The alternative voluntary job

parenting1Having recently discovered Viber I got chatting to a friend from Uganda who put me to task about my blog page that appears to have gone rather silent. It wasn’t for lack of topics to blog about, the real reason was down to my restlessness and poor practice in using my time.

To kick-start off my blog I’ve been asked to give my take on parenting. First of all, this is one definition on what parenting is about…

Good parenting happens when a person creates for a child a stable, nurturing home environment, is a positive role model, and plays a positive and active part in a child’s life. Good parents provide moral and spiritual guidance, set limits, and provide consequences for a child’s behaviour. Good parents accept responsibility for the total development of the child and guide the child in making sound, healthy, life decisions through open communication and mutual respect. – US systems policy, 2002

Most people think that a good parent is someone who has “good” kids. The truth is, however, that good parents can have any kind of kids and for the worst part not at all reflecting their goodness, but rather the genetic character of the child. What parents can claim credit or blame for, however, is their own behaviour.392683_10150447486643558_228102923557_8866395_670180841_n

Parents can do a good or poor job of parenting: socializing and educating their kids and providing a healthy model for them to emulate but whether or not the character of their child/children opts to emulate is an entirely different matter. In my native language of Luganda there is a saying which loosely translates, “we [mothers] give birth to the body but not personality”…tuzaala mubiri so si mwoyo.

Whilst definitions of parenting get isolated in to “good/bad/poor”, I am not keen on the use of ‘good parenting’; instead I opt to say positive parenting practice. Reason being: seeking to add what is positive or focusing on the positives in all situations adds motivation both to the one practicing the parenting and the one being parented.

Parenting style and family factors

The approach to parenting differs dependent on personality, character and existing family factors. It can also be compounded by cultural and/or religious beliefs and practices.

Whilst I have been accorded some beautiful compliments over how well my daughters are maturing in to young ladies, I do not accept the credit is all down to my parenting alone as a single mother/parent over the years. This was before I met my current partner of the last five years and hopefully one to spend my old age with. My partner has actually accentuated my parenting role.

A whole system of support way back from birth not least their genetic makeup has played and still is playing a part in how these young people are maturing in to as adults. Verna Springer, a friend, mentor, sister from another ‘mother’, midwife being  one of many!

Overall and in effect I owe my parenting skills to my late aunt who nurtured me to become the person I grew in to. Authoritarian and stern, but effective.

My older brother ‘Uncle Beno’ has been a pillar of support since I can remember, taking on the role of a male figure during the girl’s formative years and still does to this day. This is not to say the girls’ father was absent physically from their lives.  He was…at least until they were teens. Enabling the girls to grow up balanced was more important than indulging my revenge for the adult issues that existed between me and their father.

Mind you, divorce or separation where children are involved does have an impact on all concerned and this is where parenting skills can truly be challenged. This and the teenage years are the critical periods of parenting  where I’ve been advocating for parental support from the social system here in the UK.

When parents separate or divorce, it is imperative to support the children to not take the burden of the issues the adults have between them.  When the affected parent(s) are hurting it is sometimes very difficult for the characters/personalities involved to put the interests of the children foremost.  Hence why it is imperative for social systems to give this area redress and support.

Comparisons

Nostalgia allowing and if I am to compare the brief childhood time spent in Uganda, parenting was a practical and community affair entailing physical care and practical education. The business of psychological or emotional care was predominantly the preserve of grand parents – assuming the grandparents had welcomed your mother! If not, well you just forewent the luxury of wallowing in a grandparent’s dotting and instead faced up to reality early.

Everyone older than you was a parent and could even discipline you as they saw fit. A child belonged to the whole clan in which shared responsibility was expected. Note: I said nostalgia. I cannot vouch for what is taking place now.

These ends (UK) when you become a parent and find yourself to not have a supporting network of friends or extended family members, then I’m afraid you need to imagine yourself as someone that has just taken on flying a plane for the first time. I remember having to take my eldest daughter with me shopping for groceries 72hrs after she’d made entrance in to the world. It certainly wasn’t for wanting to show her off – I simply didn’t have anyone to leave her home with and Tesco hadn’t started doing home deliveries then! That’s another thing that comes to mind…it is rare to find new-born babies with their mothers shopping or in public places in Uganda. Give it time though…

Whilst reading up on parenting books may help, and hopefully if you’ve had exposure or even practice looking after other people’s children, the reality of you being in the driving seat can be overwhelming. And that’s only in the early part of parenting when the little bundle of joy has not yet learnt to assert his/her rights other than exercising the vocal chords and lungs.
It’s the teenage years that can make or break you as a parent when you alternate between losing the will to leave and wondering if somehow in your labour pangs you picked up the wrong child. Accepting I was the most hateful person and yelled at for refusing to agree to what was deemed to be cool became part and parcel of my teenage parenting drill. Remember I had this on rotation of 3 girls.

