What Kind of Parent are You?

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I was lucky to receive three cards on Mothers’ Day. The first to arrive was a sparkly depiction of two unicorns-large and small-portraying an idealised, rainbow-backed vision of motherhood, cosy, pretty and delightful. The second a hand-drawn picture of two figures side-by-side, one larger in trousers [me], the other small in a dress [Grand-Offspring]. The third a photo of a ravaged old hag.

Of course I’m delighted by all of these depictions of myself, as parent and grandparent, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, they’ve all remembered the day. If your Offspring have negotiated all the hurdles on the way to adulthood and continue to communicate with you it must be some kind of miracle.

Parenting is like navigating the seas, periods of calm punctuated by violent storms. Sometimes the storms are catastrophic. Sometimes the calms are flat enough to believe you are becalmed and stranded, never to reach the shore.

When the offspring are safely grown and in their own nests you may consider your duty done but that is very far from the truth. You continue to feel responsible, to offer support, to care, in a way that few creatures in the natural world do [except perhaps for elephants?].

Myself, 38 years ago and pregnant, I was an ignoramus on the subject of babies. While I was acquainted with the development and behaviour of young children, when I had the first I was exhausted and  panicky in equal measures-a rabbit caught in the headlights. My long held belief that babies ate and slept was shattered. As they grew I was unprepared for the frustration, penury and utter boredom that life with toddlers can be. But in other ways they were, at that time, the very best part of my life.

Becoming a grandparent is well documented as delightful and easier [in that you ‘can hand them back’] although there are hazards and traps to avoid. I was prey to much advice as a new mum-‘Pull yourself together; you’ve only had a baby’ was one gem [as I lay strapped to various devices in the hospital bed, post Caesarian Section]. So I try to stick to merely describing my own experiences while also attempting to adhere to parental rules and guidelines regarding treats etc

There is a huge variety of parenting styles, from controlling to liberal and most are dependent on our personalities as adults and, perhaps, our own experiences as children. There is no such thing as a perfect parent so we must rely on guesswork, friends or manuals to solve conundrums like faddy eating. The fact that I came to depend on the quaintly old-fashioned ‘Baby and Child Care’ by Dr Benjamin Spock demonstrates how long ago I became a mum. But if not trendy, his approach to child rearing seemed calm and sensible at the time.

Above all I do hope I’ve managed to maintain some vestiges of humour as they’ve grown up. Long may it continue!

 

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It’s not that we’re not interested, but…

                

                The majority of people who are parents acknowledge that having children does, on the whole enhance their lives, despite the high cost in terms of finance, energy, time and so on. Most of those with older or adult children are proud of at least one of their offspring and those with babies and toddlers will be full of stories about how many teeth they’ve acquired, whether they sleep through the night or that they can name all the capital cities in Europe. This is all natural and in the order of things.

                Occasionally, though, there is, amongst one’s friends or acquaintances someone who is unable to converse on any subject at all without reference to their offspring.

                “Have you booked a holiday yet?” you ask them.

                “No, but our Susan [or Mabel or Esmeralda] is going to Ulan Bator. She’s been invited to join a missionary choir blah blah blah…….”

Or,

                “Car still going ok?”

                “Yes but we’re passing it on to Julian [or Wayne, or Freddy] because he’s just heard he’s got into Oxford [Slade/RADA/Cambridge etc] blah blah blah blah]”

                Worse still are the doting grandparents. Myself, I am not yet a grandparent. Yes, I am looking forward to becoming one, but may I be struck down if I turn into the type of drooling, fixated granny or granddad who is unable to utter a word about anything except the exceptional, talented, unearthly beings that are their grandchildren. We meet them on our travels, these people who are unable to complete one sentence without mentioning their grandsprogs.

                In my previous life as a proper working person I used to meet up occasionally with fellow colleagues for training etc. In the course of these monthly meetings there was one poor soul who greeted me regularly with the words,

                “Oh hello! Are you the lady who’s got a little grandson, like me?” to which I felt compelled to reply,

                “No, I’m afraid I’m the lady who has no grandchildren.”

                I wish I’d been more courageous. I wish I’d said I ate them for breakfast.

And another thing; those who are grandparents regard us grandchild-less couples with pity, as if we are in some way defective and disadvantaged. ‘Never mind’, they say, ‘It’ll happen’-as if we are somehow pining for this longed for event. Another of my friends feels she must shield me from photos or information about her grandchild, in case I should be offended by the sight or mention of him. This is not the case at all. I am at least as interested as she is in my stories, or indeed this blog!

For this is the point. I don’t mind at all, hearing a bit about others’ families, and of course I am as proud as any parent of my own children’s achievements. But I don’t wish to be defined, myself by their accomplishments; because they are theirs. What I would really like is to be defined by my own achievements…and most of all…in my writing. Is it too much to hope for?