I had a very clear idea of the sort of parent I would be - calm, capable, organised, upbeat, ready to cope with anything, and always available to my children. As a result, I knew that my daughters would be charming, well-behaved, kind, helpful and the best of friends.
Well….. First of all I had sons. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how these things worked, but somehow it had never occurred to me that I would be expected to raise boys.
Oh well, I thought, they’re just kids, they can’t be that different to girls. But it was soon clear they were taking what is seen as the more typically male approach to life. They never stopped moving, exploring, climbing, rolling, jumping and pushing anything in their way and taking anything and everything apart…. I tried to keep them busy by enrolling in lots of local activities. But we didn’t exactly make a great impression there either, so we stopped going. Occasionally I got a moment to sit on the sofa and closed my eyes, but they would climb on my head and open my eye-lids….
And they were not at all happy about sharing me. In fact, my first son’s first words were “bye bye baby” and, although we laugh at it now, I literally couldn’t leave either of them alone or with each other for a minute.
Each night I fell asleep worrying about how I could stop them getting into more trouble the next day, and woke each morning with a sense of dread. The vision we had for our family was slipping away, and I couldn’t see what I could do about it.
During a particularly traumatic shopping expedition, which involved a broken buggy, some biting, face-licking, and pinching (of each other, not items in the shop thank goodness), someone tapped me on the shoulder and gently asked if I was OK. I burst into tears, and fled. On my way home, I walked past 68 Thurleigh Road, and saw a sign saying “Positive Parenting Courses”. I’d never heard of learning to be a parent. To be honest, I couldn’t quite imagine how they combined positivity with parenting. But I memorised the phone number, which was a feat in itself, and took the plunge to leave the boys alone for the few minutes it took to call.
The first class was a little daunting. But it turned out my experience was not unique, which was reassuring, and we covered so many practical skills including how to give positive attention and how to respond to difficult behaviour without blaming and shaming. I was eager to get into action. I woke the next morning with a plan, and a spring in my step and a renewed energy.
It didn’t happen overnight, but the dynamics at home shifted. My mindset changed, and I felt so much calmer and more connected with my sons. I started to see their best bits, even with all the chaos, and I started to help them behave better, rather than putting my energies into stopping them behaving badly. Parenting our sons was still hard work but now it had a positive momentum and the closeness and understanding we had sought.
And now they’re both adults, and have left home for university. And I miss them in just the way I hoped I would. When Lockdowns brought us together again, while there was some sadness about the things they were missing, it was a joy to spend so much time together.