Teenage yearsP3

Teenage parenting is the period when you have to reach deep to use all your skills, both mental and physical as a parent to keep the communication open while remembering to remain mutually respective to your child. It is important to get in there first before external influence does it for you in exploiting their naivety. I remember my telepathy skills went up a notch monitoring what was spoken or not spoken, taking interest in friends made or dropped, then the sleepless nights when the rebellion phase hits. Repeating the mantra of focusing on their beautiful positive characters did save the day and my sanity.

P4In the process I also learnt that reacting to inappropriate behaviour made it worse resulting in the behaviour becoming an attention seeking method. Instead I would pay attention to appropriate behaviour by rewarding or praising it. I find as humans even in my working environment, praise or show of sincere appreciation wins big time in motivating people. As does genuine respect. of an individual’s input no matter how small in age or status/social standing  – well all need to feel appreciated and respected.  If I was practicing empathy, customer care skills, management etc at my workplace, why not put it to use on the most precious investment in my domestic setting?

Of course this is not to say or believe all at home was like Little House on the Prairie! In between I’d experience moments of wanting to send them to Uganda to be straightened out or until their hormones calmed down. I am aware some parents in the diaspora have taken this option, however this was not for me.  I’d remember that my role in their lives did not just extend to just the pleasurable aspects of their existence but in all stages of their growing up to hopefully become responsible persons.   Using that option would simply be passing on my inability to learn how to deal with the effects of their changes and instead giving that stage of their development to someone else. I guess  I like doing things the hard way!

Sending them off to boarding school like had been part of my earlier childhood was not an option and besides, boarding school fees here in UK unless your earnings are well over £40K, is not an option. I missed out on that boat soon as I had the 3rd child and was looking at a single parent income.

Conclusion

It is my belief that family therapy is vital in as much as parenting support to all of us parents especially when we lack any kind of extended family or community support. It gets parents to re-evaluate how they interact with each other as a family and seek solutions on how best to communicate taking in to account each other’s personalities and characters.  No one method fits all – parenting skills are an acquired skill on the job moulded to fit in accordance to the personalities, quirks or individual characters that make up a family unit. Open communication remains the key in all and sometimes this key can only become visible when family therapy or support is in place.

The experience has shown me the value of having taken a career break in the first 5yrs of my daughters lives. It put me in a better position to study and learn their characters and how best to communicate with them as individuals – something I wouldn’t have been able to perhaps do fully if I’d placed them with another person. It also made me realise why grandparents always seemed to know more about the characters of their grandchildren than the parents. However, this has been my experience and my journey.  It shouldn’t translate to be a template for everyone. but rather as a reference point on some issues that might come up during parenting.

I wish every parent the best and for them to enjoy the experience. I have.

Teenage days in half term

This week marked the start of yet another break in school attendance just before the winter term leading up to the Christmas break. I approach it with mixed apprehension as always for not only do I have to divide my time with keeping an eye on the domestic front that is carrying three ladies who are seeking to fill every moment of their time away from school with exciting adventures, I also have to keep an eye on the work front. It has been a mixture of all sorts on the work front…not in the least sedate.
Whilst on my break at the office, I decided to look into booking some tickets for the Halloween night at our local theme park – Thorpe Park. The youngest of the girls had been begging me for weeks to purchase a yearly ticket as this would enable her to attend as and whenever she wanted.
She wanted the yearly ticket so much she had even offered I give her this as a present instead of a birthday party which she decided she was going to have next January. Only of course, I was not privy to this arrangement; I am merely informed and should provide the funds to facilitate it happening. Whilst I would definitely consider the suggestion as being worth, I wanted to use her new need as leverage to get her to tidy away her items of clothing amongst all else she is into these days and has taken to depositing anywhere and everywhere there is space in the house. In response to being asked to tidy or clean up, I often get inaudible and unintelligible mumblings. At times she will tell me “soon” or “later” when prompted to tidy away or clean up any mess she has made. I believe there is a dictionary explanation, one which I have yet to learn or explained to, which equates these two [soon/later] words to an action that never materialise without me the parent resorting to removing privileges as a prompt. As it were – I made a deal: if she were to keep up to a routine of tidying up her stuff in addition to cleaning up any mess she made, I would get the yearly tickets. Let’s just say, the yearly tickets are still an idea in the sales ledger.
After finding that getting a group booking for the theme tickets was cheaper overall, I rung home to advise the girls to round themselves up in to a sizeable group along with their friends so that we could arrange a group booking. Sadly this resulted in all various issues that I’m not even going to get into right now. Safe to say, they all agreed the idea for Halloween escapades at Thorpe Park were not going to be happening this year. After talking to the youngest girl, I decided the best way forward would be to arrange a family event instead which we could all attend and advised her of this. Unfortunately, the most appealing event to the whole family didn’t come cheap and neither were any spaces left for the half term week. Still it would be an early Christmas family present….or so I thought!
The middle daughter was the only one in the lounge along with mom at the time of my return home this evening. She was busy chatting on the laptop with her girlfriends – sometimes the laptop takes over where the phone leaves where she is concerned. She is so attached to her mobile that even when she is not taking a call, she will hold the handset to her ear whilst talking to you in person. However, lo behold, the chat on the laptop must have been quite riveting, she actually had the mobile resting on the table and had not noticed my return until much later when I headed out to the kitchen. Even then it was in an after thought to the plans she appeared to have been busy concocting on the computer because the first thing she asked me was if I could lend her some money. Now this is something that I not only find irritating but amusing somewhat. A person who is not even in employment nor has any savings, asking you to lend him/her money. How, might one ask; are they planning on repaying it back? Baffling how the language of communicating is being constantly attacked.

