Thursday, 31 January 2013

Great Expectations

My children have not turned out how I intended. Yes, I read all the books. I nodded along to features on perfect parenting and honed my prejudices against mothers who fell short of my ideals. Yet things went awry within weeks of my eldest's birth and it's been downhill all the way since then. I'd resolved, you see, on rearing children who:

Owned only three toys, all of hand-crafted wood, plus a single teddy bear.
Ate the green twirly things excavated from my garden with gratitude and with cutlery.
Begged the Hoover off me to fine-tune their bedrooms.
Thought an iPod was a hybrid vegetable.
Turned their private desks into a homework hub.
Greeted the Sunday faithful with smiling enquiries after their health.

Instead, my children:

Single-handedly turned Fisher-Price into a global empire and would sink Noah's Ark with their menagerie of stuffed animals.
Eat only fish-fingers and chipolatas - with their fingers.
Beg a step ladder off me to surmount the impenetrable chaos of their bedrooms.
Devise secret pockets in their pyjamas so they can sleep with their iPods.
Turn their private desks into a make-up counter/racing circuit.
Drag me off mid-conversation with the verger.

But - now I come to think of it, I haven't turned out how I intended. I'd resolved, you see, on being a mother who:

Baked cakes every Saturday with my babies.
Served up home-cooked gourmet dinners after school.
Allowed the living room be turned into a pirate ship.
Deflected unsuitable behaviour with gentle pointers.
Sewed their school uniforms from organic cotton.
Was always ready with a cuddle and a Jammy Dodger (home-made).

Instead, I:

Plant my babies every Saturday with their iPods while I blog.
Scratch factory proteins from the freezer floor at dinner times.
Flinch over a displaced cushion in the living room.
Crush unsuitable behaviour with baleful threats.
Am called in mid-winter by the school because they've been sent in without coats.
Call out absent-minded endearments while hunched over Twitter with a Digestive (Tesco Value).

Briefly these realisations trouble me. Would I have become the Perfect Parent if my children had been more biddable - or would my children have become more biddable if I had been the Perfect Parent? Then the remedy strikes me. I fling away all those books and line the cat litter tay with the articles on perfect parenting. I gain comfort from all those other mothers who fall short of my ideals and I reach a new resolution: my kids and I are healthy, contented and lice-free and for as long as this happy situation lasts I'll allow us all to do what comes naturally. I wonder, though, how much used iPods would fetch on eBay?

Have you and your children turned out the way you intended?

36 comments:

  1. Love this post! My ideals weren't quite as high (I've always hated cooking, crafting and gardening), but my kids weren't going to be fussy. Oh no. And I wasn't going to shout. And they weren't going to watch lots of telly. And I was going to give them my undivided attention. But, do you know what? We're fine as we are - fussy eaters, shouting and all :)

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    1. Truth to tell, I've always hated cooking too. But I did think my own flesh and blood would eat the noxious green gloops that I feed myself!

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  2. Fantastic! I love!
    I didn't turn out the parent I thought I'd be either... and my 5 are as randomly different and individually thrawn as they possibly could be. All in all, a reverse universe away from my 22 yr old imaginings.
    I threw the books away a while back. Took the critical 'perfect parent' filter off and realised just how wonderful my family is.
    In our innocence we approach the whole parenting thing as if it's a science experiement for schoolor a Delia recipe book - follow the steps proscibed by 'the masters' and hey presto! success!
    Then life happens (septic warts and all).
    Our kids - they're gifted to us for such a short time. They're not 'projects' nor badges of our own superiority as 'perfect parents'. Our job is to get them to independence. To get them to a stage when they are finally able to make the break from us and live fulfilled and fulfilling lifes as independent adults.
    Plenty of love. Plenty of acceptance of frailties and difference. And a setting aside of original 'expectations'. For expectations are strait-jackets which prevent us from experiencing our children as they really are - and in turn being genuinely amazed by just how wonderful that reality is.
    It's all better than our limited imaginations could ever have pictured.

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    1. There's a lot of wisdom in that comment. Wish I'd read such sound sense as that years ago!

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  3. My little girl was meant to wear pretty smocks and buckle shoes and trip happily through the garden picking posies. Instead she wears football strips and trainers and her favourite game is to pretend she's an odd-job man called Mick. What happened??

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    1. I think it's a marvellous thing that your enlightened family is taking a stand against gender stereotyping!!

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  4. The homework thing has been my Waterloo. I was going to sit next to them, guiding them through the difficulties, helping them to work things out themselves, patiently... gently... kindly...

    I'm not even going to tell you what it looks like now. Suffice to say, I've just accepted that helping with homework is not my forte, and I don't really do it any more. If they can't do it themselves, I suggest they ask a teacher in the morning. Otherwise, it's ugly. I may have said "Why on earth can't you understand this?" on one occasion, or even "Oh, pass it over here. I'll do the sums for you". I may have done.

