I thought about this question when reading extensively on what makes for great parenting and how best we can enrich the lives of our children. It can be a little overwhelming as a parent to be bombarded with the ‘best’ way to get the very ‘best’ out of your child and do the very ‘best’ job that is humanly possible. In perusing the plethora of information, one can be forgiven for starting to feel a little inadequate with some of their own parenting practises. Am I giving them a good enough diet, are they reading enough, is there too much television, are we playing enough board games, is there too much computer time, too little free time, too much free time, enough structure, enough down time? Does it matter that the other parents limit soft drink to once a month? Should I worry that my complete refusal to hold up flash cards in front of the face of an 8 month old will leave him struggling through early literacy?
What I have come to conclude however, is that we are who we are. We can alter, modify, learn and enhance, but ultimately, if we allow ourselves to be the parent we inherently need to be, then surely we are being the best parent for our children.
We dont have to be like all the other parents at the kinder drop off. We dont have to be like all the parents we see on TV. Likewise we dont have to be the same parent every expert or parent blogger tells us to be. We need to stop comparing and get back to enjoying.
I have some confessions to make. There are actually lots of things about parenting that I dont like. Despite the adoration I have for my children, I dont always like doing certain things with them . I dont particularly like hitting golf balls in the back yard. I quickly get bored of watching a Thomas the Tank Engine train going around and around and around a circular wooden track. I really dont enjoy being at kids parties. I hate going to the movies to watch a childs movie. I dont go to the movies often enough to waste it on a cartoon!
But I am happy to read lots of picture books, and have been known to spend hours (maybe an exageration) reading them over and over again. I would also rather sing songs with my 20 month old than play with toy cars. I am more than happy to watch my kids play footy even in the early hours of a freezing Sunday morning. My husband loves kids movies (well maybe not loves but enjoys). He is also great at playing all manner of sports in the backyard and can do it for hours on end. And he cant sing, so he doesnt. Although I have been witness to a few singstar renditions with son number 1 lately!
You see we can’t all be the mum who puts their hand up for canteen duty. We cant all be the mum who loves the challenges of being on the kinder fundraising committee. We cant all be the mum who has freshly baked muffins hot out of the oven in time for the kids arrival home from school.
Likewise we cant always be bothered listening to a long winded recital of a lunchtime conversation that occurred between three 7 yr old boys. We cant always be willing to put up with a toddler feeding himself yoghurt and flicking it around the kitchen. We cant always be delighted by the gleam in the eye of a child making mud pies, finger painting or partaking in water play.
Despite these ‘dislikes’ about certain parenting practices, we are still good parents….and more importantly, we are still the best parents we can be. If we stick to who we are, stick to the values we hold dear and parent accordingly, then we will be giving our children the best of us. Certainly parenthood opens us up for change and this can often be a great and rewarding outcome, but we must not force ourselves to change who we are in order to be the “perfect” parent. We cannot all do every aspect of parenting that we are told is helpful, good for their development, stimulating and fun. We can seek out help, support, advice and guidance when it is needed, but we do not need to compare every parenting practice of our own to that of every other parent.
So just when you were feeling guilty about not wanting to pull out the paints, sit and watch another trick on the scooter or crawl around on all fours pretending you are an elephant, have a think about all the other times that you have had the energy, inclination and enthusiasm to do a myriad of other things that have, and will continue, to enrich your child life.
What are the things you are really good at doing with your kids, and what are those things you try and avoid, or do reluctantly because you think you should?