I believe there’s no perfect parent and that isn’t just a statement to let myself off the hook for my bad parenting moments. No, it’s to declare parental solidarity because the reality is, none of us are perfect. All we are is just a bunch of parents doing our best.
I have three kids under 13 and I can honestly say they can be damn hard work. From the moment they wake up, to when I drop them at school, then again when I pick them up, right up until bedtime, they are ‘on’ like a broken light switch you can’t turn off.
They’re ‘on’ at each other, they’re ‘on’ at me, or I at them and when their dad’s home he gets his turn.
In fact, it seems our household is ‘on’ all the time, that is until someone cracks it and more often than not, that person is me. Quite frankly I got sick of losing it over the smallest of things, so much so that I thought there must be something that I, as a parent, must be doing wrong. Surely kids shouldn’t be bickering and fighting all the time or have this many issues with everything this often?
So I questioned myself: Am I too old for this parenting business? Perhaps I should’ve had kids younger? Is my discipline not tough enough? But I’ve confiscated everything from toys, phones to party invites… Am I being too hard on myself? Maybe I’m spoiling them too much?
There went another night’s sleep lost pondering, questioning and worrying. I just couldn’t pinpoint what it was I was doing wrong.
Then one night while cooking dinner I was confronted by all three of my children at the island bench yelling and arguing with each other and, of course, me. (All for different reasons ranging from "She stole my blah blah" to "You need to help ME with my homework" to "You need to get rid of her!!" And yes she meant her sibling).
I was so done I actually laughed. Yes, laughed out loud because of the ridiculousness of the entire scene before me and you know what, it felt freeing. Then it suddenly came to me, this great idea. I told them all to go and write me a list. A list of what they loathe about their parents' parenting (sorry but my husband should take some of the criticism, too).
While they were a little stunned at first, the kids amazingly stopped yelling over the top of each other and were excited by their new project, immediately forgetting about the stolen goods, the homework I had to help with and the want for me to dispose of the annoying sibling.
I’m going to share with you some of the things my three kids dislike about our parenting:
- You don’t discipline the youngest child (I got this from all three, even the youngest!).
- You favour the middle child.
- You favour the youngest and oldest child. Dad favours the youngest child.
- You buy the eldest everything.
- You always give me the hand-me-downs.
- You yell at us.
- You call ‘Dinner’s ready’ when it still has 10 minutes to go, which is annoying.
- When we want to go surfing, you make excuses not to take us but it’s really because you can’t be bothered.
Now looking at their lists I’m not even sure why I lost sleep pondering, questioning or worrying.
So next time your kids are yelling at each other or you for not doing enough, or negatively vying for your attention, this exercise may just diffuse the situation, get them off your back for a while and it’ll also give you some insight into how your child perceives the way you (and your partner) parent.
Even though a couple of their criticisms were a surprise, they pretty much told me what I already knew… that we as parents are simply doing our best with the individual children and situations we have. Yet in the minds of our children, no matter what we do it’s not likely to be good enough. And you know what, that is completely okay. Let them have their childhood gripes I say.