Before I had children, I did as much research into the subject as possible. I wanted to arm myself with all the information I could, in order to be prepared for any and all eventualities that may present themselves. Obviously I was still completely unprepared for parenting, as I am sure all of us are.
One thing I have been thinking about today is about how we as parents want our kids to see us. We really want to be the cool, fun parent who our kids really like. Actually we really want our children to see us as some omnipotent deity and behave with all the reverence and awe that that would entail. But being likeable would do at a pinch.
As Nigel Latta so succinctly puts it though, we cannot be friends with our children. We are the parent and we have to make hard decisions.
We have to be the one who nags about homework, who insists on chores being done, who embarrassingly asks “have you washed this morning?” Sure we do fun stuff too, but sometimes it feels like all we ever do is issue instructions and no amount of random dessert for breakfast frivolity can make up for that.
What we have to do is look at it from another direction. Yes we repeatedly demand that our children pick up their toys/clothes/machine parts from the bedroom floor, but we do it because we love our kids and we want nice stuff for them.
We nag our kids to do homework, or get off the computer or watch something more educational but we do it because we want our children to be able to hold a conversation with someone (one day) that involves more than discussing the current weather or the length of the latest pop-bint’s skirt.
Children of all ages need metaphysical fences around them in order to let them feel safe, secure and loved. If you push the fences too far out, the kids get a lot of speed up running towards them, and often just bash the fences down on impact. If you have the fences too close, both you and the kids are constantly banging into them and bumping into each other and it all gets very painful very quickly. The trick is to have the fences on some sort of moveable frame, so they can be adjusted according to the age and abilities of each child.
Some children just have to see the fences to be happy and content; some need to sneak up and poke them to make sure they don’t move too much; some kids just batter the shit out of them on a daily basis and we have to keep shoring them up with sandbags of rationality to stop them collapsing in a cloud of “oh for gods sake ALRIGHT THEN”s.
One of the hardest bits of all this is that your children will NOT thank you for it, and will never tell you what a great job you are doing in raising them to be emotionally strong, stable and well-rounded individuals. You have to tell yourself instead, and that can get a little clichéd at times.
So, I am here to tell all you parents out there who feel like they have to be the Bad Guy all the time: you are doing a great job. Your children are delightful (all of them), and I enjoy spending time with them and with you. You are a great parent and your children will realise this eventually when they hit their 20s if you’re lucky, or at least when they have children of their own.