Seeing as I’d just placed a large payout on a family event and my accounts for the month were tightened already, I resisted the first urge of simply saying “No”. From past experience such an answer leads to a prolonged dance of whining “whys” ..or “ its just so unfair” coupled with bizarre reasoning on her part and quite frankly, I was so tired I needed a breather before I could go for another round with parenting skills which had become frozen from the commute home. After the warmth had spread inside me, I attempted to listen to her reasoning – which didn’t improve even with the cup of tea inside of me. Ok – you help me out here. She wanted to borrow… no okay, like I give her money which she can repay in doing chores around the house for me (i.e. clean her room, tidy away stuff, oh and wash her dishes up) so she and a couple of friends could go dinner. Details of which were sketchy – and I am asking myself: what kind of dinner do teenage kids get at £20/head and where was the venue? It’s a hotel… A friend can get them booked in and that way they all get to hang around there without inconveniencing any of their parents’ homes. She sulks and says she will find a way to get the money as she feels embarrassed that she had already “flopped” the Halloween theme park thing and does not want to look bad to her friends after promising them something else.
You are probably thinking, why don’t I let her come hang around the house with her mates to avoid the expenses and the “hotel” booking…I’m still not convinced about the hotel by-the-way and I’ve told her to forget that idea for now… I want to meet this so-called friend first and we take it from there. Instead she is also to go check out some gym and pool clubs as social venues with her friends and let me know – the hotel idea is not even lukewarm with me and as her mom, I will have the last word on that. The reason I wouldn’t let her bring her friends around the house for a sleep-over is because of past broken rules. This particular daughter has issues with giving exact numbers of friends she says she is bringing over for a sleep-over. This also happens to stray to gender. From experience two friends in her dictionary equate 6 persons and she is unable to differentiate between genders. It’s the norm for her to have boys mixed in with girls someway during the course of the sleepover night so your house ends up like a hostel for teens. So with the mathematics and gender being done in her minds understanding, it’s anyone’s guess that she will turn up with 20 friends or more, when she told you she was having 5. This is why I put a stop to sleep-over gatherings. On occasion she appears to understand my take – on other days, she simply hates my guts for not seeing things her way although she is respectful enough not to voice it or tell it to my face. It’s her younger sister who holds no bars to letting rip.
The youngest being 13 is at that stage in life when she hates each and everyone at any given moment with a passion and will scream it at you threatening to run off etc as an end to her tantrums. Her smart mouth often gets many of us so angry that we wonder how we get through her tantrums. She is the typical nursery rhyme character of that little girl with a curl…when she is good she is so good, and when she is bad, she is absolutely horrid! I am actually quite proud that the middle girl has matured enough to not be drawn in physical battles with her anymore. My prayers are not going in vain… there is a God up there keeping me from committing blue murder. As I prepare to rest this body and head of mine, I pray that my middle daughter gets past this phase of socialising like the world depends on it! May she be able to find gym workouts to be more of a benefit seeing as she is adamant she does not wish to go to the teen social club? She appears to have strong views about this as she says; she has enough friends and does not wish to make any more which she feels social clubs are about. Can someone explain to me, why is it that some teens would rather hang out within their chosen group, watching movies, eating pizzas and basically just sitting around as opposed to getting involved in physical activities? Oh and she will not do swimming – it ruins her makeup and hair…
Perhaps the question before is something I should post out as a status on one of them social networks as opposed to putting it to myself in this blog…