Wednesday, 27 November 2013

You Can't Always Get What You Want

I have been told that I am a less than desirable parent by my children on more than one occasion recently.  You won't be surprised to learn it coincides with times when they have been told 'no'. 

I said "No" to a sub-standard coat that my daughter fell in love with but I knew would fall to bits within a week, "no" to my son watching 'Dragon Ball Z Kai' (a programme that seems designed to turn ordinarily placid children into demons), and "no" to both of them eating chocolate at breakfast time.  Sometimes this is accompanied by tears and tantrums, other times by the classic "It's so UNFAIR!" quote.  On the occasions where we have tried to explain to the children how fortunate they, this has lead to further arguments, frustrated negotiations and either me or my husband uttering the line that I so hated to hear as a child: "Because I said so."  Oh what a killer line, and what a switch for causing your child to get even more upset because they realise they are not in control.

Thanks Iris :)
What to do...  We are very fortunate as a family not to be in the position that my parents found themselves in where illness and redundancy made the household budget so small that when we ran out of things (usually sugar, I don't know why it was always that, but it would appear sugar is pretty much all I ate as a child), we would have to borrow some from our neighbours until more money could be found.  It was a shameful experience being sent round to ask lovely old Iris (again) for a cup of Silver Spoon (again) but it did teach me that good neighbours are a truly precious thing and to always, always help other people out.  If we run out of anything in our house today, the children know it's caused by their voracious appetites and my slapdash approach to shopping, rather than a lack of funds, and so it goes 'on the list' for the next big shop. 

The contrast between my childhood experience and theirs is marked and so I'm left wondering what it means to understand 'no' because you simply don't have enough money, versus 'no' because your parents are aiming to raise you to appreciate that just because there's a cupboard full of food, you don't need to invade it every ten minutes like a couple of mangy foxes.  If there is no struggle, does it dampen their ability to strive?  Are we at risk of creating adults that behave like chicks waiting to be fed?  It leaves me feeling frequently torn: on the one hand I want to give the children everything possible but on the other, I desperately want to avoid them turning into Veruca Salt.  And as much as Mr K and I fill their lives with love and opportunities and experiences that broaden their horizons, build confidence and help them to learn, it doesn't stop them wanting everything in the shops / on tv / that their friends have.  And then they see the Argos catalogue at which point our childhoods converge and they too grab a biro and circle absolutely everything they see.

Photo Credit Robert Izumi on Flickr:
This becomes even more acute as we walk the tightrope of expectation and anticipation that is the run up to Christmas, but I'm not sweating it as (thankfully), we are still a household that very much believes in Father Christmas.  So the children will quite happily behave (mostly) and agree to a deal based on being good and delayed gratification.  And they will be thankful for what Santa decides to bring them, and bow down to his knowledge of what makes for a 'good' present rather than have a nervous breakdown for the want of a £2.99 magazine with a shabby piece of tat on the front cover. 

It's intriguing how the idea of a person is more powerful than a real one but hey, if it works then we'll keep the magic going for them until they're 20!  So for December at least, I'm happy in the knowledge that the 'man in the red suit' will take the strain of giving the children what they want (and taking the heat if they're disappointed), leaving us free to get on with giving them what they need.

Soundtrack: You Can't Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Part of Your World

"Hey kids, come and look at this, Mummy's in a magazine!"

That's my husband and he's not wrong.  I am in the wonderfully glossy November issue of Berkshire Life in massive technicolour.  My toothiest grin leaping out of a three page spread charting my journey from corporate life to writer and the publication of Reasons to be Cheerful, Part One.  I would be lying if I said it wasn't exciting.  For me. 

As for the children, they trotted into the kitchen, took one look at the picture of my great big head and made a noise that I think is the primary school version of 'meh'.  They then went back to watching Bottom Knocker Street.

Contrast this to when I went in to school to read some stories to my son's class.  My daughter spotted me from down the corridor and made a sprint that Usain Bolt would have been proud of, followed by an impressively forceful leap and a collision of our bodies that resulted with her hanging on to me like a Koala bear.  "Mummy!!!!  It's my mummy!" she shouted in triumph at the other pupils loitering in the cloakrooms.  She was beaming and proud, I was slightly dazed and wondering whether a rugby career might be in the offing for her.

Having my first feature in print is thrilling, but my daughter's reaction to me being in her school made me feel like a superstar.  Becoming a writer has given me more time to be with the children, but if I'm really honest my brain is elsewhere, and they know it.  So I'm resolving to make more of an effort to be part of their world - I'm booked in to read to my daughter's class tomorrow :)

Soundtrack: Part of Your World - Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (okay, okay, yes it's from The Little Mermaid!)