Monthly Archives: July 2013

Judging other parents

I’ve read a couple of blog posts recently which take a very different stance on parents who are not coping with their children and which have really got me thinking. The first was written by Maisey Yates, over at Peanut Butter on My Keyboard, and you can read the full post here. She was out with her young daughter in a public place and heard a mother swearing at her own children. Maisey very bravely stepped up and told the woman that she shouldn’t be talking to her children that way. It requires a lot of courage to do something like that, and it sounds like the woman was totally out of line. Maisey wrote with compassion and was in no way saying that she was better than the other parent.

And yet. And yet. I think about the times I have raised my voice to my children, in private and in public and even though I may not have sworn at them, when I called them “little beasts” what I really meant was “little shits”. Am I any better than that mother actually swearing at her children? I’m sure my children got the message that I was abusing them from the tone of my voice, let alone my actual words.

Then I read this post by Leah at Becoming Supermommy. This post has been widely syndicated and requoted on Facebook and other social media (often without noting that Leah WROTE the post!). This is a wonderful post about how none of us is a perfect parent, and urges acceptance of us all with our failings and imperfections.

So where does this leave me? I’m firmly in the “we shouldn’t judge each other as parents” camp. Having said that, my husband and I do roll our eyes at each other and from time to time we do feel smug. Mostly, we think “wish we’d thought of that!” When I see parents at the supermarket at 9pm with their very small children, I work very hard not to think “that child should be in bed!” and try to work towards “I wonder if this is the only time that family can get out to the supermarket and there’s no-one they can leave their baby with”. I try to walk in their shoes. But the fact is that we all judge, even when we work hard not to. We all have an opinion about the right way of doing things, whether it’s breast or bottle, routine or freedom, working or staying at home, abortion or not. We mostly speak our opinions, and we certainly think them.

So what will I do when I am next confronted with the situation that Maisey faced? I hope that I will be brave enough to do what she did, and speak with the other parent. But I hope I’ll also be able to take a leaf from Leah’s book, and say to her “I know it’s hard and frustrating, but tomorrow will be better, or the next day. Please don’t speak to your children like that.” I hope I could do that. I hope I will be brave enough. I hope I will be compassionate enough. I hope the person I speak to will take my comment as kindness, not as a patronising statement. And I hope I can help to make someone’s life slightly better – the child’s, if not the parent’s.

What would you do?

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A Huckleberry Finn child

My boy would be in heaven if this was him!

My boy would be in heaven if this was him!

I have a Huckleberry Finn child. At first, I thought he was merely challenging, hard to manage and extreme.

Then a few years ago, I attended a Growing Great Boys talk presented by Ian Grant and he gave me an explanation for my boy. He’s Huckleberry Finn.  A Huckleberry Finn child is one who is uncivilised. He pushes the boundaries, is so far outside the box that there is no box. He doesn’t easily conform to the mores of society. He’s the kind of child who would have thrived a hundred years ago in an outdoor, hard work environment. He would have loved the freedoms I had in my childhood to roam, explore and discover. His mind is constantly busy and he’s not really interested in sitting down and passively learning. He likes to take things apart and put them back together or invent something completely new out of those old parts. He’s a delight – and some days a despair!

Ian Grant said he had four boyhood friends who were Huck Finns, and they have grown up to be leaders in industry, philanthropists, top flight businessmen – in other words, hugely successful in their chosen fields. Ian also commented wryly that these boys would probably be medicated in today’s society and pondered whether they would have reached the same dizzy heights if this had occurred.

Before anyone starts to climb on a bandwagon, I do think that there is a valid time and place to use medication – in some cases it is the only option. And I personally know parents who have agonised over this decision, and the positive changes medication has made to the lives of their children and by extension, their family know no bounds.

But my Huck Finn? He’s been assessed and it has been generally determined that he is a smart, high-energy, out there child. That’s it. And it has to be said, he comes by his Huck Finn tendencies honestly. I read back some of the things I have written above and a lot of them could have been applied to me, although asthma and a love of reading reined me in a little. My husband’s parents tell tales of his derring do and inventiveness as he was growing up, so my poor boy never stood a chance. In fact, it’s a wonder that we only have ONE outright Huck Finn (although a couple of the others certainly share a number of the tendencies above).

I look at my boy, and hope we can successfully guide him through the hoops that modern-day life requires, without crushing his spirit and his outlook on life.  And while we are still able to retain our hair! It’s a challenge, but I wouldn’t have him any other way. And I can see that he’s going to DO something with his life – he may be my only child who is a multi-millionaire or in jail. The jury is out on which one it may be.  At present, his ambition is to live in Africa and rescue animals from poachers. I could totally see him doing that too!

The niggling thing in the back of my mind is that I think MORE of us should be Huck FInns. I think we too easily conform to society’s rules, and we accept too many restrictions too complacently. Why aren’t we outside getting grubby? Why aren’t we trying to think of unusual solutions to problems? Why do we just accept that this is the way things are, without challenging them? Maybe we need to find that long-buried Huck Finn part of ourselves, embrace it, develop it and utilise it! Who knows what we could achieve if we did that?

Do you have a Huck Finn in your brood? How do you encourage and help them? I’d love your tips!

He'd be happy doing this too!

Doesn’t this look like fun?

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