The Harder Side of Parenting
This isn't an easy post to write. Everyone loves to read humour. People love the honesty about how rubbish our parenting can be sometimes. Oh, of course, those writing the humour don't always mean their words. It's a turn of phrase. I've been there too. I've written such words. Humour in the face of adversity is just what is called for some days. But there's another side to parenting. Another side to the humour. There's the emotional side of parenting. And this side isn't showcased as easily as the humour.
No one wants to admit that everything isn't as perfect as they would like it to be. Something holds us back from writing about the reality of parenting. It's all too easy to sugar coat in the funny as if everything is OK because we are laughing. I guess also I wouldn't want my children to think I find it tough being a parent some days. The truth is, on the whole, I don't but there can be times.
When your children are small and they are unhappy you can easily fix the problem. Their world revolves around you as their Mummy and within moments of Mummy doing her magic they are smiling again. It really is as simple as that. I would say that this is possible all the way through until children hit the preteen years and then the magic of Mummy holds less power. Now, that is seriously hard to admit. Yes, of course, with big mugs of hot chocolate and a tray of warm brownies I can help to a certain degree but I can't resolve a problem fully. I can produce a temporary smile across their faces but I can't make a smile happen with a huge heartfelt capacity because my ability to mend a situation has been taken away from me.
The very essence of raising our children is to provide them with the ability to learn to deal with different situations with which they are faced. We are advised against snowplough parenting where we remove everything of danger and upset from their path so that they walk freely through the middle with no obstacles. However, a mother's natural instinct is to clear that path. I can't be alone here can I ? We know it's detrimental but it's a mothering nurturing feeling that is hard to push aside.
I'm finding this part of raising teens the toughest. Maintaining their emotional welfare when I can no longer fix everything. One of my daughters shared with me a piece she had written for school about being a teen. She wrote far more eloquently about it than I ever could because it's her life right now. The emotions are real. They are current. I can guess how she's feeling but would I really ever know?
Pressure. She talks about teenagers drowning in it. Pressure from peers. Pressure from school. Pressure from social media. Pressure for a thigh gap. Pressure for a flat stomach. Pressure to fit in. Pressure full-stop. She criticises the media for stripping back natural faces and bodies and photoshopping so that all teenage girls are faced with is flawless beauty as if nothing else is considered beautiful. She criticises school for constantly putting too much pressure on performance.
There is a lot of angst in her words but I'm glad she shared them with me. Somewhat easier to have written down, I feel, than to have vocalised. They were hard to read, though, knowing that she felt those words, felt the need to write them. I need to consider my response carefully. We are at that stage where anything I say is criticised because a mother's advice is not objective. I hate the fact that this pressure exists. Of course I want to remove it and wipe the slate clean. But I can't. That's not my role. My role is to help her manage. Give her the skill set to fight and handle the pressure. Communication is key. But so is sympathy and empathy. The pressure is real for her. I can't erase it.
The hot chocolate and brownies help but they don't fix. Like so many other parents of teens, I want to be the best I can. I want their teen path to be as smooth as possible. So, in a bid to try to be the magic mummy I once was when they were small, I'm reading The Tao of Teenagers by Peter Berg, a health coach who empowers teens. It's about honesty and being able to express emotions. Writing the words was her honesty and expressing of emotions. She's done her part. Now it's over to me. I'll be back after I've finished the book, I'm sure, with some pearls of wisdom, hopefully, but if anyone has some advice please feel free to share!