of us have time. Teenagers don’t have time to listen to parents anyway, because we will be upstaged by the next Snapchat notification that must be responded to for fear of rejection from the people who really seem to matter to them right now – their friends. We must accept this and in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives it is quite easy to let it go, albeit with a moan, but we accept.
We accept, we moan, we listen, but all in a very busy way. All within the context of a very busy life. So tonight was a treat. For the time it took my daughter to eat the meal that I had lovingly prepared, we were able to chat without fear of jealousy or interruption from siblings. Without fear of saying the wrong thing, of parenting the wrong way. We had time on our side and it has made me realise that if, as parents we always had time on our side, we might all be a little different.