Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Why isn't parenting more obvious?

There's plenty about being a parent that comes naturally to me.

I instinctively know what to feed them. I know that good food has a big part to play in their childhood, just as it did mine.

I know to love them, to give them plenty of cuddles and to listen.

I know to read to them every day and nurture their love of books.

I know that less will always reward them with more.

As they've grown, I instinctively know that a slower, longer childhood is right for them. And that they should spend time in the garden watching food grow.

I'm very grateful to have instincts like these. No matter what anyone says or what I see, I am never swayed. It's so comforting to have that instinctive backing. To know what is right.

What doesn't come naturally to me, though, is huge and fills me with guilt. Every. Single. Day.

I don't know how to deal with the fighting, the mood swings, the episodes of rage. Instead of waiting for calm to creep back in, for them to find their centre, then talking about it sensibly, I get sucked in and swept along.

I've been reading how sibling conflict is an opportunity for communication. But I'm failing miserably. (Unless raising my voice counts as communication?)

If it was a four-year-old Kian clashing with Kian as he is now, I imagine I wouldn't get so caught up. Kian is more resilient and he moves on quite quickly. I imagine I might even let them sort it out for themselves. But it always feels so much deeper with Luca. Uncontrollable. Intense. The distress lingers and it affects everything. It's the highly sensitive thing that I still know very little about.

This morning, as I baked cheese and chive muffins to fill their lunch boxes, I realised that instead of feeling proud and grateful that it's easy for me to wake up and rustle up something delicious for their lunch, I felt niggled that I'm only really doing part of my job.

Filling their tummies and reading to them and loving them is only really part of the job. It's the easy part. It's easy to bake and cook from scratch (for me, anyway). It's easy to read. It's easy to cuddle and be close. Because it's calm and enjoyable. It's easy to parent when you've got calm and enjoyable.

It's hard when everyone is overwhelmed and angry, in a struggle. I wish I could better tune in and know exactly what their needs are and how to talk and nurture them back. That's the hard part and I wish it were more obvious.


I wish it were more obvious: tuning into my child and being able to connect and work out what they really need on an emotional level and being able to think 'you're acting this way because..., so all I need to do is this', and know in my heart of hearts that I'm doing a great job.

I know, as parents, we're human too, carrying all sorts of issues that still need resolving. I accept that, and I know nothing is ever perfect, but I'd like to feel – just once – like I can pat myself on the back.

I find myself wondering if it'll all turn out OK. In spite of all this stuff that isn't obvious to me.
What was obvious to me today, though, was I needed music and I needed to make banoffee pie. So I danced in the kitchen to Michael Bublé, and when the boys came home, we danced some more.... (before several moments like the kind I describe above).

And now, I have a bowl of buttery, biscuity, sticky and creamy. Where it's going to end up is very very obvious.*

Do you struggle with the emotional stuff too as a parent? Do you have one child you always worry about? Do you wish more of parenting was instinctive so that we didn't have to spend our spare time reading advice?**

I'll post the banoffee recipe tomorrow.

** Speaking of which, I have a copy of Simplicity Parenting here from the library thanks to a mention from Greer. But it's been sitting on the coffee table for a week. Next to Tessa Kiros' Apples for Jam. Guess which one seems to fall into my lap first. 


  1. Yes! I struggle with the deeper stuff all the time. What helps me though, is to reflect on my own childhood. I don't remember whether my mum and dad thought carefully about the parenting stuff that fills my mind a lot of the time (healthy, homemade food for instance) but I do hold very strong the memories of time spent together, and the work they put in. I took a deep breath yesterday and took my two smallest for a walk somewhere I hadn't been. It challenged me because I had to draw on my very best parenting & communication, being in an unfamiliar place, in public, near busy(ish) roads and so on. We had a tops day. And now I've written an essay on your blog- sorry :) Also- Buddhism for Mothers is great.

    1. I have Buddhism for Mothers. Haven't read it properly. I dip into it from time to time - don't know if i've read a book from cover to cover for years! It's true that we remember the time our parents put in...

