I don't subscribe to the school of thought that my kids are my mates, I am their parent first. However, I'm very uncomfortable with the notion of harsh discipline that I was raised with. When I said those words all the work I have done on forming a secure attachment, being a loving and understanding mother and instinctive parenting seemed to fall away. I took a step back and decided to make amends. I gave Brown Bear a hug and wished him a lovely day at school.
My parents never made amends. They never apologised. It was their way or no way. If I didn't comply I was glared at, bullied, then manipulated into agreeing. As a child there was no choice. I ate foods I didn't like because to not eat was disrespectful or rude. I learned not to answer back because if I did the consequences were excessive. I was called a whore for wearing nail varnish, accused of trying to hurt my siblings if they were injured within my line of sight and not spoken to for years without ever being told what I had done. During this time my dad walked past me in the street and acted as though he didn't know me.
My loyalty to them was borne of a belief that they were entitled to my unconditional love because they are my parents. They demanded respect because as far as they were concerned they 'own' their children. If I asked to do something they didn't want me to do the first response was always, "who do you think you are ?" As a result I went to university where they wanted me to. Did a degree that they approved of. Lived a life filled with guilt at never being good enough.
My children don't deserve that. They deserve to enjoy their childhood, to take risks, to make mistakes. When anyone says to my older son, "you're old enough to know better," I get annoyed. I heard that all the time. As the oldest I was always looking after the younger ones and didn't resent it one bit. I love and care for my siblings to the point that I didn't see I was being used as a cashpoint machine by one of them for years. When I finally said no to her the reaction was shocking and upsetting. I don't think I've really got over that.
I'm not saying my boys should always get their way. If they did it would be wall to wall TV and haribos and that's no way to live is it ? Well, ok it does sound appealing, but it's not sustainable and they will lose all their teeth before adulthood. Instead I want them to know they are loved and that I'm being fair to them even when they don't like it.
So, this is all on my mind right now because I've been really angry lately and when I was swimming this afternoon I worked out why. It's the boss thing. At the beginning when my first boy was a baby everyone had an opinion about how I should parent and I was easily led. Then I found confidence in my own parenting, but still took on board the ideas that seemed to make sense to me. Then when we adopted Blue Bear it was all new again and it was like learning how to parent from the beginning again. Still, I think I've got a handle on this.
Over Christmas when we were away the boys were overexcited and out of sorts being away from home and every day was an endless round of Hubbie getting annoyed with them and me getting fed up with the drama. You see if someone is negative about my children I take personal responsibility for their behaviour. I see it as a reflection of my sub-standard parenting and instead of letting it go I am then too strict with my kids. Hubbie became the boss of how I parented and I lost all confidence in my own skills.
Then yesterday morning when my mother was here I found myself getting impatient with my boys because they weren't behaving to the standard that she expected from me when I was a kid. As soon as my parents are around I suddenly become this strict dickhead of a parent that my kids don't recognise and I like even less. My boys don't react well to 'shouty Mummy' and my mother actually said to me, "don't tell them off too much." I walked away and went to have a shower. I wanted to tell her off for so many things she didn't do well. I said nothing. She's not the boss of me. Any more.
I swam to get the anger out of my system. It sort of worked. I remembered that my boys aren't me and I'm not my parents. We are a family held together by love, not obligation. Loving my boys doesn't, however, mean being a pushover.
I'm not the boss of my boys. They're not the boss of me.