Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Your child is your child.

     A couple of days ago, I was on twitter and the 'Who to follow' suggestions gave me a name I hadn't seen in an awfully long time. Goodness me! It's a a boyfriend I had for about six months as a teenager. How strange! We haven't seen each other for at least fifteen years. I wonder what he's up to now? I had a quick look at his bio. Ahh, sweet. He's got two kids, both quite young. And a blog. Let's have a look at that, shall we? (Oh shut up, like you've never stalked looked up people online from your old life).

     Hmm. Um. His 'blog' (sorry, not meaning to sound bitchy, but...) was about six posts long, written over a year ago in the space of about three weeks. And they were all – and I do mean all – about his then toddler son in some way. From the high chairs they used, to the experience of weaning (not very informative, fairly dull), the best kind of toddler cup, the chugger who came to their door and woke the baby.... It was very much baby bore territory. I didn't think badly of him for this. If you've got kids, every thing they do is fascinating, you feel the need to tell the world, you can't conceive that anyone could be anything other than entranced by your perfect little person, you want to shout from the rooftops about how amazing they are (aside from the times they get you up during the night, puke on you, take off their nappy and poo all over the carpet, pull all the books out of the bookshelves... although love carries you through that). But one sentence, in his introductory blogpost, made me pull a bit of a lemonface.

     It is all about being a Dad. What else do I have to share? My life is centred around my son who is the most amazing little boy and my best friend.(my bold)

     Ok. Um. Ok. You are a 33 year old teacher with a wife and child. That's nice. But your 18 month old son is not, nor will he ever be, your best friend. He's 18 months old for a start. If he could express a preference, his best friend would probably be Bonjela. Or that wooden train. Perhaps a spoon. Your open love for your son is admirable. But you are confusing your love for him with an equal relationship. A parent/child relationship is never an equal one, nor should it be. For the very simple reason that you are the parent. You are not here to be his friend. He may be the centre of your world. He may have taught you more about love than you thought possible. But he is not your best friend. (And to be frank, I am very much judging you for feeling this way).

     But then, you can go the other way...

     Now and again, people I'm friends with on facebook post a picture of some text. The wording varies occasionally, but it's usually something along the following lines:

     My promise to my children. I am not your friend. I am your mom. I will stalk you, flip out on you, lecture you, drive you insane, be your worst nightmare & hunt you down like a bloodhound when needed because I LOVE YOU! When you understand that, I will know you are a responsible adult. You will NEVER find someone who loves, prays, cares and worries about you more than I do! Re-post if you are a parent and agree.

     Aside from making me dryheave a little that this person feels the need to validate their parenting by 'Liking and Sharing' such a load of twaddle (and also the self-congratulatory 'Ooh, get me, I'm such a great parent' tone), I also know, from what else of their lives on facebook that I see, that they are also the type of person to post status updates along the following lines:

     omg cant believe sum ppl who try to bash me and my hubby for what we do for our kids we love our kids what is wrong with that next time you want to slag my kids off do it to my face and not behind my back!!!!
     Followed by the inevitable response from a friend

     U ok hun x

     Which elicits:
     Yeah just can't understand why some ppl have to be so cruel to my kids lol
     In other words, I will happily say that I am tough on my kids, but if anyone else, ever, dares to suggest my children are not 100% perfect, I will get needlessly defensive, refuse to accept there may be any truth in what they are saying and then post a cryptic passive aggressive status update on facebook.

     I can sort of see where they're coming from. Your children are just that. Your children. Your role in their life is to guide, support and, at times, discipline them. But the whole stalking, worst nightmare, hunt them down thing? No. Refuse to accept that they are not always 100% perfect, defend them to the death even when they're in the wrong? No. You have to allow your children space to make their own decisions, to allow them to make the wrong decisions at times, and be prepared to deal with the fallout. You can advise, certainly. But it is their life, and they have to find their own path through it. If you don't make mistakes, you're not going to learn. And I don't want to raise my children to be blindly unthinkingly following me and my teachings (not least because I am frequently contradictory, hypocritical and irrational). I want them to question me when I seem unreasonable. I want them to stretch the elastic of our relationship until it twangs. Because then, when they're older, they will a) be able to think for themselves and b) if they have children of their own, understand how strong my love for them is that I trust them, and have faith in them that, regardless of the mistakes they make along the way, they will, eventually, do the right thing.

     If I sound a bit judgemental, I don't mean to be. I'm not any kind of parenting expert, as anyone who knows me or the Blondies will attest. I'm making it up as I go along (aren't we all?) and I've made plenty of mistakes along the way, some relatively minor, some fairly catastrophic. The best lessons in parenting usually come about from learning what not to do, rather than sticking unthinkingly to your plan of what a parent should be. I wrote before about The 8yo and I. We're close. I see so much of myself in him, it would be stupid for me not to recognise that. But although I can read his mind, make him giggle like no one else on earth, and he does the same for me, he's not my best friend, nor is he the subject of my stalking, nor will I blindly defend him when he messes up. He's my son. I'm his mother. That's our relationship. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


Meeshie said...

Hey now (says the woman who can't stop posting pics of her 5 month old) there's nothing wrong with talking nonstop about a child! LOL

And 'viewing' an ex? It's a glorious thing! It reinforces how damn lucky you are to have gotten rid of them all those years ago.

Lucy Benedict said...

Oh I know! Have you seen how often I talk about my kids on here? The Boy was born pre-facebook and I used to email friends all the time with pictures of him! Congrats on your 5mo - I love them at that age, because their personality is starting to come through, but you can rely on them to stay in one place.

Agree that viewing exes is a wonderfully guilty pleasure. In this case I was thinking 'Oof. Dodged a bullet there!'

Rob Lang said...

At the moment, my son's best friend is himself. His mum and I are just tools that serve a purpose, being nourishment, play or comfort. I can feel a cartoon coming on.

Perhaps your ex found it difficult to describe the relationship he has with his son and settled with best friend as the best he could do?

Lucy Benedict said...

Rob,'tools that serve a purpose' is a really good way of putting it, and is often the way children view their parents (mine perhaps, not so much, sadly).

I agree the 'best friend' tag could be a simple way of describing the relationship. But from what I've seen, he does mean it, and (something I meant to say above) I don't think that's good for the child - if he grows up and annoys his dad, will his dad react as a parent or as a friend? I'd hope for the former.

Took a while to reply, because I've been giggling at your cartoons ;-)

Meeshie said...

He's cute.. but he just learned to spit at people. Would you like some baby slobber? Dear gods.

And yeah, you were lucky. This ex sounds like a winner. Looking back.. do you ever think "OH my god. What the hell was I thinking when I decided to date xxx?"

And my best friend is someone I discuss my sex life with. Umm.. yeah.. never gonna be my kid.