Today i got accused of expecting my children to “win my approval” and having much about my parenting that this person did not agree with and that my ideas of “good behaviour” should be rejected. The inference was that my parenting is manipulative and coercive and not approved of. Which is, i guess, that person’s process.
So i would like to make my parenting philosophy very clear, because in general i don’t think it is something we talk about very much on here at all.
I try to treat others as i would like to be treated; i think that is a good thing to expect of my children too and i try to encourage that.
I try to see the best in people and look beyond the obvious in situations that seem odd. I try to encourage my children to do the same and evaluate circumstances based on the fact that they may not be in full possession of the facts. That nothing is cut and dried.
I try to apologise if i am wrong, be questioning when i can and be interested in people who are very different to me. And assume that there is usually a good reason for someone to do anything, even if it turns out to have been a bad decision. And i try to encourage my children to live with that in mind.
I try to be kind, thoughtful, generous, friendly and loving whenever i can. And supportive of friends and forgiving if things go wrong. And i try to encourage my children to do the same.
I try to be honest and open and admit my failings and shortcomings. I try to improve on those failings when i can and be mindful that i make mistakes because of them. I try to encourage my children to know themselves too so that they can do similar.
I try to accept that i’ll get all of the above wrong at times, possibly a lot of times.
I have no expectations of my children in many respects. I refuse to have ambitions for them to ‘succeed’ academically or in any other ways. I don’t have ambitions for their future jobs or qualifications or anything else. Contrary to the accusation, i love them unconditionally and without requirement for them to win my approval. I love them for who they are.
I do have some expectations which i believe to be basic human decency.
I expect them to be kind.
I expect them to be thoughtful of each other and people around them.
I expect them to apologise if they hurt someone.
I expect them to be honest.
I expect them to live in a way that makes them feel good at their core.
I want them to be happy.
I want them to be fulfilled.
I want them to have joy in their life.
I want them to be secure.
I want them to be ready to try what life offers them.
I want love for them, if they want love.
I want delight in their life.
I hope they will give everything they try their best shot.
I hope they will stretch the edges of their comfort zones and live life with courage, not fear.
I hope they will finish what they start and not let people or themselves down.
I hope they will face life with openness and excitement.
I try, while they are in my care, to help them learn the skills i believe will furnish them with a happy life in the future. Wanting our children to aspire to confidence and happiness is not the same as making them win my approval.
I celebrate their differences.
When Fran was quiet and shy, i went places with her and spoke for her when the words needed saying. And now she has blossomed into a confident young pre-teen.
When Maddy needed to turn her face from the world, i held her on my knee and fended off the world. And eventually, she looked out and she loved the look of the world we had kept telling her was there.
When Amelie loved too hard and too recklessly to be safe, i tried, oh i tried so very hard, to understand this new type of child and eventually, through much confusion, we succeeded.
And i’ll continue to coax the intelligent, creative and loving child that is the Josie i know outwards, so that eventually she has the courage to show that face and not the unfriendly one, to the world.
My children do not need to win my approval. They are not so as insecure as to need it. But they have it anyway, purely because they are so joyfully themselves.
I am so different from the person i was when i had Fran. Back then, there were adults in the house and children. Back then i shouted too much and smacked and lost my temper too much and tried to impose some form of control.
But i learned, from the people who became my peer group and more than anything from my children. And from the experience of having such different children, who have each taught me something different. And i have my moments of truly rubbish parenting still, which i am mostly pretty honest about. And one of the biggest things i’ve learned about having children is there will still be something to learn tomorrow. And that the best thing i can do for them is to make mistakes and be honest and apologetic when i make them.
But they do not need my approval. I do not need them to do what makes me proud. They simply need to grow up to be the people they want to be. So long as that hurts no one, least of all themselves, so long as they feel in control of their life, delighted by their life and have the power to make their future as they wish it, then i will have done all that i can do to give their life to them. But their life is their own.
If i could give them one thing, it would be that i would wish them to understand that they exist in a world, in a community and that everyone is important within that. They are not the only thing. The world does not revolve around them. They are central to their own life but they will love it better if they understand that there is much joy from understanding your place within the world, the foibles and wonder of other people and that no one is perfect.
Not them. Not me. And certainly not everyone else. And that we are not striving for perfection anyway.