Monday, 7 November 2011

Parenting - We Need To Let Our Children Grow Up

It was recently suggested that I was being harsh in one of my problem page responses. I was commenting on the need to separate out from the mother (parent). I felt I was was being reasonable and pragmatic. My complainant a lovely young woman I tweet with, and have a lot of respect for, clearly felt I was being insensitive?  I thought for a little while and again came to the conclusion that we see the world through our own filter.

 I have an excellent relationship with my children. We go on holiday once a year together. We meet up socially every six weeks or so with our son and we perhaps speak to him once a week but, this isn't set in tablets of stone. We usually see our daughter on a weekly basis but not always. I know both my children would approach me if their backs were against the wall but we each live our own lives. I like it like that and so do they. 

I have friends who see their children more, who do nanny duties for their grandchildren. I didn't and don't want to do that. I did try with my first grandchild. I gave up my job so my daughter could continue hers but after 6 weeks we were both going nuts. Alison was missing Sara. Sara was bonding with me instead of Alison and frankly I was exhausted. We chatted and we agreed Alison would stay at home and I'd go out to work! it worked well for all of us.

I had my children young as I've told you before. I did that because I had some notion of creating my own family with the man I loved. In retrospect I think I watched too many Doris Day movies? My husband who is 8 years older than me was ready to settle down and have kids. It worked but it was hard work. I was really into my kids as a young woman and I think we grew up together. I made some mistakes and sometimes when I look back I think OMG but both offspring seem relatively unscathed. 

My own relationship with my mother was in retrospect complicated. As a child I adored her and no disrespect to her but that is how she liked it. We all grew up with the idea there was only one person who was perfect and that was mum. However, my eldest brother (her favourite) came very close. I genuinely have no angst about that. In fact he was one of my best friends when I became an adult. If we did anything mum didn't approve of or if we challenged her view she would let us know in a resigned way how we'd upset her and what a disappointment we were? My father was cast in the role of baddie. He was always the unreasonable one. I don't think I really started to see things differently until after my dad died when I was 21 and he was no longer around to act as a foil for mum.

Where am I going with this? families, parents how involved is it ok to be? Most of my clients fall into two groups. The ones who have had inadequate parenting and those that have had too much parenting. We need to make mistakes and grow whilst feeling safe and supported. I can't remember who said it but this is what I believe is the 'norm'.

That we start out looking up to our parents - they have the answers.
Then we judge our parents and find them lacking.
Then if we're lucky we end up being equals and friends.

Having said all that I am happy for you to see it differently?


  1. I am not sure there is a one size fits all solution. I certainly am very different to my own parents. I think so long as there is love and respect and both parties are comfortable with the relationship  then its for no one else to say its wrong, until that is it intefers with a partnership, and then I think parents have to back off and let their children find their own solutions, unless invited to do otherwise. Just saying ....

  2. I think families work in different ways as do relationships as you say it's about what works for you. My opinions are in part informed by personal experience and part from my work. Thank you for sharing your point of view :)

  3. Hi Babs,

    You've summed it up succinctly for me. We all have different reference points that shape us and affect how we see life/people/relationships.

    One thing that fascinates me is when people don't experience positive parenting they need when growing up. Not having decent role models can certainly make for some challenging experiences - good and bad. Realising that family life isn't like The Waltons can ether be an eternal cause of deep-seated disappointment, or it can be the spur that one needs to make the most of life come what may.

    I've found it helps to try and accept that parents are human; while we might need to look up to them and want them to protect us, (sometimes even desperately wishing they could be there and aren't) the truth is, everyone reaches an age where they need to stand on their own two feet. That sink or swim moment.

    If you're lucky, you'll grow up knowing that you've had the benefit of good parents who support and love you. That support won't stop you from making mistakes, or making a mess of yor life - but it is a cushion if you need it.

    In my case, I've had to dig deep to find inner strength to deal with my parents. I've learnt that you have to be independent of them sometimes, in order to make your own way in the world, and show them that you are not the child anymore by distancing yourself.

    For what it's worth, I felt you were being honest in how you dealt with the aforementioned problem. Anyone who knows you for long enough realises that you voice words that should be heard instead of shying away from truth. I'm not one for pretending, and would rather these issues were out in the open and debated than hidden away.

    Ultimately, you have to do what's right for you and what you are comfortable with, instead of pretending that everyone's lives are the same. They're not...

    Interesting debate Babs. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi Nikki

    Thank you for your comments. I spent years resenting the fact that I'd not had the parenting I needed and then I realised any lack I'd experienced I needed to make up for myself. As you say for most of us life isn't like the Waltons but it is possible to feel it's good enough :)

  5. I too had a complicated relationship with my mother, who wanted a baby because everybody else had one but thought the child could bring herself up. Education had to be achieved at top marks for boasting purposes and then I let her down by getting married too early and abandoning university. She didn't speak to me for two years, but we sorted our differences a few years later and became her prop after dad died.

  6. Being a parent is never easy - we can only do our best to get it right.
    I brought up my two girls on my own for almost 10 years - times were hard but we were happy. My only regret was not getting them out of a terrible life with my ex - their "father". I sometimes eat myself up with guilt that I didnt do it sooner - but on hindsight I did what I thought was best for them at the time. They had a nice house, good food and lots of outside activities as money was never a problem - but that did not bring happiness. When we were finally free of him money was tight, I had to work 7 days a week - but for the first time we were happy and a family at last. I might have been a single parent but they were far happier than being in a 2 parent family.
    I often wonder what family life would have been if my hubbynow was around when they were a lot younger - he is a brillant dad to them now and great with our granddaughter.