  2. Vanessa, you're too hard on yourself. You're an incredible mum and your boys are doing what small children are meant to do - scream and fight and test every single bloody limit. My girls are the same. I despair at the screaming and fighting, and wonder where I'm going wrong, but at the end of the day, they don't seem as bothered by it as me. They move on to the next game. I remember fighting endlessly with my sisters as a kid, all the way through to teenhood. I think we just have to trust that the beautiful moments they share will outweigh the awful. It did for me. But it's clear to me (to use a phrase I hate) that you're "parenting with intention", consciously, and that's got to count for a hell of a lot. Go girl! Eat that pie and maybe have a glass of wine to go with it. Oh, hang on, it's only 9am...

    PS If you come across a way to stop your two-year-old smearing toothpaste all over the sink while you're in the middle of a wee so can't get up physically to stop them, let me know, yes?

    1. I'm hoping the beautiful moments is all they'll remember! Ah yes, the bathroom is quite the attraction for little ones. Kian has recently thrown a digital ear thermometer into a bath full of water...

  3. oh vanessa, I could have written this one! I have been yelling too much lately, knowing full well it does absolutely nothing but hurt my head and my throat.. and then I see my daughter in particular flipping out over something seemingly unimportant - because she saw me doing it.. we must be kind to ourselves though, we will never be perfect parents, if there even is such a thing - which I doubt - but I think you've got it down with all the important stuff. The stuff you think is the easy stuff - it really is the most important stuff. because the yelling and screaming (from everyone) will stop as the boys grow and figure out how to express themselves better - at least I am hoping that is what is going to happen with mine! ha we're all (incl. the kids) trying to be heard and in the heat of the moment we don't always choose the best avenue to express it. I am aware I do it, and am trying so hard to change that. I have been wanting to read Buddhism for Mothers and also that book Greer is reading at the moment - Simplicity Parenting I think? I have never read a parenting book before but I think I need a little guidance to shift my centre a little on this one. but I'm with Greer - eat the pie. lots of pie. x

    1. Thanks Tahnee. Yes I've noticed Luca yelling more than he should, and he's probably just copying me... I ate lots and lots of pie. Too much.

  4. Have you heard of the Circle of Security concept/approach to parenting? While it wont give you all the answers it may fill some gaps in? Theres a lot to it but one of the main parts is about understanding your childs needs and reading their cues and miscues and being aware of what cues in your child push your buttons and are easier/more difficult and why etc.
    I am a psych by career and a mum or 2. I dont have all the answers and certainly have loads and loads of moments and days and thaoughts like yours above but I know I got an immense amount of wonderfulness out of this program personally as a parent and also in the day to day work I do with families around parenting. This is their website and please email me if you want more info and I can email you loads of documents that explain it better. There is no book as yet (they are working on it I think) and there are psychs and others trained in Australia in the program you may be able to find out if any in your local area via the Circle of Security fb page? Anyway - just a thought and more than happy to pass on this info if you are remotely interested hillme AT gmail DOT com

  5. First- gorgeous photos of your boys. I was looking for Simplicity Parenting at the library today and their one copy is checked out- guess who has it- you, I now know- too funny! Vanessa, we all try so hard, and sometimes I feel I've got it, those moments when you know you are doing well, and then there are all the moments when you wish you could do a bit better. It doesn't sound as though either one of us is alone- I think we do the best we can, and know our beautiful children will grow up remembering the lovely food we (try to) feed them and the wonderful childhoods they had puttering in the garden.

    1. Ah thanks Carly. I hope so. I really do.

  6. Won't it be lovely when your boys are grown up and they will say..."when things got tough, Mum made Banoffee Pie". There are no answers and sometimes the best way to deal with it is by hiding in the toilet with a gin and tonic. My girls fight so fiercely, my heart breaks open. We just keep talking, and talking. Keep reading, keep cooking because what you are doing is nurturing which is so very important. Guilt is an unproductive emotion...accept you are doing the best job you can do in any given moment x


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