Do you ever get the feeling that we interfere, force things and try and control a bit too much. I do. I have been desperate to find a name or identify for a new product for 3 months now. My house is littered with mind maps, sticky notes and I am getting quite grumpy about it all. It seems so important to get it right. Everything seems to hinge on it; the business, the branding, the whole success of it all. Gosh what a lot of pressure! But somewhere, deep down, I know that it I let go, relax and not be so serious about it all, it will become clear.
I often have the same feeling about my kids growing up. Getting it right seems so important..well they won’t have a good life unless I get it right! Well wrong. We are living in an age of such high expectations, huge pressure to get it all right…the beautiful home, the great figure, the well turned out children, the interesting job.
With my children, I have been practising not get too involved in how they grow up! That seems strange does it….surely that’s what parenting about. You provide and control their growing up experience. What disasters might unfold if we don’t….ahhh. A great example is my eldest daughter who just doesn’t seem to want to do any outside school activities. She does a couple of weeks of an activity or club then decides she doesn’t want to do it any more and quits. I feel a real failure. Her peers are all playing an instrument, passing ballet exams, riding horses etc not to mention the extra tuition for maths! Surely this is my fault…surely she won’t have a well rounded, varied life diet if she doesn’t do “clubs”. But how I can complain? I never stuck to a club or hobby, except craft, which I did at home. I did Brownies for about 1 term, gymnastics for 3 weeks and athletics once! I turned down the chance to learn to play an instrument and left ballroom dancing lessons because I wasn’t allowed the big, pretty dresses.
One of my favourite books is “How to be Free” by Tom Hodgkinson (he also wrote “The Idle Parent: why laid back parents raise happier and healthier kids” but I haven’t read it!)
He advocates a much less hands off approach…not one that is irresponsible, but one in which we get out of our children’s way a little and stop trying so hard.
This resonated with me as I know my parents gave me a lovely upbringing, on very little money, with lots of camping trips, lots of love and they did the very best they could…but I still grew up with the usual gripes about my life…”if my parents had made me go to art college or university, my life would have been better” “if they had stopped me going out with my husband from 16, my life would have been so much better” “why didn’t my parents make me stick at things?” Oh my poor parents…the things that I blamed them for – it is so easy to blame someone else for our own decisions. Self responsibility is hard lesson to learn…and I seem to keep having to learn it over and over again.
As I have finally come to see myself for what I am, and deeply acknowledged that my folks let me emerge and find my own way in life, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I am happy with me. I have a good career, a good range of hobbies and interests (I am kind of well rounded although I prefer to think of myself as diverse and random).
So what does that mean for me as a parent? What have I learned about life and my role in letting my girls, 7 and 11, grow up to be themselves…not my version of themselves? They are growing up in a very competitive, perfectionist, competency driven world. One which tries to shape and mould you at every corner. There is little room for creative play, making mistakes, following an easy path in life.
I have found that if I try too hard, answer letters and emails and queries too quickly, I get very stressed…obvious really, but many times I have found that if I leave things alone, they tend to work themselves out, without me expending excessive time and effort (which I would rather save for making cakes, painting or watching comedy)
Let go a little. Trust that the dots will join up.
Look back at your life. Can you see that things had a habit of just working out. Solutions and ideas emerge from unexpected places. Sometimes focussing on the problems and trying too hard just makes the problem feel worse. The world doesn’t stop. The days come and go and the seasons pass.
I don’t think that a hand sewn butterfly costume for the school play is essential.
I think that this time, I will buy cakes for the school cake sale not always make them – no one will die if I don’t.
This time, I won’t agree with the playground mums moaning about the academic standards of the reception class…it won’t affect their A levels and university entrance as they are only 4 years old.
I know my eldest is not great at maths now, but she is good at other things and stressing her out about it isn’t a helpful thing to grow up with.
I know that they will both grow up being human beings, with successes and challenges like we all have and probably we overestimate how much we can control that. Good, laid back parenting – yes. Over stressing and controlling – no.