My three year old daughter is being a pickle at the moment. A few screaming thrashing tantrums coupled with a large dose of attitude and poor sleeping. This afternoon she burst into tears about the prospect of going into her activity class by herself, despite having done so for eight weeks.
I ended up having to sit with her until she got going, and then apart from the odd wave and thumbs up, she didn’t notice I was there.
As I sat on the floor, mt brain started to race. But they weren’t thoughts of how this was stereotypical threenager behaviour, or just a phase she was going through.
No, I immediately went into If Only mode – her behaviour was entirely due to my poor parenting skills.
If Only I had set boundaries earlier on in her short life, then she would know not to misbehave.
If Only I hadn’t been so cuddly and hands on with her as a baby, then she wouldn’t be so clingy.
If Only I had weaned her on organic homous and olive oil, then I wouldn’t have to bribe her with Kinder Eggs.
OK, maybe less so with the last one, but it seems that that my automatic response in every tricky situation is to question every decision I have made up to this point. It’s not just with my daughter either. When we go out to the shops and my son expects a toy or some chocolate, it’s not normal six year old boy behaviour, it’s because I have spoiled him up to this point.
It’s hard to pinpoint why I react in this way. Partly it’s a confidence thing, I don’t feel like a natural mother and am always looking for reassurance that I’m doing the right thing for my children. But what is the right thing? The internet and media are full of parenting and motherhood ideals, and it can be hard to navigate through the pros and cons. My email inbox is full of the must read latest advice, but frankly I can’t live up to any of it.
I console myself with the fact that both of my children are healthy and progressing well, so I can’t be doing everything wrong. Yes, my daughter isn’t learning French at nursery but that’s OK (unless she marries a Frenchman). Yes, my kids eat chicken nuggets and chips for tea sometimes, but they also stuff their faces with fruit at every opportunity.
Maybe the one If Only I should keep in my mind should be