Monday, 15 November 2010

The parenting lark

I have been perusing a few other blogs recently (ones not written by friends and family) but I'm not sure I shall stick with it. They are mostly kept by people who are better writers, more creative mothers, and just generally more interesting people than me*, I usually come away feeling a bit rubbish. However there is one I have discovered, kept by Rachael (or Mama Mogantosh) who is all these things, but which I can't give up. It's just so damned funny. And wise. You can have a peek here. She has started checking in to my blog every now and again, which makes me a little self-conscious, but also rather flattered and has inspired me to do some "proper writing posts". Thus...

I was struck last week by her post on parenting. And it got me thinking. Yes, funny, wise and she makes me think. Damn her. She takes a reassuringly pragmatic view and it made me consider how we go about dragging up our mini-beasts. I've always thought our approach was rather freeform (chaotic). I have read a couple of books about child development (and when I say a couple, I mean two) but neither of us has read any parenting books or is familiar with any parenting techniques or theories. Is this arrogance? Laziness? Stupidity? To be completely honest, it wasn't even a conscious decision. Do any of you refer to parenting theories? Jen???

But when I thought about it (which I do whilst breastfeeding before bedtime) I realised we do have rules and general principles, mostly intended to make our mini-beasts happy, safe, independent, kind and considerate of others, and mostly adopted during the natural process of becoming parents. They are pretty much the same rules and principles we apply to ourselves. For example, we would not allow ourselves to run up and down the lounge screeching like banshees crashing randomly into bits of furniture. This way, I admit, happiness may lie, but it falls rather short on several of the other goals. All rules are made to be bent though, and if you're flexible enough as a parent then you can bend them every now and again without breaking them. Or yourself. Or your child. And maybe even a little bit of actual rule-breaking can be salutary on occasion... and fun.

When it comes to discipline, to answer Rachael's question, no we don't believe that leaving your child to cry for a little while is going to cause lasting pyschological damage. In one of my child development books it suggested that sometimes you have to help your child to learn ways of behaving that will make them happy in the long run, even if this means leaving them to cry in the short term. I am very much about the long run. And anyway, to return to the "what's good for the parents is good for the child" approach, crying helps me quite a lot when I can't get my own way. Not to get my own way, just to express my anger and frustration that I can't. Then I get over it.

We have a range of methods for getting our mini-beasts to do what we would like them to do or punishing them when they don't. The word punish is loaded with negative connotations but to my mind when we do something wrong, as an adult or a child, we should be punished. Some of our methods are constructive and involve time and patience and communication. Some are just about damage limitation, designed to get peace by any means possible as quickly as possible. Some of our methods work some of the time. None of them work all of the time. And sometimes everyone just shouts a lot and nothing works. Actually my current favourite is "Someone pressed maman's Off switch", which involves me just freezing and closing my eyes. It keeps me calm and intrigues the Monster into calm as well. It'll probably work for about a week.

There has been much discussion in France of le culte de l'enfant roi and I do think we have swung too far in the opposite direction from the days of "children should be seen and not heard", lock them in the nursery, send them down the mines/up a chimney. Although I'll be delighted when they can start helping out with the housework. But increasingly, as Rachael pointed out, it feels like the child is supposed to come first, second and last and the parent nowhere. To make a happy child you need a happy parent(s). That's what I say. The experience of being a parent is amazing and does make me happy. But it can also make me bloody miserable! So I do whatever I can to make it less miserable for me. Which in turn will hopefully make it less miserable for my mini-beasts. Parenting is hard. So is being a kid.

Rachael also talked about being a stay-at-home mum. I have many and conflicting feelings about my decision to be a happy little homemaker. But I think I'll go into those another day.

Before I go I'll just share the best piece of advice I was given on parenting, by my belle soeur Steph, who told me:

"Fais ce qui est vivable." (literally: do what is livable.)

*This is not a plea for compliments. I do know that I'm not the worst writer/mother/human being ever to put pen to paper. How quaint! I mean, to put fingers to keyboard.


  1. Made me think. And I made a few notes while reading today's post. Here they are:
    -r.e. rules: i haven't really thought about are we going to do this? i like your
    take on them. I also think that rules and principles reflect the individual parents. It's rare that someone changes a lot when being a parent. For instance, if you are a tense & stressed person, you will be a tense & stressed parent and your approach will be tense. On the other hand, if you are a mellow & laissez-faire individual = mellow parent = mellow approach. From experience, I don't think I've changed. I'm still Jen. And I deal with conflicts & situation the same way I did before being a parent. I believe this is also true about a woman's approach to pregnancy and labour.
    -r.e. letting baby cry: I'm not good with that one. I rush to Margot's room too quickly to comfort her. On the positive side, she always stops crying when we pick her up. On the flip side, she probably expects us to be rushing over to her everytime she cries. It has its advantages: baby cries less, parents are less frantic. I also realize that I only have one baby at home who is getting 100% of my concern & affection. Perhaps I should allow Margot to cry a bit more before tending to her needs... food for thought.
    -Bex, I will borrow your "Maman's off switch" technique: freezing and closing eyes. It's totally something I would do!
    -L'enfant roi is at its glory in Canada. I see it all around me. It's probably worse here than in Europe. To be avoid at all costs. I also think that part of the cult is controlled by the baby business industry.
    -"fais ce qui est vivable". I remember you sharing this best piece of advice late while I was pregnant. And it is still the best advice I have received. It's so simple. Somedays, that's what keeps me going.

  2. Thank you for engaging with my post lovely. I think you're right about parenting style really just being "you style", whoever you are. It seems to me that kids learn so much by copying anyway, so they're learning from you all the time even when you're not aware of it. Including all the bad stuff!! Often I get annoyed with something Matilda is doing and then realise she's just behaving like me. The shame.

  3. One again, I cannot really comment of the mothering thing. But I can say 2 things. Your posts invariably make me chuckle at least once or twice usually in relation to what the monster or wigglesworth have done. And secondly, from I have seen of you and Fanf, you are good parents. And in my limited and uneducated position you only require two things, love and the desire to do the best for your children. And both of you meet that criteria. Actually 3 things, a little bit of luck. You definitely need a little of that.


  4. Oh, I'm all atwitter!... Shucks Bex. I'm glad you like my rambling incoherent, electronic stream of consciousness. I sometimes think of my blog as an open love letter to my kids and a weird sort of therapy. It makes me happy to think that another person is relating to and engaging with my descriptions of life as a mother. I definitely feel a kinship with your little pair, about a year behind my two in age, and I really do like they way you write and think. Hooray for the interweb love-in!


Many thank yous if you're taking the time to leave a comment. You are most lovely in my sight.