Jo Sea­gar:

mum’s the word

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

Par­ent­ing has to be one of the most chal­leng­ing jour­neys any of us em­bark on. It doesn’t help that we have such im­pos­si­ble ideals of moth­er­hood, such as some fairy­tale fig­ure in a flow­ery apron, al­ways calmly smil­ing and cop­ing with what­ever is thrown at her, as she whips up a batch of scones be­fore driv­ing the kids to sports prac­tice.

I re­mem­ber a con­ver­sa­tion with moth­ers at the school gate about all the ac­tiv­i­ties their kids were up to. I’ve never for­got­ten the re­proach­ful look I got from one when she heard I hadn’t yet en­rolled my kids in Suzuki vi­o­lin.

How­ever, I did quickly learn that there’s no rule book, no one set­ting tests – and cer­tainly no one mark­ing you out of 10 for be­ing a good mother. You just do the best job you can.

It has been en­light­en­ing dis­cussing it with my adult chil­dren. They cer­tainly didn’t men­tion in their 21st birth­day party speeches their trauma at not be­ing breast­fed un­til they were three years old – or that they once (on a par­tic­u­larly fran­tic day) had McDon­ald’s for break­fast, lunch and din­ner. My son Guy re­cently told me he was se­cretly pleased he was the only boy he knew who didn’t own a PlaySta­tion. The angst we had over deny­ing him that – but now he ad­mits he pre­ferred the free­dom to sleep out un­der the stars and build mud-slides and scary fly­ing foxes.

Both my kids now ap­pre­ci­ate that “all that nag­ging” (their words of course, not mine) meant we re­ally cared. And they loved that we trusted them and had con­fi­dence in their abil­ity to make choices – and learn the con­se­quences.

I think chil­dren both need and en­joy the pre­dictabil­ity of rit­u­als in their lives. Mine have said they loved our fam­ily tra­di­tions and in­volve­ment in the Chris­tian fel­low­ship. Through this they had solid guide­lines and knew right from wrong, plus the value of things (not just the price), from an early age. They know how to pray and there­fore to never feel com­pletely alone.

Kids don’t re­mem­ber the tiny de­tails of the decor (or lack of it), they don’t re­call if the fridge was full of name­brands or generic cheap­ies. But what they do know for sure is whether their par­ents loved them, were com­mit­ted to them, and cre­ated a home that was a safe haven.

We fought off the mon­sters from un­der their beds and helped them be­come re­silient. We taught them im­por­tant so­cial skills, such as hand-shak­ing and small-talk. These need to be learnt; they don’t come in your DNA.

My son re­cently said to me, “Mum, you weren’t al­ways my friend, but you were al­ways my mother. You lis­tened, en­cour­aged – and I learnt from you that sup­port­ing an­other per­son’s suc­cess would never dampen my own. And do you re­mem­ber you al­ways gave me the big­gest bit as well as the last bite?” I wasn’t per­fect. I have vivid mem­o­ries of shout­ing at my bick­er­ing chil­dren, “Go to your rooms,” and the cheeky kids de­fi­antly say­ing, “No.” So I would do the only sen­si­ble thing and say, “Right I’m go­ing to mine then,” – which I did, usu­ally with a glass of wine!

I don’t spend too much time re­play­ing my mis­takes. It’s all a process, you don’t have to jus­tify or ex­plain your par­ent­ing tech­nique to any­one – just trust your in­stincts and do what is right for your fam­ily. And look­ing back, there were some per­fect mo­ments and mem­o­ries, which when shared with my adult chil­dren are all the more re­ward­ing.

And now for that per­fect-mother, af­ter-school scone recipe…

Just trust your in­stincts and do what is right for your fam­ily.

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