Tag Archives: parenting

Allowing the apron strings to fray.

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Like many mums, the apron strings between myself and my kids have always been tightly bound and double knotted. They are growing up far too fast and every day I wish I could stop time, preserve them as my – mostly – delightful little boys. My eldest would definitely take umbrage at being called little but in my eyes he and his brothers will always display that kernel of babyhood, however tall and hairy they become. For years they are our shadows, having no choice but to be wherever we are, in the trolly while we shop, playing in the corner of the doctor’s room on the rare occasion we’re there for ourselves, in the creche at the gym while we claw back some ‘me’ time, even squashed into the cubicle of a public loo.

Of course we know from the moment they are born that the day will come when their reliance on us will be at an end, the hope being that our efforts are rewarded with the emergence of a thoughtful, articulate, well rounded and capable individual. Knowing this makes the stark truth no less horrifying: ultimately I will no longer be needed. So I have decided to put myself into training. Independence will not be an overnight severing of the apron strings, more of a gradual fraying as the boys slowly start forging their own path in a organic way.

I have always been guilty of doing things for them that they should probably be doing themselves since doing it myself is quicker and easier. Uniforms are put out the night before, I make their lunches, pack their bags. I’m sure it would teach them all sorts of life lessons were I to ask them to do these and many other pesky tasks of daily living but I know my stress levels would go through the roof. They are so easily distracted that it’s a battle just persuading them to put the damn clothes on most of the time.  With a little planning I am changing things up. Before they go to bed their uniform has to be looked out, before the tv goes on in the afternoon their bag must be unpacked. I deliver a pile of clothes to their room and ask them to put it away. Baby steps.

I used to walk them to school, delivering them to the gate with reminders and hugs. When I went back to work last year I began sometimes only taking them halfway, peeling off towards the bus stop. They were, of course absolutely fine. They stayed together, adhered to road rules, my eldest making sure the younger two stayed safe. It turned out he relished the responsibility and it wasn’t long before he suggested they could go all the way by themselves. The first time I followed them. Yup, I felt utterly foolish but somehow compelled to shadow them back as they had me for so long. These days none of us thinks twice about it and they are always raring to get to school for half an hour of playtime.  The only stipulation is that they have to give me a hug first, something my twelve year old is unsurprisingly much more comfortable doing away from his mates –  wins all round.

The boys recently upped the ante when they suggested they could go and buy the milk we needed to save me a trip. That they also took their own money and added chocolate to their shopping made the experience all the sweeter! I came home from work one day to find they had decided to bake their own afternoon tea (my husband was working at home). Muffins and pancakes had been made and half the fruit in the house cut up. Hot ovens, open flames and knives, OMG what was my husband thinking? However there were no burns or cuts, just three very self-satisfied boys and a kitchen on which a flour bomb had dropped.

With my eldest moving from primary to high school next year there is no doubt the time is absolutely right for him to be emerging from beneath my wings, his brothers following in his wake. The knots are still holding for now, just fraying ever so slowly. And at the end of the day they all still ask to be tucked in and once they’re asleep are still my delightful little boys.

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Motherhood Survival Club

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Yesterday I saw a mum sitting with her two sons outside a café burst into tears as one of them dropped a piece of the jigsaw puzzle he was tackling for what must have been the umpteenth time.  His wails of frustration combined with her unchecked tears told me a very familiar story.  I considered asking if she was ok but resisted as she almost visibly pulled herself together, regaining her composure and possibly re-applying the mask that she turns outwards to the world.  She could have been any one of us, mothers holding everything in the most delicate balance, working so hard simply to cope with the everyday pressures while the world calls us ‘capable’ and ‘clever’ and ‘super’.

Oh to be able to let our guard down sometimes.  To be able to say, ‘I really need a break’ without being judged a basket-case or a failure.  And more importantly, not judging ourselves as such.  Whether working or stay-at-home, we are all simply trying to do the best by these funny, engaging and beautiful little individuals.  Their reliance on us is absolute (even though from the age of about seven it seems they would hotly deny it), our moral compass is their indication of right and wrong, our values their touchstones.

My parents jokingly say that my brother and I turned out alright despite them (with a few bumps along the way).  I now know this to mean that they did not obsess over the minutiae of our extra-curricular learning or whether we were learning vital social skills, these would come simply through our being a part of their world and learning as we went along.  There was so much less chatter about how to do everything and what was right and wrong and therefore, I wonder, fewer judgements of each other?

Don’t get me wrong, I know the resources available to parents now are quite amazing and provide a very real support to many many parents, as the use of online sites such as Mumsnet and Kidspot attest.  It is all too easy though to allow the constant flow of advice and information to overwhelm you, to feel as though you are the only one who doesn’t know how best to sooth a colicky baby, discipline a belligerent toddler, guide an older child through the rough and tumble of the playground.

We all have our inner voice, our gut instinct and the knowledge that there is no-one on earth who knows our children as we do.  We should perhaps turn inwards a bit more, listen to ourselves and not bow to the pressure of others’ perception.  We all deserve membership of the Motherhood Survival Club, a place of no-holds-barred mutual congratulation and understanding.  Life with small children is exhausting, bewildering and exhilarating.  There are no prizes for heroics and probably not a great deal of thanks at the end.  However, as we tell our children, as long as we try our best, are kind, and remember the old adage ‘do as you would be done by’, we should all come out relatively unscathed.

If you have managed to stomach my pontificating (as my Dad would call it), have a look at the post on Children’s Books, please add your own list, the diversity of favourites is amazing!