I was recently asked a personal question that had me completely stumped. And being stumped is unusual for me because I have an answer for most things as I’m quite a know-it-all. I was asked about my parenting style. What ‘type’ of parent was I to Isabella? Ummm…a bloody average one? Oh c’mon. I’m kidding. But seriously, I had NO IDEA how to answer. I hadn’t yet delved into the dark work of internet parenting. So my response was wide eyed surprise, not saying anything at all and appearing stupid. I did not know there were actual ‘types’ of parents. Aren’t there just good parents and bad parents? The good parents who feed their children leafy green vegetables while simultaneously teaching them how many of each food group they should consume with each meal while bad parents are the ones that leave their kids unattended in casino car parks while they use the shopping money to gamble.
I had no idea what parenting category I might fall into but after checking the net I thought thank christ I’m not the worst category. And anyway, I haven’t ever analysed the way I am with my two year old. My parenting is just getting through the day without needing a drink before 4.30pm or yelling too much. And I’m not convinced that we, as parents, should be creating categories for each other’s parenting styles in order to compare and critique. I don’t believe any parent is going to fit exactly into one particular parenting category and in addition the categories themselves can create negative stereotypes that could lead to a lack of confidence on behalf of the parent. I say this because after doing more unnecessary web investigation on parenting styles, I found a site that says I definitely fall into the “Push-over Parent” category [obviously their term for the “Permissive Parenting” Style]. Another site called my parenting “too soft” and yet another, “Over-indulgent and weak”. Well that’s great. Thanks very much. Just those terms made me wince and feel embarrassed. I suffer enough guilt on a daily basis knowing my nanny is settling Isabella down with her dolly for an afternoon nap without having a website highlight my insecurities by labeling me a ‘weak parent’. I had to stop reading because I felt like a failure. And feeling like a failure always makes me want to drink. Copious amounts of red wine. What would be FAR more helpful to me as a single parent would be for experienced child-rearers to offer advice on particular problems parents might be experiencing. And then give lots and lots of alternative solutions to those problems. Without judgment.
Here’s an example. Isabella is two years and one month old. I work full-time so I often feel guilty about being away from Bells for many hours during the day. I started to buy her little ‘presents’ worth only a few dollars to give to her when I got home or, if I was really tired, I’d save the present for later in the evening. If she was bored or starting to get irritable I would say something like, “Isabella I have a surprise for you! Would you like it now?” And she would run over with her little hands covering her eyes and say, “’Prise mummy! ‘Prise’ Prise!” Then I would give her the Wiggles stickers or the coloured pen I had bought and she would be thrilled for 30 mins. I was the BEST mummy in the WORLD!
Until one dark day when I had no surprise. I’m guessing it may have been a Saturday because I wouldn’t have gone to work and if I’m not at work then I don’t feel guilty so I don’t buy a present to assuage my guilt. Anyway, on this particular morning Isabella approached me full of smiles with covered eyes saying, “’Prise mummy ‘prise?” I laughed and replied, ‘Oh honey, mummy doesn’t have a surprise today!” Well. You would’ve thought I’d taken her beloved doll and hacked it to pieces with my scissors then set it on fire. “NO MUMMY ‘PRISE ‘PRISE!!!” was ringing in my eardrums as I tried to console a kid who had flung herself onto the wooden floorboards and was slamming her feet down onto the floor. I tried my stern-ye- calm-voice and said quietly, “Isabella. Honey. Mummy can’t bring you a surprise everyday ok? It’s only for special days. Do you understand?” Well the short answer is that she didn’t. She didn’t understand for hours because she kept asking for her’ “’prise!”
So what happened is that we got in the car and went to the shops and I bought her some stickers. Am I a push-over parent? Probably. But knowing I’m that ‘type’ doesn’t help me deal with a devastated two year old stuck face down the kitchen floor. Every single day Isabella puts her hands over her eyes and asks for her ‘Prise.
I have no idea how to stop her asking. So I just buy her a bloody surprise everyday.
Thanks for reading!