This is a follow-on from yesterday’s blog post, where I asked whether children should be seen and not heard. The post was inspired by a Mumsnet thread (sadly now deleted) in which a pregnant woman was telling us how we were raising our children all wrong, and how her child would be impeccably behaved in public and raised to be “seen and not heard”.
I laughed, and then I laughed some more, and then I joined the masses of other Mumsnet posters telling her to be realistic and come back in three years’ time when she has to try and teach a toddler that they should be seen and not heard. It got me thinking about some of the declarations I made when I was pregnant. I gave a few examples yesterday – screen free before three (I’ve mentioned before about my daughter’s ability to quote the Team Rocket motto from Pokemon so let’s not go into that one), only traditional wooden toys (our home is overflowing with baby dolls and Duplo and various primary-coloured plastic playthings) and not giving in over sweets and chocolate (they are an excellent bargaining tool and I feel no guilt whatsoever for using them).
Why do we say these things? Surely we know as we type or say them that we’re digging our own metaphorical grave? I don’t remember the mindset I was in when I made these declarations, but I must have had a very set idea of what sort of parent I was going to be.
This is daft in itself. Who knows what sort of parent they’re going to be until they’re actually in the thick of it? I envisioned myself as the strict parent, but I’m a complete softy when it comes to SB. We set these expectations for ourselves, but the funny thing about kids is that they constantly surprise you. You could be all kitted out to be a super-attachment parent, to have a baby who hates slings, needs formula and is fiercely independent. You could plan to be a very calm parent, only for it all to crumble when your toddler has a screaming tantrum in the supermarket (this isn’t so much a hypothetical situation as a warning; your toddler will have a screaming tantrum in the supermarket, on the busiest day possible, for the most ridiculous reason).
By setting these expectations, aren’t we putting pressure on ourselves to live up to it? Let’s face it, with all the pressure from society and the media, the last thing we need is any more pressure from ourselves. Don’t even get me started on telling other parents how to parent while your child is still a womb nugget; just no. As little as parents like unsolicited advice from anyone, they hate it even more from people who aren’t actually parents. It doesn’t matter what you read in a book or saw on TV, or the way you’ve decided you’ll raise your child… just, no.
I asked a few of my fellow bloggers for some of their own armchair expert parenting philosophy, and some of the worst they’ve heard from other people…
Amy from Amy and Tots said: “I always said that I’d never give my children chocolate or sweets. That soon caved when I needed bargaining tools!”.
Holly from Little Pickle’s Mom said: ” I’m the complete opposite parent from what I thought I’d be! I was always of the mindset that babies needed to learn that you wouldn’t come running to them at every whinge and whine… and what do I do now? I literally pick up Pickle and soothe him at every possible opportunity, day or night!”
Sophie from Mama Mei said: ” I’ll never be a tiger mum who lives vicariously through their kids… ok I have my own life kinda but my kids rule it all! And I try to take them to as many activities as possible such as arts, football, dancing, gymnastics and so on… oops am I a tiger mum?!”.
Lisa from Pass The Prosecco… Please said: “Worst parenting advice from a non parent is someone telling me how to control my child when they had none. This person asked me if I had watched Supernanny and that maybe I should try her techniques as my child is very naughty!”.
Abbie from Mama Wilkos said: “I’d never give my child McDonald’s, I’d never give them an iPad, I’d never give into their ‘I want’ tantrums in the middle of the supermarket.. turns out the things I said I’d never do are now regular occurrences which I do allow! Whatever keeps the peace at the moment..!!”.
Frances from You Have To Laugh said: “I never said it out loud, but I never considered using dummies. I guess I had a negative opinion having seen older children with them. NOW I LOVE THEM. Beautiful little ‘get off my nipple’ devices that they are.”.
So there we have it. Speed Bump Lesson Of The Day; stop putting pressure on yourselves and stop putting pressure on other parents. Let your experiences dictate your parenting style, rather than the other way around. Relax and enjoy the good bits, don’t hate yourself if the bad bits have you crying into a prosecco/bar of chocolate/salad if you’re that way inclined (got to promote healthy eating and all that).
And for those of you still reading this and thinking “yes, but my child will never, ever….“, I’m pretty sure my parents said “our daughter will never get pregnant at nineteen”.
Make of that what you will.