Now that you are also a parent, you have joined the most discriminatory society in the world. Whatever you do, you will be judged. By other parents, first and foremost. By your yet childless friends who probably secretly think that they will be much better than you. By your own children, as they reach their teenage years and realise that they can blame most of their issues on you. By your children’s new partners when your kids start their own adult relationships and make their own mistakes. And to add to that, now your own children are probably embarassed about you.
You try to control their lives by being strict and teaching them how to tidy their rooms. Or you let them grow like weeds in the back garden, with the freedom you never had. You read books like Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua who demands that you become tough and pushy and you feel bad about letting your son give up gymnastics because he thought it was boring (read too structured and why can’t he do as many headstands as he like?). You read Dr Bryan Caplan’s Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun than You Think and you congratulate yourself on that weekend when you let them have pizza and watch TV for hours – of course, the real reason for that was that you were too bloody knackered to cook and play Scrabble. But there is still a tiny niggling thought at the back of your mind, that maybe if you relax too much, they will grow up fat, lazy, stupid and poor and it will all be your fault.
The thing is, books about parenting sell. And if the author has a Dr in front of their name and a couple of normal kids without any obvious issues, then many parents would buy it. They would probably even read it, some would try the techniques and then most would revert to their natural ways of bringing up children.
I am envious and always slightly puzzled by those parents who seem to have it all figured out. Where do they get that confidence from? How do they know that what they are doing will definitely be the right thing? Until their children are adults, and well into their adulthood, how can those confident freaks know? And how great their lives must be, without all that fretting and worrying that the rest of us go through!
To all you normal parents – you are doing the right thing. As long as you are not abusing your kids, you are doing the right thing. If you are strict, your child might grow up a high achiever because of it, or an ordinary person with a messy house in spite of it. If you are of the laisser-faire society, your child might become a chilled-out well balanced human being because of it, or have extreme OCD in spite of it. No matter what you do, you can’t control it. Not really. And I am talking to myself now. You need to relax. Not about your children. About you. No matter what you do, everyone will still judge. That’s part of being a parent.