Tag Archives: motherhood

Your parenting legacy

Growing up, on the rare occasions we would go out for dinner, my family and I would invariably encounter a surly waitress. You know the sort: plonks the menu on the table with a sigh, takes your order as if it’s the most boring thing in the world and practically thumps you one when you ask for extra cutlery! I exaggerate but you get the idea. 

When this situation arose, my Dad would say something like: “A prize for the person who can crack a smile from the grumpy waitress!” At which point my sister and I would groan, sinking further into our chairs. 

Next time the waitress would appear at the table, my Dad would make a comment along the lines of: “Bit busy in here tonight.” Often this would be all it took and we’d watch the waitress relax, her face softening with a small smile.

If she was a tough nut to crack he’d try again. Maybe put a fake snake on the table next time she came around. (You need to know that it’s usual for my father to carry props like this around with him – he has been known to put a glass eyeball on his plate in the hopes of successfully rising a squeal or two!) Or maybe he’d balance a fork on his glass, anything out of the ordinary to get a smile.

If all this failed and our waitress was particularly dour, he would say, with a twinkle in his eye and a cheeky grin: “Are you having a horrible day?” I don’t think I’ve ever seen this technique fail! A comment like this would completely disarm our server and from then on she’d be putty in our hands…and full of smiles!

My Mum was the same. She’d often strike up a quick chat with people here and there as we did our shopping along the high-street. An old man waiting to cross the road for example or the woman in front of us in the check-out queue.  She was always, and still is, ready with a smile or a nod. Especially with elderly people. “You should always say hello,” she’d say to me. “You might be the only person they speak to all day.”

As a kid I would find the whole thing hugely embarrassing. I would roll my eyes at both my parents and wish I was invisible.  It was mortifying. I didn’t get the point at all.

But as an adult I do get the point and I find myself doing exactly the same thing as my parents. What’s more I do it in front of my children who find it just as insanely embarrassing as I did. “Why do you always talk to the check-out girl!” My daughter will hiss as we leave the supermarket. “Do you know that man at the gas-station?” My son will ask. “I’m just trying to be friendly!” is my reply. Because what harm is it to smile at someone or pass the time of day? It costs nothing but gives so much more. 

So as I happily watch my children writhe in humiliation (an unexpected joy of parenting I find) I realise that this is part of my parents’ parenting legacy. As a mother of children still pre-teen, I tend to think of parenting as a relatively short period of time, while my children are living at home and need me to wipe their noses or buy their shoes, but it runs much deeper than that. It’s in everything we do, every decision we make and it lasts a lifetime. 

So why not teach them the value of a smile or a friendly hello instead of how to argue over a parking space? Why not teach them the beauty of giving someone the benefit of the doubt instead of rushing to take offence? Why not teach them how to extend a hand to their fellow man rather than how to pick a fight?
What will your parenting legacy be? 🙂

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The after-school rollercoaster!

Oh the joys of extra-curricular activities! Anyone else with kids feel like they’re rushing around like a headless chicken after school making sure their beloved off-spring get to their Yoga-For-Tots or Young Chefs class on time? It’s craziness! I’m trying to keep our after-school commitments under a tight rein but if you’re not careful, before you know it, your kid’s calendar looks much like that of an A-list celeb!

At the moment my kids play tennis, my son fences and my daughter takes a drama class. It’s enough to fill up the week and make me just a tad stressed at times! If I’m honest I’d rather just let them hang out at home, doing their homework and picking their nose but unfortunately parents are under a lot of pressure to enrich their children’s lives with sport and crafts these days.

There is a pletherer of after-school activities available, so whatever your child is interested in, chances are you can find a class for it. When you turn up at these places, the classes are usually well attended but I find myself wondering how many of the students would rather be kicking a ball around on their back yard, or pootling about on their bikes. And I have to wonder do they really need to be doing Chess Club and Fine Arts?

The other day, I took my son to his regular fencing class. Usually I enjoy a trip to Costco during his lesson, but last night, in an effort to resist the lure of a jumbo pack of kitchen towels, I decided to hang around and read a book. There were a few other parents there, some on their phones, some tapping way on Ipads and the others were watching. No hang on, they weren’t just watching, what they were actually doing was coaching their kids, yelling out instructions from the back of the room. Every time there was a water break these parents would go over and say things like: “You’re lifting your front foot to high” or “you’re not moving quickly enough.” As if it weren’t enough for their children to be taking guidance from the fencing coach, you know the person actually qualified to instruct in the method of fencing, they also had to endure negative criticism from their parents.

