Mothers: Admit It, We Never Stop Worrying About Our Kids

Mothers, be careful with those little comments you drop into the conversation each time you see your adult kids (who have left home) and look like they haven’t eaten a square meal that month.

You know the type – How much fruit are you eating? ARE YOU EATING? You’re looking a bit pale, or How firm are your stools? The type that all of us mums just can’t help ourselves from asking.

Well, take my advice and shut the f..ck up, because those comments could come back to haunt you. Such is my fate since I foolishly peered into my son’s fridge and made an innocent comment about his beer diet.

‘Well, I was thinking…’ he replied the other night when he came around to ours for what looked like his first feed this month, (having obviously decided that this was the perfect window of opportunity for some long overdue Mum -manipulation), “that maybe you could deliver me a care package, once a week, for those difficult days leading up to pay day?’

‘What does a care package entail?’ I asked naively.

‘You know…a batch of Shepherd’s Pie, Bubble and Squeak – I’ll even eat your Lasagne if I have to. Something I can knock up easily myself…’ Ie. In his frying pan, which happens to be the only pan in his unit.

‘Perhaps you need to learn some money management,’ I replied wryly, fully aware of how he prioritises the half of his earnings that don’t go on rent.

‘Perhaps you need to remember that you were young once too,’ he reminded me with that twinkle in his eye that he knows makes me melt at the knees.

And he has got a point. I spent a considerable part of my twenties on the Marlboro and hot chip diet, and it’s not like I’ve got anything better to do in between my three jobs and nagging my husband (!). Of course I can sacrifice a few hours a week slaving away in the kitchen to make sure that my twenty-one year old little boy doesn’t waste away.

But just putting this out there – no one bought me care packages.

So, anyway, call me a “Sad-Fuck-Of-A-Helicopter-Parent, but three Shepherds Pies were dutifully delivered to the next suburb on Saturday afternoon, along with step-by-step instructions for how to heat them up. Of course, the old man refused to have any part of what he calls my “pathetic enabling”, although he did mention that if there were any leftovers, he’d have one instead of salmon on our next fish night.

‘Where are my care packages,’ NC grumbled in a text when she sniffed signs of sibling favouritism from the city.

And so, it appears that the old man was right about one thing and wrong about another. He was wrong when he told me that no one really likes my home cooking – as was the dead fox outside our bins all those years ago that I have been reminded about after every one of my cooking fails. But he has been right all of those millions of times when he has said that I will never stop worrying about our kids.

Whereas, he appears to be coping quite admirably.

Why Won’t Our Kids Let Us Mold Them Into Who We Want Them To Be?

 

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“You will find as your children grow up that as a rule, your children are a bitter disappointment – their greatest object being to do precisely what their parents do not wish and have anxiously tried to prevent.”

 

“Often when children have been less watched and less taken care of – the better they turn out! This is inexplicable and very annoying!”

 

(The words of Queen Victoria, taken from History Extra – author Denys Blakeway)

 

Queen Victoria was a lucky woman, for, in spite of having nine kids, she only saw them when she felt like it or had to as a PR exercise. I’ve been glued to series 2 of the same name over the past week because the queen’s fetish for getting pregnant is all the more impressive when you find out how little maternal instinct she possessed. She also had a son like Kurt – Bertie – who ended up being a decent King, which means there is hope.

 

If indeed, it was easy-peasy to raise children, child psychologists and writers of those lying, fucking parenting bibles, would be out of a job. And if Queen Victoria can have one of those kids, what hope is there really for the rest of us? While the old man and I plod along (what should be) the home stretch of parenting, astoundingly we are still confronted by those occasions when like Queen Vic, I would prefer not to do this job at all, and the other night was one of those.

 

Some of you might have picked up my leaning towards being a bit of a control freak, worry-guts and helicopter parent, and that night was one of those that I’m sure will resonate with most parents of teenagers. Tossing and turning in bed, praying that my son would return home safely; promising God a lifetime of attendance at church if only he took care of him; and then as soon as I heard his key turn in the door, I was down the stairs like a crazy woman, berating him for his selfishness.

 

Such nights are less common now that NC has abandoned us and Kurt has survived his teens. Either the sleep medication really does work, or somewhere in my sub-conscience, I have accepted that my children may be adults and let go…a little. It’s sexist I know, but you don’t worry as much about boys, especially when they are of the puppy dog variety like my son, who would rather eat their own shit than throw a punch.

