Parents are infamous for self-condemnation. It’s time for some back-patting instead. Mother-of-three Pippa Henderson reflects on the things she’s pretty sure she got right.
Investing in a good buggy
We chose a red phil&teds sports buggy for our first baby, with a cocoon insert, and it was worth every cent. We liked that it had the capacity to attach a second seat, which was rare at the time, and it ended up carrying all three of our kids in the end – don’t worry, not all at once.
I thrashed that thing, pushing it for miles around coastlines, through supermarkets (it’s amazing how much you can actually fit in), and up steep hills with straight arms, my whole weight leaning into it, like superman. That buggy was a happy home on wheels for my little poppets, and I was in my happy space when I pushed it. If it had had a dashboard (now there’s an idea!) I swear there would have been 300k on the clock by the time I finally parked it up. Suffice to say, I heartily believe that when it comes to buggies you won’t regret purchasing the best model you can afford.
Buying a trampoline
I’ve never, ever regretted purchasing a trampoline, especially in this electronic era. It’s simply priceless as a parent to have somewhere you can quickly send your kids to exhaust themselves, physically, and I’ve even been known to use it myself as an emergency outlet in moments of stress. There’s been the odd kid-collision over the years, but nothing horrific – a small price to pay for hours of fun. With all the nets and pads these days, parents can breathe easy when it comes to trampoline safety.
Kissing and cuddling
I don’t regret one single kiss or cuddle with my children, especially back when their cheeks were so huge they hung off their faces, and the rolls of chub on their forearms looked like wristbands. I can’t believe I need to remind myself sometimes to keep it up as they get older, resorting to words in my busyness, which don’t always cut the mustard. I’ve only recently realised I don’t need to stop everything I’m doing to give my kids some affection – my super tactile three year old seems to have his batteries re-charged with just a twenty second cuddle.
High fives, low fives, side fives, framed certificates, photos and selfies…I’ve always enjoyed giving my kids full respect for a job well done, and I think it’s served them well. I feel like if I can elongate the high they experience, the momentum of the celebrations will carry them through, ensuring they keep on giving their all in the next challenge.
Even when my kids haven’t received player-of-the-day, or the certificate for academic achievement, or the most-well-behaved, I’ve tried to find the redeeming features in their efforts, sung their praises, pumped them with encouragement, and reminded them that failure is an integral part of success. Some kids seem to need this reassurance more than others, but all kids need to learn to lose graciously. Even when my encouragements haven’t immediately lifted my child’s countenance, I still don’t regret trying.
When you have babies and toddlers, holidays can take so much planning and packing they can become redundant. What’s more, little ones rarely sleep well in foreign beds. My husband and I eventually learnt to lower our expectations, and milk our day trips for all they were worth. We’d leave home early and fit in a few hours play before a giant picnic lunch, and then have a few more hours of family fun before a take away dinner. The kids would crash out on the drive home, and then we’d carefully transfer them into their very own beds.
Framing the kids' artwork
Nothing is as pure, raw, vivid and unpretentious as children’s artwork. In the last few months I’ve been on a mission to frame and hang my favourite pieces, and I don’t regret a single masterpiece. My kids finally have visual evidence I value their creativity, and my house has a much-needed splash of primary colours. Who could possibly regret a patchwork toucan, Picasso-esque self-portraits, and a family of dancing land-based jellyfish staring down at them from their walls?
Last weekend a friend of mine found my hungry three-year-old at the party we were attending, and offered him a sausage wrapped in bread. When asked if he wanted sauce he replied, “Yes please!” and when he received it he thanked her. Word spread of his impressive manners, and I had a happy little moment of parenting success realising that even if he learns little else, at least, with his manners, he’s unlikely to go hungry.
Declining some requests and invitations
Someone once pointed out to me that I’m the one in charge of my calendar, and it’s my prerogative to decline events that I really don’t want to attend, or that put too much pressure on my schedule. I used to feel obliged to say yes if I didn’t have anything booked at the same time – often at the detriment of my family – but since I’ve learnt to politely saying no, I’ve never regretted doing so. Sometimes I’ve even written ‘family time’ in my calendar’s blank spots as a placeholder, to make sure other activities don’t take over.
A little R-E-S-P-E-C-T goes a long way, even when it’s yourself you’re respecting. I decided a long time ago not to talk badly about my body in front of my kids, and to celebrate my finer attributes instead. The idea was that my kids would follow suit with high self-esteems, and I’m pleased to report that so far, so good.
Baking with my kids
When I finally made my peace with the mess, baking with my kids became so much more fun. It’s something I have fond memories of doing with my mother, so, despite the odd mouthful of baking soda, I’m glad I pushed through and continued the tradition. Now I’m reaping the benefits. When we've had guests lately my nine year old has taken the initiative and single-handedly whipped up a cake or a batch of brownies!
Friday pizza-movie nights
I’ll never regret not having to think about what we’re having for dinner at the end of each week. It’s a treat for the whole family as we cram onto the couch like the Simpsons and laugh our way through each easy, cheesy slice. I guess I could appease my conscience by teaching the kids about fractions as each slice disappears, but sometimes we just need to take off the responsible-parenting hat and relax.
Admitting my mistakes
“When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.” – Jake Houseman, Dirty Dancing.
This line still resonates in my head. Maybe it's because I watched that movie one too many times in my youth, but maybe it’s actually because it's so rare to hear parents admitting their wrongdoings. I’ve noticed that when I’ve finally given up defending myself to my kids, acknowledged ‘my bad’, and apologised, it’s not disappointment that’s etched on their faces, but relief. Surely this acknowledgement also goes a long way to helping our kids build realistic expectations of what their parents are capable of.