Then I felt uncomfortable wearing my Judging Hat because I’m sure I’ve done the exact same thing. I know I am sometimes the parent muttering at the back of the room. And I couldn’t help wondering, why don’t we just leave the kids alone to get it in their own time? Have we lost all faith in our childrens’ ability to grasp a new skill without parental badgering from the sidelines?

Growing up, my main interest was drama. I used to go down on the bus every Satruday and would spend three hours happily prancing around pretending to be a tree or working on a my solo pieces. My parents never came. Even when I practiced at home, my parents didn’t usually listen to me or give me instruction. When I ask my Mum about this and she usually says something along the lines of: “Well we just trusted you to get on with it!” Or “I had things to do!”

And I did…I just got on with it. I didn’t feel unloved or uncared for. I could always go to my parents for help but they certainly weren’t breathing down my neck. The result of this approach was that every time I did take part in a drama competition or my school exams, I was doing so as an invidual. I always knew my achievements, and my mistakes, were my own. As they should be.

I think that parents now are more insecure about their children than my parents generation (I include myself here). We push our kids at school, we push them at sport outside of school, we expect them to be accomplished public speakers. But by heaping the pressure on and holding their hands the whole time, we in fact disinfranchise our kids because we stop them from become true individuals. We sap out the enterpise and creativity from their souls because we send them the message that they can’t so it on their own and that there’s no place for failure.
It’s good to have hopes for your kids obviously, it’s natural to want them to do well but doesn’t it feel like we’re rushing them along? So much so, we’re not leaving them room for error. Shouldn’t we have more faith in their ablity to work it out themselves? To embrace their mistakes? We trying so hard to protect them from failing without realising that we are in turn depriving them of a vital life lesson. We need to ask ourselves why we are enrolling our kids into all these extra-curricular activites? Who is it for? What is it for? Shouldn’t we be teaching them that it’s ok sometimes to get up and have a go, and not win a trophy?

Now it’s the beginning of a New Year, a chance to re-evaluate. I’m in the process of assessing my own kids extra-cirruclar activities. At the moment they seem to be enjoying it and I’m coping with being a taxi to get them to various places. I drop off and pick up. I’m making an effort to be supportive without getting over-involved. For now, I feel I have it under control but to be fair that’s probably because my youngest son has yet to get sucked into the after-school mayhem.

Although I’m proud to say that he is rather good at picking his nose…and that’s without any guidance for me of course! 😉

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Stay-At-Home Mom Confession: I Want A Job!

I’ve been a stay-at-home Mom for twelve years. When I read that sentence back it absolutely shocks me to the core because it was never my plan. Before I had children, before I met my husband, I had always believed that it was important for a woman to keep working alongside starting a family. I had a theory that working part-time was ideal because that way a mother was keeping her own identity while also being there to nurture her children. To add to this the children would benefit from socializing with others. 

So when I became pregnant with my first child, I made plans to redirect my career. I managed to secure a part-time job and began scouting around child-care options in London (pricey but essential). Then everything changed: my husband got a job transfer to Belgium and before I knew it, we were moving house to live in another country and all of a sudden…I no longer had a job.

Six years in Belgium were spent settling in and having another child. We were speaking another language and adapting to a new community. These, I believed, were good reasons not to go back to work and I became a full-time Mom. 

Then we moved to the States. And until recently, when we got the illusive Green Card, I couldn’t work because my visa wouldn’t allow it.  I was officially just “a spouse.” We had another child.

I love my kids. They amaze me, I look at them and am in disbelief that these three wonderful human beings are my children.  I’m not going to admit to your face (obviously that would be rude and tactless) but secretly I think, no I know, my children are the best in the world! 😉

But … I want a job. I still feel the way I did years ago when I was single and childless. In fact I believe it even more strongly. I meet women like me who are happy to be full-time mothers, they thrive on it and they are fullfilled.  And I’m jealous.  Because no matter how hard I try, I can’t make myself feel that way. Somehow it’s not enough. And in the back of my mind I feel that it would be healthier for me and my children if I went back to work.

I don’t want to live through my children, I want to live alongside my children. (Almost thought I’d be struck down by lightening for saying that but no … I’m still here.)

Does that make me selfish? What do you think? Are you a stay-at-home Mom who yearns to go back to work? Or did you give up work so that you could be a full-time Mom?  Maybe you’re a working Mom who has to work and would prefer not to? Or a Mom who never considered giving up her career to have children?  

I would love to hear from you! 🙂

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