Sometimes I think we parents try just a little too hard!
And what’s the point, when the kids are too young to really understand or appreciate the efforts we put in. (Although this does beg the question, at what age do children really ever appreciate everything their own parents did for them?)
Still, despite regularly beating myself up with guilt over not spending playtime with the kids, I know that in other ways I totally put in the effort. We talk about all sorts of things, and I don’t dumb it down. Ask a question, get a proper answer.
I make sure they have the hugs and love and kisses every child deserves, and they get the toys, clothes and chances that every child should have. I taught them to ride a bike, and I give them parties every birthday. We cook together and we laugh. We tickle and have movie nights. I really try to give them everything I can.
But still, every so often I get it wrong.
Just yesterday my 5 year old son was having a meltdown – he has a whopping temper – and informed me quite clearly that we were doing a crappy job.
I wish I had a better family.
He had a number of complaints. Really – quite a list.
But what it boiled down to was a simple message. Two things.
You don’t listen to me. You don’t keep your promises.
“You don’t listen to me,” he said. “It’s because I’m the littlest. We never do what I want. It’s always what you want, or daddy wants, or Sackgirl wants. It’s never what I want, because I’m the littlest”
Now you could dismiss that as spoilt child syndrome, or angry brat behaviour, or whatever we use to dismiss children today. But actually, he’s right. We don’t do what he wants.
I could defend that in so many ways. He’s five. What he wants is to play Minecraft from sun up to sun down, or to eat cereal for every meal of the day, seven days a week. We don’t do that.
But we could agree to play his games for a short time every week – no matter how mind-numbingly boring it is. And we could eat cereal for dinner sometimes. Well, actually, we do that when I’m feeling lazy anyway, so he kinda already gets that. But he’s right, it’s when I want to, not when he wants to.
And when he says he wants something from the shop, and I veto his choice because mine is more sensible/practical/appropriate – well, maybe really he should just get his choice. Sometimes.
As for promises! Well, how often do we parents tell our kids “we’ll get it tomorrow” or “I’ll take you at the weekend” or “I’ll sort it out later” and then we never do. Because really, that’s just a way of putting them off, getting them out of the way while we do whatever it is that’s so much more important at that moment.
We forget though, that what is an offhand comment to us, a pacifier, is actually a promise to the heart for a child. They hear them, because they do, despite all evidence to the contrary, listen to us. They hear, they remember, and they feel let down.
So, Botboy shouted out his frustration at how crappy being the youngest child is. And I felt for him. I got it. I got where he was coming from, because I was the youngest too. And I still complain that my parents don’t listen to me, that my brothers ignore my suggestions, that we always do what they want for family things.
All this time I’ve been working on the guilt of not being there enough! What I should have been doing was trying to listen during the time I actually was there. Still getting it wrong, no matter how hard I try.
One thing of thankful!
I’m not making a list of thankfuls this week. I just have the one.
I’m thankful that I can stop trying.
1. Stop trying to spend more time with the kids.
Seriously – why count the hours. What is the right amount of hours anyway? Two a day. Five a week? How about we start with 25 minutes a day and increase it exponentially as they get older?
Or – how about we just make sure that when we do have time together, it actually counts. I’m going to stop trying to spend more time with the kids, and just actually be present during the time I am there. Listen to them. Play with them. Put my own distractions away.
2. Stop trying to be the perfect mum.
It isn’t going to happen. It just isn’t. There is no such thing as a perfect mum. Every mum is different, every child has different wants and needs. Just be their mum.
3. Stop trying to provide the perfect home.
So the carpet is covered in dog hair and last night’s plates are still in the dishwasher. So what?
Kids don’t care about cleanliness. The perfect home for them is one with cuddles and games. Yes, it does need cleaning – despite all those cute sayings about messy homes, no one actually wants cooties (I looked it up, it’s not real) – but it can wait an hour.
4. Stop trying to have the perfect image.
So they didn’t wash their face today. No one is going to run a swab test. So every other little girl has french plaits and homemade lace dresses. We don’t do that here.
It’s time to stop looking outward at every one else’s family, and to look in towards our own. What do we want to be like?
5. Stop trying to make the right decisions.
Whether it’s sensible, practical or appropriate, maybe sometimes we should just let the wrong choice happen. If he wants to spend his pocket money on his 127th toy car, even thought he doesn’t play with the other 126, well – maybe sometimes I should let him. When they want to have ham sandwiches for breakfast and cereal for dinner. Well, does it really matter?
6. Stop trying – and start listening.
Not just to Botboy because he’s the youngest. Also to Botboy, because being the youngest doesn’t stop him having something to say. And to Sackgirl, although these days that’s not so hard, because she’s 9, and getting real good at being heard.
Do you think you could stop trying with your kids?