This is a guest blog by Lucy Chamberlain: The last few years I’ve really been analysing the way I have parented. Parenting is judged from all angles and most critically by ourselves. But today I had an epiphany about my parenting ways; Hindsight is a wonderful and entirely useless thing when it comes to parenting. I can sit here and overthink and berate myself for everything I should have done better. Things I wish I’d known then that I know now. I can beat myself up about it all. But this morning I thought to myself, I did the best I could with what I knew at the time.
These are parenting in hindsight lessons I’ve learned, but I don’t write this article as advice – there are enough of those parenting articles out there. It’s just a reassurance for anyone going through the same that parenting is hard. You do your best, everyone does it differently, the lessons come with time.
I often judge myself for wishing I’d done things differently
I have two beautiful children who are kind, caring, shy, generous and loving – all wonderful qualities that I wouldn’t change. But I see them going into adulthood with such kind hearts and being taken advantage of in lots of ways. Now I wish they were not quite so generous, or so soft natured. I wonder if I had been louder, more strict, less strict, what If I had not been shy myself, would they be different now in their late teens?
I often judge myself for wishing I’d done things differently, especially when they were small and still learning and developing. In hindsight I wish I had taught them to be braver, louder, stronger, tougher somehow. To be more outspoken and bolder with their attitudes.
You can’t teach personality. They are who they are
But that’s the thing, you are either shy or you’re not. No one can teach you shy or make you not bashful. You are made that way – I believe anyway. But still often it will play on my mind. ‘Did I parent wrong in the early years?’. Is that what causes the blips in later years? Or is it just purely the splice of life and the different choices they make as young adults? Is that a reflection on what has been taught or is it their own souls shining through and being different to what I imagined?
Nature vs. Nurture
I’m also now realising that when they drift off the good path, it’s not because I didn’t teach them well enough, it’s because they are choosing not to use the advice I gave them! It must still be there engrained in their psyche, but they are just ignoring it. It’s probably getting too ‘psychological’ now – which is way past my qualification level, or comfort zone – so I will round it up to say I think and I hope, that whatever ideals and morals I teach them, stay with them in the background. But ultimately the choices they make or decisions good and bad, are made by them using their own conscious and rationalising.
I can of course but really shouldn’t blame myself if they dig out their own path, opposite to the path I carefully planned out, and it goes a little awry. Because let’s face it, you teach them to eat, crawl, walk, climb, speak, learn, and so on, with every stage of childhood they do it on their own eventually. It’s just life. They will encounter various crossroads, decisions, bridges, puddles and wrong turns on the way. All we can hope as parents is they choose the right one. And if not, maybe the wrong path will lead them to better knowledge at the end?
Is it all my fault?
Each person on this planet, whether they are related or not, has their own choices to make and those decisions always mean living with the consequences of those actions. But as a parent, whenever I meet with a hurdle, challenge, wrong decision or frustration to do with the kids, I automatically think, ‘It’s my fault. Did I cause that? What if I had done this or that.’ I’ve realised that this is something I need to fix in myself. I am not solely responsible for their choices, especially as they get older and progress into adulthood. So many factors influence a child and who they become as an adult. So blaming myself as a parent for everything they do and decision they make is unhealthy and wrong in many ways.
Because when I think about it, my children learned by failing when they were young, so in turn, they will learn as they grow older. I’ve viewed failing as falling backwards, but in a lot of ways, failing forwards is how we all continue to learn and grow every day. Even in my mid-forties, that knowledge is never done, the failing continues, it’s ongoing throughout our lives. And it’s only with failure that we grow and learn and improve. I’ve just felt so responsible for it for my children, and then realizing that in fact, despite it being hard to watch them go through, something better will be gained.
Trying to see it from my children’s point of view
In a way, I think I’ve learned in hindsight that I need to remove a lot of the emotion out of the scenarios and think about it on their level, look at things through their eyes and put myself in their shoes to see things not how I’m seeing it as their mum, but as they are. When the proverbial shit hits the fan, I need to remember to take a step back, breathe and see it from their angle too. Try to fathom it out together instead of the blame game.
Although when it comes to tackling situations as a parent, I naturally want to go about it all guns blazing, pointing out faults and wrong doings, all the reasons why something happened. But all that does is compound the hurt and doesn’t unravel the why it happened or get to the solution. It can just initiate and fuel arguments and mudslinging which is neither helpful or kind to either party. Yes it’s their doing, it’s not because of me or my bad parenting, it’s their bad choices made. But I somehow have to remove all that emotion that naturally comes as a parent and get to a better way of figuring out the solution – or letting go enough to allow them to figure that out on their own.
Tacking a step back
And that’s so hard – letting go of my children as they get older, taking a step away. Sitting back as they make mistakes. Watching them fail forwards or be taken advantage of. Knowing they could do things differently and should have made better choices whilst also accepting that failure is part of their ‘growth’. But I do have to take a step back, even when I’m their mum and I absolutely don’t want to. Because hindsight has taught me that there are lessons they have to learn on their own.
Hindsight is a parenting irony
I’ve changed so much as a parent over the years. With more experience behind me, I’ve evolved into a different teacher, listener, fixer, nurturer. I know for example if I had a new child now I would be a lot different to the first time around, because of what I’ve learnt on the way. But I think I’d just end up in the same situation – I’d do it differently, and then come across a million different things I wished in hindsight I could go back and change.
I’m not perfect, and none of us are programmed, nor taught how to parent correctly. Each child has different needs and really there is no one solution fits all scenario. We are all just doing the best we can. Hindsight is a parenting irony, in that I cannot apply what I’ve learned along the way, and will always live with the feeling that if I could go back, I would have done things entirely differently.
Parenting is hard at every stage
So if you see a parent struggling, don’t be the first to cast accusations or imply blame. Don’t tell them all the things you’ve learned as if they should know these things already or as if your personal situation is entirely the same as their parenting experience. The most helpful thing anyone can do for a parent is to just try to be kind. You have no idea of their situation or troubles. And as parents, as hard as it is we should try to not worry about the labelling, the shaming, the pride, the guilt, embarrassments and failures. Parenting is not a competition, it is our lives. We all want to raise healthy respectable human beings and we all try our best to do so.
I want to continue to be a better parent
Parenting is hard at every stage, from childhood to adult hood. It doesn’t end just because they hit 16, 18 or 21. It’s a long term commitment for life. I will keep learning how to improve and endeavour to build strong relationships with my kids as they are the deepest love in my heart, (despite all the grey hairs they bring me). At the end of the day, I think kindness wins overall. So I’ll concentrate on being kind to my children, because they are always learning. And I’ll be kind to myself, because so am I. And no matter what happens along the way, I’ll try and remember that it’s not my fault.
If you’re going through the same thing as a parent, honestly we do our best, but saying that doesn’t stop that self-criticising that creeps in with every action, and it’s a daily challenge I know all too well as a parent. Hindsight is a constant irony of the trials of parenting. And no matter how much I overthink, self-analyse or criticize myself along the way, I do my very best, just as any parent does and that really is enough.