I like to think of my parenting style as zen-parenting. Over the last year or so my complaints have lessened, I’ve expressed gratitude, practiced self-care and generally I’m happier in my role as Mother to two boys.
I was delighted to find out that being happier in myself meant happier, less-stressed out children.
So perfect right?
The odd meltdown aside we are pretty ship-shaped in this household.
So over the weekend I’ve read this beautiful, fairy-tale about a place where children are calm at the dinner table, where they eat their food without fights, where constant complaints of “I’m hungry” and snacking altogether doesn’t exist.
In this magical place parents are not vilified for sitting on the sidelines at the park and reading, they get adult time each evening guaranteed and these children are well-behaved, functioning members of society. They don’t need to be excused as “just children”.
Reading of this “fairy-tale” land jolted a highlighter reel in my head of the way it is in my household.
The cries of “I’m hungry” have reached epic proportions – an average of 5-10 times an hour while their awake, though I’m sure it’s mumbled in sleep.
These cries are met by endless trips to the fruit bowl and pantry and my two year old now opens the fridge himself to peruse my offerings, despite my protests that there is nothing in there.
Oh, they also open my neighbour’s pantry, my in-laws and my parents.
Somewhat obvious to you readers, but something that had mystified me, was the fact that these “hungry” kids wouldn’t eat all of their dinner. They certainly don’t eat new or “unliked” vegetables. We have now developed quite the extensive list in this regard.
They also get up from the table, dance. smearing food as they bounce from couch to table.
My half-assed attempts at reigning this behaviour in have been met with some resistance, crying or disregard. Yet I stay Zen.
It helps that people excuse this behaviour as they are children. Plus they get healthy snacks so I feel I’m doing the right thing.
My TV babysitter has become a source of tension of late. What used to be the odd show or two has become marathon-esque over the holidays. It’s been so hot that leaving the house hasn’t been an appealing option so an early morning trip to the park or beach is what they get before being shut in the house for hours on end, eventually tiring of their toys.
The relief of clicking on that TV has quickly been replaced by the tension of putting on the wrong show, or they watch a frightfully little amount of the show before wanting a new one. Resulting in not a lot of Mummy-me time. (That’s where I get time by myself to be my Zen-like self).
So when reading my “fairy-tale” I have to question – who is really reigning in my house?
I don’t think it’s me.
Enter the era of the child-King.
We have knowledge overload, are stressed over feeding habits, god-forbid we pyschologically damage them or cause a scene in public – so we cower to our children. We make allowances that quite frankly are not good for us, nor the children.
This cycle of battle has made us tired. The endless nights, the disagreements over clothes, food, tv shows, and let’s face it, pretty much anything they get a bee in their bonnet about has worn us down.
Instead of taking the authorative role I often admit defeat and roll over. A concession to get back to what I need to do. Whether that is cleaning, writing or just doing something for myself.
I often think of a comment made by some random old lady in a blog somewhere that she thinks its terrible how self-absorbed Mothers these days are at the park, where she observes them talking on their phone or reading instead of interacting with their children.
I find myself surreptitiously looking around to make sure there are not plenty of observers before pulling my book out or reaching for facebook at the park.
People are declaring parks (on social media) – social media free zones as they leave their phones at home and really bond with their kids. Not sure how they manage to shoot all the Mummy and Me time at the park then for our viewing pleasure 🙂
But…..and I may be stepping across your well-educated, parent manual-ed, line here….aren’t kids supposed to be at the park being kids? Do they need us clapping as they come down the slide and jumping on the equipment with them. If not doing so are we really damaging their self-confidence and self-esteem or are we drawing the line firmly between ourselves as parents and children? Or is every now and then enough and the rest of the time we let them have kid time as we catch up on our reading, return our phone calls and speak to our friends?
And I wish I could say to that old lady – in your day children were let outside to play as you got things done and made dinner. You didn’t have them at your feet between you and the dishwasher putting all their body weight on you, determined to get you out of the kitchen and pay attention to THEM (which may or may not have happened to me on numerous occasions). They were able to run free and be kids.
When I let my kids outside they peer at me from the window and walk the two steps it takes to hit the fence and walk back inside again. Our “backyard” is more of a glorified courtyard.
Also in my fairy tale (which is not really a fairy-tale, my book was about a place called France) they were not interrupted while they spoke, they did not have to get off the phone because their children were demanding it and they had the type of authority/command (without being overly authoritatrian and still getting to be soft at times) that I can only dream of.
If entire countries are sailing through their children’s childhood without the types of angst and guilt we have going on then where are we going wrong?
This is not a one off account of how things are in a certain region – I read two very separate accounts and highly recommend a read to everyone, “French Children Don’t Throw Food.” By Pamela Druckerman and “French Children Eat Everything.” By Karen Le Billon. I have previously written a review of French Children Don’t Throw Food here.
Through exercising authority, believing that they are the parents and that the kids will behave (will eat everything, will not interrupt) and providing a constant processing of “educating” their children on everything from behaviour to introducing them to different foods, they have not “crushed their spirit” as we may in the back of our mind believe.
In fact these kids know their boundaries and how to push and stretch them without unbalancing the relationship with their parents or their own unhappiness.
Serious food for thought.
In fact the land of France sounds like they know what they are doing. There are certainly major steps that I want to take from the book and start implementing in my family because it is quite glaringly obvious where I am making life miserable for us all.
By giving in when they need rules.
By having a haphazard routine where they do not know what is happening next.
By forcing them to eat things in a negative way, instead of encouraging them to try for pleasure for fun. We eat to be healthy not for pleasure.
By not sitting with them at meals and letting them do what they wish.
I am the parent.
Keep an eye on the blog this week to keep up with my progress.