I have what they politely call ‘spirited’ children. You know the ones: the type checkout operators suddenly open extra lanes for, that you hear coming before they arrive. Children that, while others sip babycinos on their mother’s laps, are hell-bent trying to pull apart the fire-extinguisher. While my boys are generally well mannered, kind natured kids, their tenacity makes them question every request, push every boundary, test every rule. They’re energetic, curious beasts with determination in spades and wills of steel. It can be hard to reign in all that brilliance.
Diagnosis of such a condition is made via their caregivers; symptoms ranging from a nervous twitch and mismatched shoes, to never having their full attention in conversation as they wait for the next crisis to unfold. While they present with a slightly disheveled look and a thick epidermis from years of judgement, caregivers of these often-extreme kids are masters at disaster management and prevention. Behaviours include: forever recalculating their parenting plan/reward chart/kids diet as strategies that work for many just don’t seem to cut it. They perpetually feel like ‘they’re doing it wrong’.
I tried to suck the spirit out of them. I did. I like to be liked, hate to be judged, and with a sticky brood of boys in tow, frequent looks of dismay from the public is my reality. It still gets to me – the smugness of some parents that have children with amiable temperaments, that think they’ve trained theirs to behave – why haven’t I bothered? All I can say is – all children were not created equal. (And as for judgemental non-parents, I was a perfect parent too, before I had kids).
Perhaps I’ve lowered the bar compared to some, perhaps my kids would be less unruly with a superhero parent, but I’ve learned to pick my battles. If they are not destroying property or pestering people, I let it fly. I realise squabbling children is not what restaurant goers pay to be around, so we eat take-away. I hang out with parents with robust kids that can take the onslaught mine dish out. And as for managing the grocery trip, I’ve learned one fool-proof parenting strategy: click and collect.
I see my role as a parent as helping my kids be the best version of themselves they can. I’m far from perfect, but my kids were never going to be wall-flowers – regardless of who brought them up. The way I see it, parenting is not an insidious journey whereby we slowly replace free thought with concrete rules, cull adventurous spirit by lecturing the dangers of risk, and erase all curiosity until children are ‘seen and not heard’.
The day we expect young children to behave like adults is a sad day indeed. Respectful of others (within realistic limits for a young child) sure, but let’s not be a society that sees the role of parents as sapping the spirit out of young minds, carving off the curved edges until they sit squarely in society’s ‘holes’. Since when does developing maturity equate to diluting all sense of self?
What a boring world of clones that would be…
By Kylie Kaden
First printed in She Brisbane – for all women, but the women of Brisbane. Love our city!
T : @KylieKadenAU
Image kindly provided by stockimages via freedigitalphotos.net