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In principal I consider myself to be a decent person. Very occasionally my control slips and the filter crashes and those inner badass thoughts work their way out, but in my defense I do have a sponsored African child, so I must be fundamentally good, right?

Camping in the Seventies by Scuola di Atene

I admit that parenting is not my greatest achievement, and the way I deal with those people that rub my nose in my failing, is to ignore them. I can appreciate goodness in other people, (even if secretly I do consider them to be sanctimoniously nauseating and obviously dull), but aspiring to be AS good as them is probably that bridge too far for me personally.

Today’s piece could either be categorised as a ‘mother guilt’ post (words my counsellor says no mother should never utter) or simply a rant at perfect parents.

You decide.

Our new neighbours decided to humiliate all the other parents in the street at the weekend; by camping OVERNIGHT with their children in the garden.

Last weekend WASN’T A BIRTHDAY, CHRISTMAS OR A REPLACEMENT HOLIDAY, and I can’t yet decide if they were just trying to show off, or if there was a more sinister message at large. Marking territory is one thing; subverting the laws of parenting is another.

I mean, who does that? It’s one of those parental uber NOs that at some stage during birthing classes we all silently agreed upon, right? Thou shalt neither mock nor show up the lack of parental skills in others.

The ADHDer gave me the news. He bounded excitedly to greet me from work, (a behaviour that instantly alerted me to something being amiss), having spent the afternoon spying through our spy hole the fence, tongue no doubt hanging on the lawn in envy. Knackered and in urgent need of a soothing bottle, my street antennae had already picked up on the irritating sound of Perfect Father next door, hammering in the final pegs of his parenting win.

‘What the f*ck is that banging noise?’ I might have asked the kids.

(You see, the old man and I, (on the other hand), were having an ‘alternative parenting’ weekend, letting the Xbox and Pizza Hut parent the teens whilst I worked my ass off and he walked the Great Wall of China. We like to reserve rash parent/child bonding experiences that involve fresh air, healthy eating and patience for special occasions like birthdays and Christmas).

‘The Jones are camping in the garden!’ he panted like a puppy, obviously praying that I might suddenly come over all momsy-ish and radically suggest doing the same.

‘Well, we hate camping,’ I began to argue, watching the excitement ebb from his face; too slowly for even my cold bitch comfort levels, ‘and anyway, we’re going to have an even funner night ahead of us, swimming in OUR POOL (said in loud, shrill voice so that the neighbours can definitely hear), watching some really violent movies and stuffing our faces with crap.’ I countered.

‘Why don’t we ever do anything fun?’ he whined dejectedly in response, pushing the knife just that little bit further into my heart.

Why do kids only remember the sh*t stuff?

Mia Freedman wrote about the exact same issue last weekend on Mamamia, (Somone Will Cry and If It’s Not Me It’s A Win). Why do we consciously try to create ‘moments’ with our kids, ‘manufactured’ memories that we hope they will remember when someone haphazardly happens to ask them in their future, ‘so, how was your childhood? Screwed up by your parents?’

Like Mia’s admission, our ‘moments’ of family togetherness haven’t always gone to plan either.

There was the Bali Belly-induced projectile vomiting at Sydney airport which was fun; the 16th family birthday lunch, where the birthday girl was so hung-over that she sat slumped in her lasagne for all three courses while the grandparents dissected our parenting abilities; and the infamous camping trip where the old man dismantled the tent around us before dawn, because he simply couldn’t take any more.

The best memories are rarely manufactured; they just happen. Kerri Sackville (In Hot Pursuit Of Joy) discovered that last week, when she ended up chasing an ice cream van down the street. They often happen when you least expect them to, but you do recognise them for what they are, anyway. My unco fall off that bike in the paddy fields of Bali, the old man doing his Gangnam thing in the kitchen and my daughter’s boob tube slipping down at her first public dance performance, are all lasting family memories.

So why do I constantly feel the need to keep up with the Jones when it comes to parenting?

As we listened to our neighbours frolick around their tent late last night, the guilt was finally assuaged by the wine and I realised that we all love our kids, we just have different ways of showing them it.

Camping in the Seventies courtesy of Scuola di Athene at www.flickr.com

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