Sunday, 7 February 2016

No Regrets {A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to Insanity / Kids}




'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Insanity' is all about Kids and Mothering and life with a big Family. The joys of being a parent and those things that drive us crazy.

When my last child was born in 1992 my eldest was 10 followed by an 8 year old, a 4 year old and a 17 month old. Throw into the mix a husband who worked long hours and travelled a lot and it made for an odd mix of pandemonium and controlled chaos, joy and tears of frustration, laughter and yelling, lots of yelling and a deep joy at having 5 beautiful children yet tinged with sadness at the realisation that they would all be grown before I knew it.

I look back now and wonder, ‘If I had it all to do again, would I do it any differently’? And the answer is always a resounding ‘Yes’ and ‘No’!  Of course there are things I’d change, lot’s of them, but there are so many precious memories and fun times that will ever be dear to my heart that I wouldn’t change for the world.

I like to think that I always tried to do my best but the reality is, there were lots of times I didn’t try to do my best. I was tired and frustrated and stressed and overwhelmed and sometimes, ofttimes, just plain selfish. 

It was a challenge bringing up these 5 precious children, blank canvas’ each one, and I knew that what I painted on those canvas’ would be imprinted there for the rest of their lives, good and bad and at times it scared the life out of me. 

Some days I painted well and with meaning and purpose, bright strokes of colour, light and warmth and sensitivity, painting words of life onto their canvas. 

Other days I painted with dark, ugly strokes of harsh contrasts and contradictions and anger, and sadly, I know some of those strokes would have soaked deep into their once bright, unblemished and pure canvas, scarring it forever.


I'm no expert but, for what it's worth, here's just a few things (I could write pages) that I think are important as a parent in shaping their young lives - I'm not asking you to agree with me, these are just my musings -

·      Encouragement - I always tried to encourage my kids and let them feel that I supported them in all they did and achieved, cheering them on all the way, but, I also tried to be a realist and not set them up for failure by telling them they could achieve anything they wanted in this life. It's simply not true. I always told them their best efforts were good enough. To give it their best shot.

·      Patience - I wish I hadn’t always been telling them to hurry up and rushing around. Then again trying to get 5 kids organised to be out the door on time was a feat in itself. I think I would have worked harder at being more organised so that my lack of preparation didn't get taken out on them when we ended up being late somewhere. After all, I was the adult! I'd also make more allowances for their growing abilities and accept that some things were still beyond their age and capabilities and accept I just had to do it for them.

·      Available - I am a perfectionist so keeping the house clean (not necessarily tidy although that would have been wonderful) was very important to me. Sometimes too important. I think I would leave the floors dirty and the washing up in the sink more often and just hang out with the kids. I would be here for them no matter what I had to stop doing or what sacrifices I had to make. I would more often put their needs before mine. (I did spend an enormous amount of time on the business end of a video camera filming their antics though, if the copious amounts of family videos I have is anything to go on).

·      Gentle - My Mum always said ‘You attract more bees with honey rather than vinegar’. Gentleness is not one of my strong suits I'm afraid and I think I was often too quick with a rebuke or harsh tone instead of responding gently. I do try these days to be more thoughtful in speech and requests and to soften my responses.

·    Consistent - This is something that I think is really important. Your 'no' should mean 'no'. Equally your 'yes' should mean 'yes'. If you have rules they need to be enforced at all times and not just when you can be bothered or have the energy it takes to ensure the rules are obeyed. Makes me sound like a hard task master but I think a child needs to see that their parent means what they say and doesn't just change with the wind as that is a great invitation for the child to take advantage, and trust me, they will take advantage! It also breeds an atmosphere of mistrust. No ice cream if you don't eat your dinner should mean just that. (Having said all that, of course, there are always appropriate times for exceptions).

·      Listen - when bedlam breaks out with 5 kids it’s sometimes easy to jump to conclusions without asking questions and assessing the situation first. I spoke many a harsh word to the wrong child through frustration and not listening and just wanting the noise to stop. It is always better to take the time to deal with things appropriately rather than impulsively. Listening to each child is important, hearing their side of it and make wise and informed decisions instead of just blaming anyone and everyone. (Of course, once again, there is always times when you just need to say 'enough is enough' and just walk away from it).

·      Empathise - the ability to empathise is an important gift no matter what you are dealing with but especially with children. Stop and assess and try to understand where the child is coming from. Work on your communication skills and try to put yourself in their shoes (remember when you were young?) Don't dismiss their emotions and feelings, especially when you're busy or tired or distracted. This can cause lasting damage to their little hearts and minds.

·    Ask Forgiveness - One thing I tried to do but and found the hardest was acknowledging to my children that I had been wroo….., wrooo…., made a mistake. It’s never easy to admit our failings to our children and ask their forgiveness but when I took the risk with them the response was always positive and I think it spoke to them about the kind of person I was trying to be and wanted them to be. It's important to not leave cross words hanging and arguments unresolved. Life is unpredictable and you might miss your chance to forgive and be forgiven.

·      Vulnerable - It was with a shock that I realised that my eldest sister’s funeral 2 years ago would have been one of a very few times my children ever saw me cry or display any kind of emotion really (other than anger). It's important to be real with our kids. Let them see you cry, so they know it's ok. They need to feel safe to express their feelings to you and not feel condemned. Feelings are neither right or wrong they just are and kids need to have their feelings validated and not dismissed.

         Boundaries - Contrary to what some mothers think, boundaries are actually an important and necessary thing for children. It not only let's them know just how far they can go, when to stop and when they have breached the boundary, it also helps them feel safe knowing there is a limit to how far they can go and they don't have to try and work it all out themselves. It also helps teach them the importance of personal boundaries. Boundaries define us - they define what is me and what is not me. Boundaries show me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. There is a great book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend called 'Boundaries' that is well worth the read to help understand the need for boundaries and the implication for your life and also for the lives of your children if boundaries are not established.

Wow! If only I could have been that wonderful, purposeful, disciplined mother! Hindsight is grand ain't it?

Still, we all make plans for our lives, what we're going to do, how we're going to be - and then life happens.

Just love your little ones. Be patient and tolerant and recognise that the seasons that make up your life as a mother and theirs as a child are just that, seasons and we all know how quickly the seasons can change. Treasure each one, even the tough ones.

What I do know with certainty is that I can’t go back. I can’t change a thing and the regrets of yesterday only rob me of the joy of today. I know I wasn’t the perfect mother but I do know this. Regardless of what I did or didn’t do, my children love me and respect me and forgive me and they do have fond memories of growing up and that the journey, no matter how tough it often could be, was worth it. I can honestly say that I have 5 adult children that in spite of what I did and didn't do, they have grown in to descent, loving, responsible adults and I couldn't be more proud of them.
My beautiful children

So, how will you paint on your child’s canvas today that could make all the difference for their tomorrows?

Cheers

Mare