Our children are so precious to us, and I think we would all do anything we could to stop any harm coming to them. Seeing our children cry or being upset is one of the hardest things we see. Our heart strings are pulled and we want to ease their pain. It becomes doubly hard when sometimes we are the cause of that pain, for example, sticking to boundaries put in place, saying, ‘no,’ and we, as parents, become the worst in the world. It is uncommon for young children to shout, ‘I hate you,’ but they may really dislike you at that moment and want to be heard shouting and screaming to show you that they are not happy with you, or the decision you have made. Does this make you a bad parent then?
My oldest daughter is about to turn 18 and she has turned out to be, in my opinion, a fantastic young lady. That doesn’t mean her road through childhood has been easy and there have been times when I really felt that I didn’t know if my parenting was being effective or not. I’m sure there have been many times too when she has felt I have been over harsh, unjust and simply unfair with some of the parenting decisions I have made in her life, but I hope there have also been many times that she has felt loved, wanted and part of a family that loves her very much. As parents we can’t expect to be perfect 100% of the time, and to be honest, our children don’t want us to be or need us to be perfect. They need us to be good enough and also show them that we can learn from our mistakes. We are a role model for them and they need to see us stumble at times and pick ourselves up and move on. They need to be able to see us cope with every emotion thrown at us, and see how we respond. Yes, push us hard enough children and parents can get angry too, and shout and scream back at you! Yes, we cry, even sob and breakdown when a close family member or friend dies. Yes, we can have one too many glasses of alcohol while enjoying a happy occasion and get a bit silly and suffer the next day. These are all natural parts of being human and children need to see the bad with the good and see how we as parents deal with it in life.
I have learnt over my daughter’s 18 years that I can’t stop her from making mistakes, and also, I am not immune from making mistakes as a parent. I don’t think there are many people who can’t look back and wish that their parents had done something differently in their lives. I remember many! One such example was wanting a TV in my bedroom. I wasn’t allowed one, but was told if I saved up enough money I could buy one for myself. I saved hard and one day had enough money to buy a small portable one for my room - I still wasn’t allowed one! The pure injustice I felt was awful, but I dealt with it, I probably screamed and shouted a lot at the time, and spent the money on new clothes for myself on a holiday in Torquay. The point I am trying to get at is, however much you give your child, there will still always be some parts that you could have done differently, or your child wishes could have happened differently. That doesn’t mean you haven’t done a good enough job – be kind to yourself. We as a society are always looking at ways to improve, get better. Targets, targets, targets are everywhere- in education, in health, in sales. There is always more you are expected to do- push, push, push. Even Olympic athletes who have won gold medals I’m sure will celebrate, but also analyse their performances and look at what they could do next time to improve even more. When is good enough, enough? When the boundaries keep moving how can everyone keep up?
I plan to celebrate my daughter’s 18th and look back with pride at the young lady she has become, with her adult life just about to begin. I know there will be times in her life that she will look back on and wish I had done something differently for her, and if she reads this - I am truly sorry, but I tried my best and it was all with best intentions, even if it may not have felt like that at the time. It is easy to get stuck on the negatives, but there are always so many positives too. Simple times like reading your child’s favourite story night after night for them for many years, sitting with them watching TV when they are feeling poorly snuggled on the sofa, letting them cry on your shoulder after they have their heart broken, sharing many meals together discussing the day. All these times fully make up for the hard times, you just need to remember them and focus on them, and be kind to yourself.