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    1. The homework is possibly my worst moment too. 'Are you being thick or just deliberately obtuse?' is my stock response.

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    2. But what a fantastic lesson in vocabulary! "Deliberately obtuse" will get them through English GCSE, no problem.

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  5. But I like your suggestion that it may all be THEIR fault, and not MINE. So I conclude that if my children had been better at doing homework supervised by their loving mother, then I would have turned out better at the supervision bit.

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  6. Great Post ! everyone is an expert in this day in age! Yet at the end of the day I bet when you look back as they develop over the years, shout "You don't love me" then followed with "I love you Mum" your think "you know what I didn't do such a bad job!" and I bet a pound to a dollar they're know when to say " Please" "thank you" and understand the meaning of right and wrong!. Good days bad days you wouldn't have it any other way...

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    1. The great thing about revealing ones inadequacies on the WorldWideWeb is all thse kind people who hasten to persuade you that you are a success in disguise!

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  7. First visit to your blog, via Claire on Twitooor.

    Great post, mine are a bit young to know whether they are going to turn out as expected. To be honest I don't really have any expectations. And me, well I just blunder through day to day life worrying about if I've bought the milk, washed enough underwear and if I have any idea whatsoever as to what everyone will be eating for dinner (well under what I expected my house-husband performance would be).

    Anyhoo, nice to tweet you as they say and I look forward to another instalment :)

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    1. You sound a man with rare gifts. I take back all I wrote about blokes last week. Thanks for troubling to comment!

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  8. Well mine is growing up to know that the TV is the best baby sitter ever!!!!! I had all these ideals when she was a baby which have now been banished along with all my silly new years resolutions - damn those parenting books! :o). X.

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    1. Very educational, that TV is. I learnt all my life philosophy from The Clangers!

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  9. You never fail to disappoint - great post! But....are your children really lice free?! I actually can't remember the last time I checked - that's how bad a parent I am! Any ideals you have before children are quickly quashed with 'just get through the day' when you actually give birth!

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    1. Blimey, I never check. Tend to think so long as I'm not itchy they're OK.

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  10. Well let's put it this way, I'm letting their moderately nutritious tea burn whilst I type this reply whilst they all sit glued to the TV in the other room. 'Nuff said. Great post :)

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  11. I was hoping by now they would be millionaires and I would be sitting some where in the Barbados, but sadly they listened to me when I said "money only pays bills it doesn't buy happiness'. Thus we are still poor.

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    1. Oh, I'm still counting on at least one of mine running to a small Georgian manor with a wing in it for me.

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  12. Excellent post! Mine are teenagers now so I have absolved myself of all responsibility if they turn out to be wrong 'uns. However, I know what it's like to dream of a home that is a haven of order with a nice baking smell. I used to go to a church youth meeting in a house like that when I was young. Years later though the mother confessed that her kids got really fed up with everything being perfect and would scoff chocolate every morning on the way to school. I don't think we can win :)

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    1. What a comfort that story is! I know one or two apparently perfect mothers, but always console myself with the hope there's a skeleton in their Shaker-style cupboards!

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  13. Take those expectations, lower them, lower them a bit more, and a bit more than that, then take what you have left and lower them just a little bit further...and there you'll find me - waiting for you :)

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  14. Oh thank goodness! My family are mostly happy, despite all my failings and theirs!
    Seriously though, why does the myth persist that we can all somehow be reborn into perfection the minute a new baby arrives?

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    1. It's to keep us on our toes, I suppose. If we aim high we might shore up our sloppy standards a bit more than otherwise!

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  15. Comforting post as ever from my sister-in-grime.

    I am not the natural, patient, non-shouty mother that I always thought I would be. More shocking is how shouty and impatient my child can be. Are the two things related? I like to tell myself that they are not.

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    1. It's clear as day that you would never have become shouty and impatient if Bibsey had not set a bad example.

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  16. Love this post! I've found you via the lovely MidlifeSinglemum who has mentioned you on her blog. I'm so glad she did, I'm adding you to my reader right now!

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    1. How very glad I am that you came by. I like the sound of you and anyone who is a 'friend' of Rachel is a friend of mine!

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  17. I have nominated you for the Liebster Award. All bloggers with fewer than 300 followers are elligible. Now, looking at your blog I think I've boobed. Am sure you must have more than 300! If you haven't, it would be lovely if you could join in. You can read all about it at www.countryidyll.co.uk Be grateful if you could let me know if you can participate. Many thanks.

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    1. How lovely of you. I am thrilled. Thing is some other kind soul awarded me this a few months ago and I'm not sure I have anything else thrilling to divulge about myself. I really appreciate your kindness, though.

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