Anyone worked out ‘parenting’ yet?
When you do, you will inbox me, won’t you?
The great thing about these summer holidays is that they have given me lots of time to reflect, focus, over-analyse and privately condemn my parenting skills.
Family relationships have been tested and redefined this holiday.
It’s not all been bad, but I have come to the conclusion that ‘Parenting’ is the root of more stress and anxiety than any other job, so if you have personally survived the experience, send me a few pointers, discounting murder of course – (already been there and decided that I wouldn’t survive prison either).
My main problem with parenting is the perpetual guilt. Mother’s guilt.
I think that ‘guilt’ has been at the core of my parenting makeup since I had NC. There could be many reasons for that, of course. It might have something to do with losing my own mother when I was a teenager, which inspired this ridiculous innate desire to be perfect in the role of motherhood when I had my own children, or it may simply be that I’m just not a ‘natural’ mother and I feel guilty about that.
If you work as a barista and your coffee sucks you can always try another job; but if you have kids and suck at being a mum, there’s no way out.
So what do you do?
Do you do what I’ve done for the past nineteen years and consume parenting manual after parenting manual, irritate your best mates for advice – (those ones who seem to be tolerating their spawn better than you, even though you know they will make you feel even more guilty) – or do you head straight for therapy?
There should be some extra training available for those mothers who don’t quite cut it, shouldn’t there?
The old man and I should be tentatively celebrating by now. With one child at uni, we’re nearly at the end of the parenting tunnel, in theory; if you accept the premise that the kids should be thinking about leaving home sometime after eighteen. (I know that a lot of you will tell me to rethink that theory more along the lines of wishful thinking).
So why do I still feel so much pressure from parenting?
Because if I’m honest, I still never know if I’m doing the right thing by my kids. Because I always feel torn when I make a decision for them, and they are the only people in my little world who can still tie my stomach up into painful knots of self-loathing and anxiety.
And, of course, the old man has this wonderful knack of making me feel guilty about feeling guilty about the kids.
I’m finally coming to the realisation that everyone was right when they told me that you never stop worrying about your kids.
We honestly believed when we had survived NC’s drunken forays into the city and had gone through the nightly cross-examination of ‘who are you staying with’, ‘have you been drinking’ and ‘I can smell smoke’, that we would be professionals at parenting by the time it came to Kurt.
But, before she boarded that plane to Thailand, I was still at it. I couldn’t help myself and asked her what she would do if the tide suddenly went out on the beach! When what I should have been doing was feigning excitement for her at the airport (like a good mother would do), and concealed my irrational fears.
Not passed on my own pathetic anxieties!
And then there’s the albino recluse who dwells at the top of our house, who now communicates with us in drumbeats, like some native American emo. Three hits of the bass drum is toast with peanut butter (please), a steady crescendo means it’s a good day, and crashing of the cymbals means he still hates us.
I have tried to coax him out of his room this summer holiday, baited him like an animal, with all his favourite treats. Is it so wrong to want him to get some sunlight, for him to feel the wash of the ocean on his white body and the sand between his toes?
He used to love the beach; when he was still my little boy.
But the more I push him be one of the family, the more he resists. And then I feel guilty.
Everything is a negotiation these days and has to be on his terms or nothing.
The old man is tougher than me. He will negotiate to a point and then takes a ‘fuck him’ attitude, which brings us to a resolution of sorts. And I know he’s right. We can’t let a sixteen year old wield the power in our home, but then I feel guilty for leaving him in the house on his own, educating himself through the computer rather than via experience, drumming his death rap… sticking pins in effigies of us.
Is that any way to live? Perhaps it is when you are a teenager intent on hating the world.
He knows that what I really want to do is to look after him in my amateur maternal way. But these days, if I dare to stroke his face or touch his arm, he jerks away like he has been stung.
He used to beg me for cuddles.
I wanted us to share this few precious weeks of holiday together and look back on it fondly one day, smile at photos of us together, tanned and happy like all those other families on Facebook. Instead there will be lots of awkward photos of the old man and I, trying to look like we know what the fuck to do together now that our relationship has been redefined by the absence of our children.
Not that we invested everything in them, you understand – we were always wary of that trap. We have our own lives, just as NC now has hers, but Kurt still represents ‘unfinished business’ for me. Unlike his sister, who has reached that stage of maturity where she is finally comfortable in her own skin, Kurt is still a work in progress who still needs more preparation for the big, scary world outside.
If only he’d let me in to finish the job I started.
But then, that’s the mindfuck caused by parenting.