Firstly to quote Bowlby you only have to be “Good enough”! The perfect parent does not exist and if it/they did then they would not be setting their children a good example. It is ok to get it wrong and it is what you do then that is crucial. Teaching our children to fail and then put things right is a far better way of parenting than pretending that you are perfect.
Anyway, how did I get to be thinking about this? Well last night I was doing some training with colleagues around providing younger children with the correct environment to flourish. We watch a DVD where examples of creative play, story telling and interaction took place. The respected specialist, whom I have a great deal of admiration for, was narrating and showing examples that we should do this and we should do that. The examples of the things shown were really good engaging activities that looked like wonderful fun. I whole heartedly agree that an interactive, fun, engaging and respectful style of parenting is absolutely right. In fact I identified many activities that I did with my own son. Being identified was, that by using these things meant that your child would develop into a healthy young person and not one of the teenagers that spends to much time on the computer and are unable to cope in the world. EEEErrrrr hang on….my Lil Bear is currently becoming one of those?
So of course, first thing that goes through my mind is “did I interact with him enough?” “did I give him enough stimulus?” “did I get the balance between self play, adult interactive play and social play?” Oh my Goodness, I must have got it wrong, I cant have done enough!!!
Bull S**t….I did all those things in abundance which is why even with doing that stuff I knew that my Lil Bear wasn’t a neglected toddler, but a child whom struggled to make sense of the world in the same way as others did. I have watched other parents do far less than I ever would and some more and at the end of the day if your child has a neurodevelopmental disorder (hate the word disorder, think it should be difference),then with the best will in the world you are still going to encounter a set of problem that you wouldn’t have expected.
I do not once regret putting in the time and energy, then the extra time and energy (because it looked like I wasn’t getting it right). I think trying to give your children your very best attention, ear, support, encouragement and love is absolutely essential. The but is…. Don’t then criticise yourself and beat yourself up when problems arise, if you know you have done your very best, which should not be perfect, but “Good Enough” then your conscience is clear.
It is very hard to get to this state of mind especially when others make judgements and assumptions so quickly and refuse to think that there are other possibilities. I have been accused of being “one of those single mothers” “over protective” “unstable”” Too soft”…oh I know the list goes on. I have sat in meetings with social workers, teachers and other professionals as a professional myself and have heard the generalisation and assumption making that takes place. Even my colleagues who know my situation trail a list of judgements off as quick as examples come up. I stand my corner and get them to reflect on their remarks and remind them that as humanistic counsellors we should demonstrate a non-judgemental attitude. This of course leads us back to being perfect, which we are not. So yes I too make judgements but I like to leave a window for being proved wrong and to do this I listen.
I wish more people would have listened to me on our journey. Lil Bear was 12 when he got diagnosed, a good 9 years of severe anxiety and as for the toll on me………