I met a friend last week, by chance, walking through town. She's a mum of two herself, and a lot of fun to be around (one of those people who makes everyone else feel at ease). I think her secret is that she doesn't care what anyone else thinks, and rarely thinks about what anyone else does in any other terms than "that's interesting, glad it works for you!" As a result, it's easy to talk to her for hours about things that don't even touch on children and childcare, because I don't get the slightest sense that she's watching me or questioning my parenting. It was such a relief. There has been a real need in me recently to be seen as something other than mum sometimes, probably because I've marked myself as failing in so many areas of my parenting...
And that's actually the Big Thing that spending time with her brought out of me. I am just being too hard on myself... It isn't that the things I've worried about just don't matter. It does matter to me if the children eat crisps all the time. It does matter if I can't remember the last time I did something fun with them. It does matter if I lose my temper all the time.
But it matters to the relationship I have with the children most; if I can't change it right now and use it as something to criticise myself with and can't just let GO... then all that happens is I'm MORE impatient and MORE tough on the children and things only get worse. Either I can do something about it, or I can decide to have other priorities. I can't spend so much energy dwelling on what I'm getting wrong.
I can't be the only one who rarely finds it easy to live up to my ideals in the daily Real World. Again, I notice that gentle parenting draws a lot of mums who second-guess and question their choices - and doing so has pushed them to build a different kind of life for their families. But when we're sitting here tallying how many un-green things we did this week, or feeling awful for yelling only to then shout again a minute later because crying has given us a headache... (Just me? OK then, just me lol.) ;)
So later last week I also met up with the lovely Naomi. And didn't stress that Morgan kept running off. And didn't stress that Jenna kept poking the baby (OK, I felt a bit bad for poor Eloise lol, but I didn't go into grumpy-mummy mode with Jenna!). And I spent my remaining busfare on buying the children ice-cream. Even around someone I trust, who I know is able to just *be* with me and isn't judging, I'm usually on guard. Waiting for the children to do something awful and prove how incompetant I am, etc... I even managed to slow down and just BE with the children on the walk to the station and back.
As parenting challenges go, taking it easy and being present with two children on a long walk in an urban environment has to be Up There (with finding paint all over the furnishings and similar tests). Even on a good day, it's just... I'm either saying one name or the other constantly. Jenna is falling behind dragging her feet. Morgan is lingering over the leaves on a shrub. Morgan has run ahead to see the railway bridge. Jenna doesn't hear me when I ask her to hold my hand... On the way there, it was still a bit like that. But I could see the funny side! And I didn't feel like throttling someone! And on the way home, we really did manage to just take it slow and enjoy. :)
If this is leading somewhere I don't know where. I just wanted to share. I might be going crazy with impatience at pregnancy and related discomforts. I might be feeling a bit stuck-in-a-rut with poor coping mechanisms for the usual noise and chaos of everyday living. But I'm feeling present with Jenna and Morgan again. That has to count for more than perfection...
Because they don't need me to be perfect. And if I was, how would they learn how real people cope with things getting out of balance? How would they learn how to apologise, how to put things right, how to look afresh at life and make changes? How to ask for support in a crisis?
Ideal parenting? Out of my reach, and probably not very healthy emotional food for real growing humans. Being a model of someone doing their best, having ideals, trying to live up to them, and putting things right as best I can as soon as I can when I know I'm making a mess of it? That'll do. Somehow I think it'll all work out for the best.