Misery needs company

Reading the 10 secrets of happy people, or some such, I came across:

  • “Misery loves company, stay away from negative people if you want to be happy.”

I couldn’t disagree more. Sad and ‘negative’ people need love and support, not to be shunned like lepers (once were). If your positivity is genuine and strong, you will be able to be around sad people and stay supportive, giving them hope and comfort.

Positive thinking and the laws of attraction get the full thumbs up in my mind, absolutely. But I think it’s a bit of a sickness to equate that philosophy with only socialising with people that seem happy, upbeat and sorted. Really.

Next time your harassed mum-with-3-kids friend (…ahem…) needs to let off steam, will you listen and let her sound off, no advice, just staying still and emitting good vibes of peace and love towards her? Or think, I don’t want to be tainted with negativity, and cut it short.

If you know of someone ‘negative’ in need, reach out and support, don’t recoil.

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Misery needs company

Judging me, judging you

I’ve realised that having a View (note: capital V) on parenting practices is often just jazzed up judgmentalism. Saying certain parenting practices are “right/wrong” is judging, like it or not.

Even though I’ve always thought of myself as what I call a right-on parent (cue two finger peace sign), I’ve had many, many Views. They are mostly “progressive” “peaceful” views (against cry it out, pro breast-feeding and what have you), but nevertheless they are Views.

I’m here to unravel and undo that. We need to come together fellow parent folks, and I want to support not divide.

Back to the beginning…

I remember seeing a family in the airport while I was pregnant for the first time, not yet a mum but feeling very righteous in the place of mum to be. They were towering over their child, shouting at her, telling her things like “oh it’s always about you isn’t it, why don’t you behave, you spoil everything” etc etc. They seemed like evil monsters, I would never, ever speak to my child that way. Their children would turn out BAD and it would be THEIR fault.

Years pass, more kids come along.

At some point patience wears, you find yourself losing it. More than once. In times of extremis losing it becomes daily. Then somehow you find a gap, maybe an understanding comment gives you a ‘lightbulb’ moment, something you read (a blog post, perhaps!). You get a moment to think, and with that tiny space you change something, remove a stressor or two, life balances, you lose it less, or deal with it better, or best of all use those moments as modelling good behaviour moments.

You don’t get it right all the time, just most of the time. You learn humility, that good enough is good enough. You learn that all parents are doing a bloody hard job, doing it well most of the time, and need understanding, not judgment and blame.

You learn that there are many ways of doing this thing called parenting, that the outcomes depend on so many factors, that there is no perfect, and that is ok.

If I could rewind and say a few words to those parents I would like to say “this too shall pass, you are doing a good job, we have all been there.” I don’t judge them anymore, and actually writing this has lifted another layer of judgment: judging myself for judging them…we all deserve another day, another chance to get it (almost) right.

Judging me, judging you

Bribe and punishment

Bribing your children is wrong, right? It smacks of pushy parents who pay cash for an A, B or C. Or over-anxious parents of younger kids offering sweet rewards for every bit of green stuff. I mean, how are kids gonna value learning if they have to learn “only” to get paid, how a kids going to learn about healthy eating if they feel green stuff is something to get over with so the real fun can start?

Maybe. Let’s get a little deeper. Bribes are wrong, bribes are bad news, lazy measures for lazy parents who can’t control or reason with their kids. The last resort, a bad habit, second-rate parenting.

Maybe.

Picture this. A tired mum picks up two tired kids after school. Gets on train, then the metro, then faces the walk home. All the way there are dangers (tracks, strangers, pickpockets, closing doors). All the way there is crying, bickering, tiredness from their respective long days and lack of parental attention. The journey takes an hour of vigilance. Nerves a frayed on arrival at home, but dinner, baths and homework still need to be completed.

Is there really something wrong with said mum offering a sweet in return for staying close to her on the way home? Is it a bad thing if it allows her some control over them to ensure they still have all their fingers after tackling the half-dozen escalators they have to ride, to make sure they don’t run off into the crowd of commuters, or to help them all get home with the maximum good energy left to face the tasks of the evening ahead?

Picture this. Teens like money, teens like going out, buying new things. Exams are about memorizing stuff, stuff you often don’t use later. Parents know good grades unlock certain “levels” (I.e. the next one). Teens study more knowing they will get to buy stuff, and they get to next level. Win win.

Picture this. Kids eat spinach to get ice cream, kid learns that you eat savory healthy food before dessert, and eventually will do so out of habit, as most adults do.

Maybe.

I’m being devils advocate here. I am the first mum, yes. But I don’t have a teen, and when I do I don’t think I will bribe them (I will just “bribe” them for doing housework), and I have never and probably will never do the spinach-ice cream scenario because I just find something else they will eat before eating yoghurt for pudding which is the standard dessert around here. And I would accept yoghurt as a meal substitute in any case.

I just want to show that bribing can be useful, it can be necessary even, it can be ok. It can be one of the ways you get things done, make an unbearable situation bearable, sweeten the bitter pill. So, as with most things, lets not throw the baby out with the bath water and remember there are many right ways.

Bribe and punishment

Inclusive parenting

There are so many ways to be a good parent, so many ways to get it “right” (or right enough), and while many of these ways may be different, even contradictory, they are all equally valid.

I want to focus on this point of view rather than the usual ‘this way is the right way’ rhetoric. I feel that we have got to a point where there is a standoff between what may be called ‘routine’ or ‘traditional’ parenting, and ‘alternative’ or ‘attachment’ parenting. When did we start to put ourselves on one side of the parenting fence or another? Is there really a need for there to be a ‘fence’ at all?

I think parents as a community could think much more about the ‘many ways to be right theory’. After all, we want to live in a society were we can all be different but equal, and equally accepted. Why shouldn’t it be thus whilst raising our kids?

Therefore I propose that whether you birthed at home or at hospital, bottle, or breastfed, cried it out or bed-shared, made the baby food or bought it, carried your baby in a sling or a buggy, wherever the hell you schooled your kids, whatever childcare arrangements you made, whatever you do and did was simply one of the many right ways to do it. Enough with the polarised views, up with supporting the myriad of choices.

Far from being stressful, it can be an exciting and enriching exercise to look at all these different perspectives and ways of doing things. We don’t need to have to the upper hand, to compare against our own experiences, in actual fact there is no competition, just observed difference. We can all be happy knowing that we ‘did it right’ even when we did it differently to someone else, because there are so many right ways to do it right.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be concerned about your children and how you raise them. I’m saying that most parents are concerned, very much so, just concerned in different ways about different things…and that is ok. Kids can turn out pretty much ok in pretty much most circumstances. So let’s take a journey looking at life through the lens of inclusiveness, observing even celebrating different approaches, and creating a compassionate view of our own and others’ parenting journey.

Inclusive parenting