Each year on Mothers’ Day, in between changing nappies, kissing scraped knees, redirecting my children to more constructive activities, opening hand-made cards, reading stories and saving them from mortal danger, I find myself in deep reflection. As I assess my own parenting journey and the direction which I am moulding the future generation of impressionable young minds in, my gaze wanders further. Since becoming a mother myself, I have felt a strange sense of universal connectedness with the mothers of the world, through some form of innate unspoken understanding and shared experience. This inevitably causes me to reach out to the other mothers in my community in numerous ways, where my hope is that their families take the time to express their appreciation of them. As I scroll through social media searching for evidence of this, I often find myself wondering what daily life looks like behind the smiles and picture perfect images shared with the world. As I am sure is the case for most families, the daily reality in our household does not always meet the picture perfect standard of what we often feel pressure to present to the world on social media platforms. I have been just as guilty of only capturing the highlights as any other person.
So I thought I would share some less publicised details with you, in the name of keeping it real and giving a big shout out to all the mums out there in the world who tough it out everyday and have untold emotional resilience and grace to face doing it all again tomorrow. So just to show you just how real parenting can really get in our household, let me share a little story with you.
I had been looking forward to my lockdown birthday and had planned a special day which included learning activities, artwork, food and music all centred around the theme of a picnic celebration to accommodate both a schooling focus for Alec and Nathan while also allowing the whole family to engage in celebrating the day.
When the day finally arrived, lets just say, expectation didn’t meet reality. The boys began the day excited and engaged, yet as the day progressed, their behaviour deteriorated until Phil and I felt like we had been put through the rinse and dry cycle multiple times. While we tried to clean the slate on a number of occasions that day, it all ended on a very sour note when we sent both Nathan and Alec to bed on a stomach lined with a meal consisting of a plain pita pocket rather than the beautiful curry and cake Phil had spent the afternoon making for our family.
It was a painful decision to make, as I just wanted to enjoy the day with my family. It would have been so easy to sweep their behaviour under the rug or blame it on over-excitement, a symptom of the lockdown or any other number of excuses. What I realised as I called my children out on their behaviour, however, was that if I was going to hold them accountable to a higher standard of behaviour and maintain boundaries, I needed to do that everyday, not just when it was convenient. This might shock many of you, but while such strong response spoilt the end of my birthday, I am personally proud of myself for sticking to my principles and my word.
After I cried tears of disappointment at not feeling loved, appreciated or respected by my first born children, Phil and I took stock and spent the remainder of the evening reflecting on the events of the day. We had a confronting look at ourselves, our actions and leadership at the helm of our family and the part we had to play in the downward spiral of Alec and Nathan’s behaviour that day.
After all, when life gives you lemons, what do you do? You make lemonade! However, its up to you to figure out how to turn your losses into lessons.
We realised that the areas in which the boys commonly struggled most with their behaviour had become accentuated as time progressed over the lockdown period and had all come to a head on my birthday. Then when we really got honest with ourselves, we had to admit that our boundaries and follow through on consequences for poor behaviour, as well as praising and rewarding good behaviour had slipped since my challenging pregnancy with Liam.
We also had split priorities over the lockdown period and at times had chosen to prioritise serving our church community over Nathan and Alec’s needs.
So what did we do when confronted with these realisations? We chose to take ownership of the situation and apply some of the leadership principles we have been learning about. Sitting down with our kids, we had an open discussion about team work, family culture, what we wanted our family name to stand for and taught them about the concept of above and below the line behaviour, to equip them with a compass which would enable them to take personal ownership for their actions.
So now we have a family code of conduct, of sorts, which we are all accountable to so there are no weak links in our family unit. While it will be challenging to create this new culture, as it puts Phil and myself in the spotlight too, we see it as time well invested. In just a fortnight we have witnessed the time we took to slow down in order to speed up already beginning to free us up to focus on the positive and the things that really matter in life.
As I shared recently, I don’t take parenting the next generation of young minds lightly. I believe when we set high expectations, children rise. Nathan and Alec are beginning to see how their actions affect those around them and they now understand how team work makes the dream work!
So my question to you this is this; how adaptable are you as a parent and how do your values act as a compass to guide you in your own parenting journey?