Friday, March 20, 2009
What makes a parent?
The Billion Dollar question! As my last post for the week (I made it!) I nearly had writers block again but on reading my post of yesterday as well as reading and commenting on all the comments, I realised that I wanted to say a little more about my parenting ethic.
My mom and dad are and always were very dedicated parents, never slipping up in their raising of their 4 children. I am the eldest with 2 younger sisters and a brother but we were all born within 5 years. My mom was a busy person. She stayed at home, kept house, ferried us around and did everything she could to give us a stable well-grounded Christian upbringing. My dad was self-employed for as long as I have known him and worked a long week to provide for his offspring. He was always at home at night though, reading his paper and helping out with our homework. Evenings were also the time when any disciplining needed to be done. I can remember several occasions being summoned to approach my father to answer for something I had done wrong. "Hold out your hand". Hand extended gingerly and smack! Down would come his hand on the hand of the offender and we would be sent crying to our rooms. My father believed in hidings but between him and my mom they devised what they believed was a fair system and so we grew up.
When we became teenagers however, the cracks started to appear. Not so much with me because I didn't fight the system. But my sisters were rebels and I remember my mom on several occasions when my next sister down from me was out visiting friends, rooting through my sisters room in search of cigarettes, letters, etc., proof of misdemeanour. This was repeated for my younger sister as she became a teen. And I was thankful that I didn't have to undergo this remorseless 'intervention' from my mom.
With this in mind, I approached teenagehood in my daughter with a little trepidation, not being too sure how much to give or how hard to be. When my daughter was 13 she tried smoking. I sniffed her out. She had been smoking in the toilet while I was out. The only other smoker in the house wasn't around. She denied it. I allowed her to go out with her friends, giving her a curfew of 10pm. She arrived at 12pm driven by her friends teenage brother in a carload of teens. I started to become stressed. "You've only just become a teen. Don't try all the teenage drama at the same time. Just break me in slowly". Somehow, somewhere, we developed a system. I let her sleep out but I spoke to the mothers. I let her go to clubs but I told her to always let me know where she was. I let her come home in friends cars but I told her to always always wear a seat belt. I gave her slack and reeled her in where necessary. Don't tell me how I knew what to do because I hadn't done it. I grew up a bookworm, staying at home, marrying the first boy I dated. The one thing I did with my kids that I don't believe my mom and dad did was to respect my children as the individuals that they were and very much still are today. They are not just extensions of myself. I always told them and am still telling them today. From the time you turn 13 you are in training to be an adult and the decisions you make today are going to affect you for the rest of your life. Decide to smoke and it will affect your health and your income. Decide to miss school or not to learn and it will affect your career choices and your lifestyle. Empower your kids with information and let them decide what to do. Who ever changed their child's direction in life by nagging them? Lead by example. Don't expect your kids to do what you don't do. Don't be a hypocrite around your kids. They will catch you out. Be the person you want your child to be.
PS I love my parents dearly and I cannot bear the thought of them not being around one day. They still help me out and I help them where I can. They did the best parenting they could based on how they were brought up and what they wanted and still want for their kids. But what I have also told my kids is: Be a better parent than I am. If you are blessed with kids, take whatever you consider to be the good stuff you got from me and add something new and better. Don't repeat the mistakes that your parents made with you when you get to parent your own kids.
Have a wonderful weekend with your loved ones! See you next week. Momcat