 

That night’s insomnia, however, had less to do with a fear for his safety and much more to do with the visceral disappointment and bruising realization that our son was going to let us down again. Parents of children such as our son will understand this feeling, although I imagine that parents of normal children will secretly condemn me for my honesty. I’m sorry, but if you haven’t got the tee-shirt…

 

It confirmed that I will never be able to mold my son into the adult I expected him to be. I adore him and I know he loves me, but he adamantly refuses to let me turn him into an upstanding citizen of society with the moral compass that we had at his age. He is fundamentally a good person, but convention, abiding by laws and keeping promises are just not his bag, and no matter how many sleepless nights I have, or how many times I try to clip his wings or lock his shackles, he breaks free of them, usually with greater aplomb.

 

When we plan our children, we have all these loopy ideas about how they will turn out while secretly praying that they will inherit the good bits from each of us. The reality is, we consider all the physical stuff at length, then glaze over the personality stuff and make assumptions. I remember that my hope was that our kids would inherit the old man’s brain and my skin and the old man hoped that they got his brain and his motor skills with a remote control and any type of ball. Genes, however, can have a distorted sense of humor and ignore those best-laid plans, claw back into the murky depths of the family tree and fuck you up with a child that resembles great-great uncle fuckwit who lit the Great Fire of London and bred those rats in his home-made lab.

 

Like their mother, neither of our kids can catch a ball.

 

How your children turn out is a lottery. I’m not saying that nurture and education are ineffective, but in some cases, the genes are simply too powerful.

 

I won’t bore you with the intricate details of how my son tested the last vestiges of my endurance the other night, or as is his want, made the bloody deadline by the skin of his teeth in spite of it. Just not in the way I would have approached it. There was no planning, no sense of responsibility or urgency, no anxiety or anal preparations; he had about two hours sleep the night before and on the day, instead of the loving support of a family who would have willingly packed him off with his lunchbox and a pat on the shoulder, he got the cold shoulder.

 

I don’t know why he makes life so hard for us on himself. Perhaps the frontal cortex of his brain should shoulder some responsibility; perhaps he is simply a pig-headed idiot with some growing up to do who will always do things his way and worry about the consequences afterward. All I know is that he does things differently to us and when I moaned the next morning about how he had kept me up all night, he told me that was my problem.

 

And perhaps he has a point.

 

All I can hope is that one day he proves us wrong and out of the ashes will appear a phoenix, a rehabilitated version like Russell Brand, and I will have to eat my words as I proudly tell my friend’s, ‘that’s my son.’

 

 

The Naughty List And Outsourcing Parenting At Christmas

Anyway, according to my hairdresser, who planted the grapevine and is obviously the fount of all knowledge around here, there are now several Christmas apps where parents/kids can connect with Santa before Christmas. You input all your kid’s information into your phone – nickname, age, shoe size etc – so that Facebook nets all their personal details really early on in their life – and then when your child misbehaves, you call Santa to reprimand aforementioned embarrassment to kid-kind and pray he adds them to his naughty list.

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I just can’t understand where this increase in anxiety in our kids has come from, can you?

 

I suspect that this is another example of outsourcing parenting, and call me old-fashioned, but imagine you’re four or five years old and naive AF – because the reality of the world hasn’t set in yet, you still live through your imagination, and your Mum has yet to dress the Christmas Tree when you’re out – and in the lead up to THE biggest and most exciting event of the year, Santa puts you in the doghouse.

 

Worse – this strange man is going to be in your room in a few weeks time!

 

I thought Christmas was one of those sacrosanct, untouchable festivities – like birthdays – that you couldn’t mess with, not even to teach your feral kids a life lesson. Because…PTSD.

 

Every parent has lost the plot in these awful weeks leading to Christmas. In desperation, we’ve all lobbed cruel, empty threats about Santa filling their stocking with coal or vegetables – but a REAL FUCKING PHONE CALL from the big man himself? Seriously? That’s got to be ten on a scale of one to ten of terrifying that makes the scary man you know is hiding under your bed laughable and ensures that you’ll never be alone in your bedroom again – and certainly not on Christmas Eve.

 

It also makes Santa, Bad Cop, and as there are so few symbols of peace, love, and generosity left to cling to these days, I think that’s kind of sad.

 

Personally, I prefer the gentler approach of an idea I saw on Facebook, where you wrap empty boxes, put them under the tree and each time your kid misbehaves, you throw one into the fire.

We Need To Stop Deluding Our Kids That They Can Do Anything

Just about the only aspect of parenting the old man and I agree on is not to delude our children that they can do anything they want in life, in spite of that particular model of parenting being popular since the time we first had them.musician-664432_1280

 

We’ve both made mistakes in our careers and got over them because we’re wise enough to know that flailing around in the regret box serves no-one, but as a result of our choices we’ve always encouraged our children to a) do something they enjoy, and b) do something they demonstrate some talent towards.

 

Admittedly, it’s not always easy to convey that idea to your kids without sounding negative, especially if you have a dreamer.

