Well, that’s a big title!
Did you decide on one and go from there? I definitely didn’t and ‘what’ I am changes and grows constantly. It comes as much from the girls as from me (and a lot from my upbringing too I suspect).
I don’t do lies. Well, I do. I pretend Father Christmas and the tooth fairy exist. But I don’t lie about periods or farting or where babies come from or that everyone picks their nose in privacy of the bathroom.
I would love to tell you that I am a kind, graceful, all-round wonder mum. But that would be a lie (see above). I shout and lose my temper and am sometimes downright crabby if I’m tired or pre-menstrual. But that is normal and I’m okay with modelling normal.
I might have a tantrum but I am loved irrespective of that. I reckon that is a good message.
I have rules. Veg gets eaten before desert is allowed. But you don’t have to clean your plate. White pasta is not that much better than ice cream in my book, so leave the carbs if you like.
The kids go to bed at seven. Not always, but certainly on a school night. They don’t sleep in. Ever. However late they go to bed, so late nights are pretty unusual.
We gave over a whole room for their craft stuff, toys and play. It’s a nice room, and one day it will be ours again, but for now it gives them space to keep games going and the freedom to pick up art and craft activities when they choose to.
Sometimes, I say no to painting though. And I hate glitter. And sometimes I say ‘let’s watch a film and eat popcorn’ just so I don’t have to craft or play or bake.
I don’t like leaving them, even when they’re sleeping. When they’re home from school, I like to be with them.
They both started a couple of days in nursery at about 14 months though. And struggled with it. And I still sent them. Because more than anything (especially once I had two), I needed it.
I carried my babies in slings and breastfed for years. I had planned to ‘Gina Ford’ it (a decision I had made before the realities of having a baby were clear to me). Instead I rocked and fed and co-slept my way through their babyhood.
I stopped night-feeding at fourteen and ten months respectively, and my wonderful D spent (a lucky few) nights patting and rocking them ’till they would sleep through.
My daughter signed well from seven months and I KNOW that kids understand a lot more than we give them credit for from very early, so I believe in listening to both verbal and non-verbal messages from my children.
But this does mean that I also expect quite a lot from them. Writing this, I want to excuse it somehow, but it’s the (perhaps uncomfortable) truth.
I let them watch Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean, even though my youngest is only three. Gasp! But with Papa being a prop-maker, they understand that film isn’t real and they’ve never had nightmares or found a film really scary. (Even Harry Potter’s dementors, which I, personally find a bit freaky)!
I also let them make decisions about their clothes, hair, play dates, weekends and lives. I don’t make them do things that they don’t want to (even when it’s socially embarrassing). For instance, if they don’t want to attend a friend’s party or see a relative. I try not to lie about that either. Mostly people understand that a three-year old at a party they don’t want to be at is a bad mix.
I think my girls are both happy, well-adjusted individuals. Their schools (youngest is at preschool 2.5 days a week) both say that they’re doing well. My eldest is thoughtful, kind and creative. She works hard and is sensitive – a home-body. My youngest is bright, imaginative and bossy. She likes being in charge and is a fierce negotiator.
I don’t believe there is a ‘right’ way to parent a child. It’s just not as easy as that. And I would strongly argue that every child/family/parent is different and absolutely requires a different approach. Gina wasn’t for me, but if it worked for you, all power to your elbow!
I don’t think I fit into a ‘Parenting Style’ box and suspect you don’t either. For me, the more important question is how do we know we’re doing okay, and what is good enough?
If we’re all mostly happy (if a bit shouty on occasion), then I think that’s okay enough for me.
I originally wrote this post for Worthing Mums, a great, local, chatty inclusive magazine style blog, written by local parents, for local parents.