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Parenting Mistakes

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Snow wrote something thought-provoking about parenting children. She wondered how much upbringing and certain experiences, or lack thereof, influence the adult a child becomes.

Conscientious parents are always concerned about impacts of parenting styles and the way we raise our children. I was. The old question of what makes an adult behave the way they do? Nature or nurture? Is it environment that shapes a child more or nature, or a blend of both?

Is there even such a thing as a perfect parent? Many expect that of ourselves and aspire to be just that – a perfect parent. Some fantasy that is unattainable.

What Kind of Parent are You?

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” ~Oscar Wilde

I wanted to be a good parent and read all kinds of parenting books and tips during my pregnancies, but children don’t always fit the model the book writes about, do they?

Children are as individual as there are grains of sand on the beach. Often-times, you have to make up the rules on the hop. There’s no time to analyse what is best, especially when you are dealing with more than one child, sibling rivalries, nappies, meals, and other family commitments.

I wasn’t a perfect parent and I don’t know anyone that was. Most parents have good intentions, most do their best they can at that given moment. There is no guidebook and every child is an individual.

For many years, I looked up to a neighbour who seemed to manage four small children without any kind of drama. Her life was perfect and her children were perfect. One evening, I was outside in my backyard. When all is quiet, noise carries further and I could heard her berating her children. The fantasy was shattered.

As a parent, I made blunders and regretted actions I took, enforcing certain boundaries for my own children. Sometimes I allowed them too much freedom, other times not enough. What worked for one child, did not seem to work for the next. In talking to other parents, it is apparent everyone makes mistakes at some point. If there is a parent that thinks they did the perfect job, I am yet to meet them.

Snow questions if it matters if her children haven’t petted a cat or flown on an airplane?
I don’t think it does. Many kids grow up in areas without first-world privileges, TV or devices. Does it make a big difference to the adult they become?

There is much more to a child than the environment. Give a child an expensive toy and some will use their imagination playing with the large cardboard box the toy came in than with the toy itself.

Children and Television

When my children were small, they were not allowed to watch a particular TV show during school terms, but they could watch it in the school holidays. Given that we had younger children in the house, I did not deem that show to be appropriate for our family. Yet, all the other boys in his school class got to watch this TV show and my son didn’t.

Years later, when he was a teenager, my son told me in a half-joking way that he had felt left out at school, as he couldn’t contribute to the playground conversation. When I asked him why – he told me that the playground chats with the boys in his class were always about what happened in the previous night’s episode, of that TV show.

Was he deprived for not being able to contribute to the social conversation at school? He felt ostracised and belonging is important to everyone. Did this affect him long term? The answer is uncertain and depends on his own judgement of that experience and his perspective.

Emotional Baggage

Some adults carry emotional wounds, whether that be from an experience, an interaction with a bully, personal loss or grief. Do we re-live our negative experiences and continue to harbour resentment or blame, thus being a victim, or move past it and grow?

If we aren’t able to move on and forgive transgressions from our past, we might get stuck resenting someone or something.

“As adults, we have the capacity to shape their own lives and the responsibility to do so.”

Oprah

Ultimately, if you listen to your children, care for them, give them reasonable boundaries and above all, love them unconditionally, then you ARE the perfect parent for that child. After all, you do know your children best.

Perhaps my son will forgive me one day.

A Home by the Sea