 

This warped idea of lying to our children about what they are capable of has been brilliantly summed up in an article I read this week by Erica Reischer, entitled “No, honey, you can’t be anything you want to be. And that’s okay.”

 

There has been some interesting criticism levelled recently at what were seen as new-age parenting techniques when we first became parents, such as the end to smacking and enforcement of boundaries, in an attempt to provide our children with freedom of thought to become free-spirited individuals, with their own minds to encourage them to find their own way.

 

Yet what we see now is what many refer to as an ‘entitled’, narcissistic generation that has interpreted its lack of boundaries to mean that they can do anything. And they are raising their own children in an even freer style. Few of the young parents I know impose the routines we were taught to discipline our children with, and generally have children sleeping in their beds long after they are babies.

 

That said, being a badass, authoritarian parent doesn’t necessarily work either. I know that from personal experience. Which is why I’ve come to the conclusion that you have to customise your style of parenting to the needs of your child if you can, rather like when you choose your child’s school; unless you have more than two children, of course, when I imagine you go with whatever gets you through the day.

 

But whatever style of parenting you choose, there’s no guarantee that your offspring will turn out happy, balanced or loving adults. There are too many other forces at work.

 

When Kurt first became impassioned by music around the age of seven and he told me he was going to become a rock star when he grew up, it was cute. When he was still relying on a rock star future at the age of sixteen and taking the decision to forgo mathematics classes at school – because who needed maths when they would have a manager (?) – I began to have my doubts, and was left with the daunting task of bursting my son’s bubble (just as I had with the Father Christmas bubble), with a reality check.

 

Interestingly, he refused to accept my reasoning of a back-up plan or my suspicions that he might not be the next Mick Jagger, even though I didn’t do a Kanye West and trod carefully, so as not to completely dispel his dreams. To this day he has never forgiven me for that talk and reminds me constantly of the day I shattered his dreams in each of his diatribes about what an awful parent I am.

 

But the truth is, should we really be bigging up our kids to think they are special or something they’re not? Should we be encouraging every kid to go to university when those who are pushed to go are likely to come out on the other side massively in debt and with an average-class degree, who still can’t compete with their more academically gifted peers? Aren’t we effectively condoning a waste of three to four years, (sometimes more these days with double degrees)? Which is precious time that could be spent on vocational training, apprenticeships or even travel – options of further education far better-suited to their skill set and personality.

 

By fooling these kids that they can do anything, we end up with a glut of graduates without jobs and a shortage of blue-collar workers.

 

And there is also the question of how the pressure we exert on these kids to compete at a level they are simply not cut out for, affects them. And that pressure starts at high school, where every child is groomed for university and those who can’t cope with that goal are made to feel failures or removed from the system in case they screw up the school results.

 

I’m not condemning ‘pushy parenting’ or parental support, because it has been proven that it is a huge factor in better education results and frankly some kids need a good kick up the arse to help them focus. If I hadn’t been gifted with a son with special needs I would never have seen both sides of this situation.

 

But kids are coming out of school with false expectations, fed to them by parents and schools, that the world is their oyster. This leads them to a really rude shock in the real world. Many of the kids that then enter the work place are oblivious to how hard you have to work for success, whether they’re a sportsman with natural athletic ability or an entrepreneur with the skill set for taking risk.

 

As Erica states, ‘Even if the message “you can do anything!” is broadened to include hard work, it falls short,’ because success involves more than a modicum of luck as well, no matter how talented you are.

 

How many parents do you know who sacrificed all their time and money because their child showed some talent at sport or in academia? And at the end of the school journey, what percentage of those parents had to accept that yes, their child was talented, but not elite enough to turn their talent into a living, once their kids reached their early twenties?

 

We need to encourage our children, but we also need to keep the pressure in perspective to prevent their egos from free-fall. Is it really the end of the world if a child misses a day of school or a training session?

 

We went through this with Kurt, who showed some talent musically as a young boy – still does when the mood takes him – but does he have the innate confidence or the work ethic to put himself in the right arena for success? I suspect not, and that’s okay.

 

Because talent is only one of the tools you need in the toolbox. I myself have reinvented myself a thousand times work-wise, and each time I kidded myself that my non-starter talents could be the next big thing.

 

Writing is my most recent but I haven’t given up the day job yet.

 

‘Why do so many of dislike the idea of having average children?’ asks Erica.

 

In my opinion, therein lies the crux of the problem. We’ve been forced to become so competitive as parents that when our kids become normal adults, we wonder what it was all about. Why was the idea of little Jimmy not shining at somethinganything, so terrifying? Because then he would end up just like us, and another generation of our family would pass through history without notability.

 

Average Joes.

 

But it won’t, because as everyone knows, the true measure of your success when you’re on your deathbed is not which university you went to, but how many of your loved ones are there with you to say goodbye.