Driving whilst under the influence of parenting, I’ve decided that I’ve passed my test. I’ve got 6 kids: 4 poor sods are completely genetically mine and 2 escaped with just having me as their step mum – a whole different ball game. I’ve dealt with 5 teenagers and gone through the tweenie stage with 4. None of this experience makes me anywhere near an expert, but I feel like I’ve earned my P plates.
I still fuck up, a lot. I still feel guilty a lot of the time. I still feel like there are many roads I am yet to travel with my kids and some will be full of pot holes, some will just be a little bit bumpy and others will be smooth and we’ll fly along those roads with the wind in our hair. But whatever road I travel, those P plates are staying on. We are always learning. There isn’t always a right or a wrong answer to a problem or a question, I’ve learned that it can depend on the child and the situation. I’ve learned that it is good to be honest with our children, especially if we feel that we have failed them in some way and I’ve also learned that they are capable of an awful lot more than as parents, we often give them credit for.
I bought myself a hammock today: £29.99 from Lidl. Ever since I can remember I have wanted a hammock. Its swaying and lulling represents relaxation and holidays. It’s raining today, so we set it up in our kitchen and for me it is symbolising something far more than sunny days. It gave me the thought that I’m beginning to parent from my hammock. It’s partly because of the girls’ ages: daughter 1 will quite often cook the family meal and daughter’s 2 and 3 are both very capable and willing cooks too, time permitting. So I let them. I don’t hover over them, I get on with something else. If they need ingredients that we haven’t got, they go to the shop to get them. I leave them to it.
Daughter 4 went off on a camping trip with the school this morning. Last weekend daughter 3 had a football tour to Holland and two weekends before this both daughters 2 and 3 had Duke of Edinburgh trips. When daughter 1 went on her D of E weekend last year, I sat on her bed – she asked me to – clutching the kit list and methodically going through it with her. It felt wrong. I kept saying to her: do you really need me here? and then promptly felt guilty for asking.
Now, armed with my P plates, I parented the others from my hammock for their trips, metaphorically speaking. They did all the packing themselves, everything. I didn’t get involved at all. They even talked to me about needing new walking boots and head torches and I just brushed off their requests with comments like: ‘use your sister’s’ and, ‘you don’t need a head torch, use any torch’. Some of you reading this may think this is unkind, because they think that they need these things and they won’t want to feel uncomfortable not having exactly what is on the list. And yes, my hammock parenting did cause them to fuck up: a groundsheet was forgotten and the night before daughter 2’s trip she discovered that the tent had neither poles, nor pegs. However, they sorted out these problems themselves. I didn’t rescue them, because if we always rescue our children, how will they ever learn to spread their wings and fly?
Many times when I’ve taken daughter 3 to her football training, I have sat in my car and watched parents arriving, struggling to get their reluctant daughter out of the car and then promptly carrying their bag to the training ground for them. I hate seeing this. It represents for me the parent carrying their child through life, when the child needs to use their own legs to walk. I saw the same this morning when we dropped daughter 4 at camp. Parents carrying rucksacks and sleeping bags for their children, while the child trots along, happily bag free at their side. Then parents standing and watching at the fence, while their child is in a field, with 60 of their friends, playing a game with their young and fun team leaders, but the parent is finding it hard to let go. Desperate for their child to turn and make eye contact; to seek them out from among all the desperate parents standing at the fence, who should all just be walking away and letting go.
I read a post by the blogger: Absolutely Prabulous last night. It is raw, honest and beautiful:
To M on Your 12th Birthday. It’s Not You, It’s Me. Sorry
It is a letter written to her daughter on her 12th birthday. In it she blames herself for many of her daughter’s foibles and behaviour. It got me thinking about how as parents we can feel that we are being harsh on our children, possibly even cruel and that when we compare ourselves to other parents, we feel even more guilty at the way we treat our own. But often, I feel, we need to step back from judging ourselves so harshly. Because so often, it is when we are being harsh on our children that we are being the kindest. When we are being what they and others may call, ‘cruel’ we are doing the best possible thing that we can for them and when we are letting them go, we are allowing them to spread their wings and fly.
I have this quote on my toilet door and for me, it sums it all up:
As parents we give our children direction to make strong roots. We do our best. We guide them, teach them right from wrong, instill in them courtesy and respect for others. However, ultimately we must let go a little: test their independence and resilience, which in the future they are going to need, and give them the confidence, from our hammocks, to fly.