There are two reasons for my choice of headline: Firstly, it’s good practice to look for an ‘attention-grab’ in a title; choose something which requires more explanation and draws the reader in. I feel this achieves the brief in spades. Secondly, it epitomises childhood innocence and there’s the link to today’s topic.
Kids take things at face value. We’d had eggs for breakfast at the weekend and we were off to the garden centre to buy some flowers. It’s not hard to see how Bumble came up with her question. But, all too often, we adults try to overcomplicate things. Overthinking the consequences of our behaviours, worrying about our children’s development. This is in the forefront of my mind because, as usual, there is a raft of articles, videos, quotes and pictures currently doing the rounds on social media that I think are designed to make parents feel ever more guilty. (It’s also in the forefront of my mind because I am a career worrier and I do all the things I’m about to tell you not to. But that’s for another post.)
Have you noticed – could you fail to – that the do-gooders of today ply their trade through the likes of Facebook? Masquerading as the fount-of-all-parenting-knowledge, all they really do is heap more guilt on an already guilt-ridden population that are genuinely trying to do their best. Don’t tell your kids off – discuss their behaviour constructively; never shout – ask them why they think their behaviour makes you cross; be a perfect role model – your behaviour will influence them and they are always watching you; make sure you are always doing something new and exciting – they need your stimulation; leave your ipad/iphone/laptop alone and focus on them – ALL THE TIME. (The last on the list is slightly ironic, as it would appear these writers are therefore trying to switch off their own audience.)
Check your newsfeed now and I guarantee you will come across at least one silkily-worded advert about living life to the full, always being happy, being thankful, loving yourself and everyone else around you, even the nasty little burglar who’s just taken off with granny’s favourite necklace. “He was someone’s baby once, you know. He can learn from your good grace”…Using very carefully chosen language to really pull at the heartstrings they paint misty, romantic scenarios of the life you would love to live. But this painting, in my humble opinion, is a dangerous game. It’s dangerously hard to emulate their nirvana with the real stresses and strains of life as a parent, working or otherwise, and with the challenges growing children bring, not to mention the inevitable lack of sleep that provides the backdrop to most of our lives.
They purport to be ‘telling it as it is’: as parents, it is our duty to instil goodness and love in our little charges. If we so much as get angry or cross, even for a nano-second, we might be grooming the next generation’s serial killers. Ok so now I’m exaggerating: another career facet of my personality, you can see why I don’t like the perfect parents that exist in all these articles…
The advice they give isn’t even all that realistic. Yes there are elements of truth – I read a piece about not shouting at your small children. It served to make me stop and think. It even stopped me from flying off the handle as I used to a lot in the early days. I carried around a printed copy in my handbag for a few weeks, anxious to ensure I lived up to the standards that were obviously necessary to ensure your children made it safely to adulthood.
Having, therefore, reflected on the article and considered its messages for a short time, I have decided it’s time for revolution. It will not – and nor should it – stop me from giving my kids a good, stern telling off when they need it. Articles like this, whatever credentials the author claims to have, will not serve as a handbook on how to bring up my kids, or, indeed, as a hefty tome with which to bat myself over the head when I get it wrong.
Children need boundaries. And adults, well, adults are only human. We need to balance our behaviour and set good examples, of course: I would be crazy to suggest otherwise. But we also need to let ourselves react naturally sometimes, and let our children see this happening. We need to understand that being a parent is hard. It requires extreme patience, courage, compassion and a sense of humour. And sometimes, after a long day at work or a long day at home with the children, that sense of humour is most definitely at the end of the list.
These robot-like virtual busybodies wouldn’t be tolerated if they started giving out advice and guidance on bringing up your kids while you were walking around a shopping centre or visiting your local park. So why do we all ‘share’ and ‘like’ and perpetuate the anguish?
Of course, social media provides a platform in this day and age which previously didn’t exist. Anyone can be an ‘author’, a ‘writer’ and see their work in print. (And, for this opportunity, I am very grateful!) But it also means we have to recognise all those contributions for what they are: another person’s opinion. Nothing more, nothing less.
As a parent, you will know that advice is always in abundance. For the most part, this comes from well-meaning friends and relatives. Ultimately it’s up to you to sift; to pick and choose what works for you and your family. There’s really only one mantra that, in my opinion, stands true: happy mum (or dad), happy baby.
If you have peace of mind, courage of your convictions and contentment that you have chosen a parenting style that works for you, then you will be happy.
If you are not scared of sometimes needing to let off steam, if you don’t drown in guilt every time you raise your voice or have your own little temper tantrum, then you will be happy.
So, what of those flowers? Well, we discussed it a little and decided that, as flowers don’t have hands, they would find it very difficult to eat eggs. But, we also decided, they are very happy. They live in a ‘bed’ – what could be better? And they have lots (and lots, in our house) of nice water to drink. Who needs eggs?