I have had a goal since starting this blog. That goal has been to post a blog at least once a week. I have also aimed to use this blog as a means of teasing out issues and thoughts. However – we are now in the school holidays and I admit defeat on this second part.
School holidays have meant:
- A wonderful family holiday, which we will all cherish. But limited internet access (due to poor connections, plus competing demands for the one ipad we took with us). Plus – who wants to spend their holidays stuck in front of a screen? (as I kept reminding myself as the connection dropped out).
- Later nights for the kids, and lots more time together. Which is also wonderful, and should be the priority (but eats into the thinking / blog time).
- I’ve also been working during the end of last week and this week (except for today). Thursdays are normally my day to myself. Instead, I have been playing Wii, reading with the kids, folding washing, cleaning up spilt cereal, and getting ready for a trip to the museum, to be followed by a couple of days at the beach.
- A realisation that I signed up for a number of online programs. The most intensive has been Monash University’s online course ‘Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance‘. For everyone who has been interested in the idea of mindfulness (often a term thrown around and sounding somewhat jargon-y), I’d really recommend it. But it takes a bit of time to do the different components each week, if you are actually to absorb them.
- A conscious effort to act on last week’s post, and incorporate a bit more ‘wondering / wandering / thinking / appreciating’ into my day, particularly with a better morning routine.
- Chatty and interactive children (I wouldn’t have it any other way – but I’ve been realising, and the mindfulness course has brought it home, that I can’t focus on them and writing). I have my daughter now timing me as I write. I’m allowed half an hour. Ten minutes to go. Sigh.
Bad Parenting – and how children are now absorbing information from parents
I did, however, manage to read some books, including ‘Bad Mother‘, by Ayelet Waldman (which had been on my list for a while). It’s essentially a series of essays (possibly some from her columns), and the title comes from the uproar (apparently) that she received when writing 10 years ago that she loves her husband more than her children. The essays were entertainingly written, interesting and sometimes enlightening.
One topic she did cover, which I hadn’t thought about, is a change in the way children are absorbing information from their parents- and it’s quite different.
Back when she was a child (and I was – as Ayelet is also in her (early, ahem) 40s), she would find out things about adult life from listening into to her parents’ conversations, sitting on the stairs when she was meant to be in bed, listening to what her parents were discussing, ‘snooping’ through cupboards and drawers for any interesting information, and so on. Being an observer, in other words.
I was a bit the same. I didn’t look for, find or read my parents’ diaries (don’t worry, Mum and Dad). I suspect they didn’t have extensive piles of self analysis written material anyway, probably because they were less inclined to record and analyse everything (it would be the last thing they wanted to do, given that as teachers, they spent their working lives preparing lessons, articles and some books for students, and correcting other people’s written work). Alternatively, they could have been very sneaky in where they hid it – which I doubt, as I had no problem finding other things, like the hidden chocolates (back of the bottom shelf of the dining room dresser reserved for the ‘best’ dinner setting), or loose change (top drawer of Dad’s bedside table – that practice didn’t last long, though, once Mum and Dad become aware of it). More specifically, we were party to lunches out with family friends, where we would quietly sit, reading, or be in bed when dinner parties were held at our homes. And we would hear snippets of conversations. Which we would digest, but rarely discuss.
Nowadays, we seem to be less inclined to have these conversations away from the kids. The division between parent and child time is less strict, and my kids, at least, are actively participating in our conversations. And even when they are doing something else, they are quite open in informing us of what they have heard. As Ayelet noted, her children cheerfully acknowledge that, even when they seem to absorbed in their own playing or activities, their ears prick up when she and her husband are fighting, sharing anything about conflict or distress with friends (ie. illness of divorce), or in the midst of an ‘intimate act’ (don’t be deluded by the closed door).
‘None of us have any choice but to live with the way in which our children are making sense of the adult world, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. What goes around, after all, always ends up coming around. Karma. baby. It surely would have made my parents uncomfortable had they known about my childhood snooping through their drawers and closets, my listening in. But back in those days we didn’t talk about such things. I kept my own counsel, drew my own conclusions. I never would have dared to cheerfully confess my eavesdropping over fried chicken and biscuit. Perhaps that is something to be grateful for. Because my own children feel no self-consciousness about their nosiness, at least I am warned.’
‘My children have put me on notice. They have advised me of their intention, like mine before them, like that of all children, to latch onto tales and examples of conflict, despair, misery, and sadness in order to learn what it is like to be a grown-up. This is what it has always meant to be a child’.
These paragraphs gave me pause for thought. I think it is a good thing that my kids are learning to be an adult through watching and participating. I hope that, as well as the ‘tales and examples of conflict, despair, misery, and sadness’, they are also absorbing some of the positives displays of helping others out, of problem solving, of joy and healing, to be well rounded and compassionate adults too. I also think that, unlike Ayelet and her husband, my husband and I potentially limit what we say BECAUSE our children are there. And they are there a lot. So we limit how open we are with each other, so as not to get the kids worried and we often fall asleep before we are sure they have. I love the idea they are more active in the conversations we have – but it made me also realise the importance of time that is really by ourselves.
And we need to schedule these times in more consciously. Otherwise, with the awareness of little ears listening, we will be tempted to live as co-parents, rather than partners first – and that’s not a good thing.
What is your opinion? Do you think that there has been a shift in parent / kid relationships, and what are the pros and cons of this?