Parenting Rule 1: Smugness bites you in the arse- every damn time.
I learned this lesson early. I made the fatal mistake of prematurely announcing, “My baby sleeps through the night.” It didn’t end well; a full night’s sleep eluded me for the next 9 months.
A memory that made me smile was recently triggered whilst eavesdropping at a café. I wasn’t intentionally eavesdropping – I just happened to be sitting adjacent to two women where a clear, loud, one way conversation was taking place. If I’m honest, I suspect the entire café was also eavesdropping.
The monologue revolved around the extraordinary virtues of her teenage son, her high expectations of his behaviour and his total unquestioning obedience. The glazed expression on her coffee companions face, hinted that this was not the first time she had heard this diatribe.
I so dearly wanted to tap the speaker on the shoulder and say, “Please, please, be careful. Did you in fact obey every word your Parents said as a teen?” I wanted to share a memory with her, of a time I sat with a very self assured mother of twin teenage daughters. There were absolutely no boys or alcohol in the girls lives. Curfews were strict and they abided by all the rules she very clearly laid down. Except they didn’t. The previous weekend I had been fortunate enough to help a friend supervise her teenage sons party. The very twins had arrived in an older boy’s car, so drunk that before they entered the house they vomited on the veranda. I personally had been in charge of the hose. Apparently this was the weekend modus operendi of the entire social group.
At the time I listened politely, and felt rather sad that this mother thought I was aghast at her parenting skills when in fact, I was aghast at her cluelessness. Had she not been so ferociously certain of their compliance I might have shared my date with the hose, but I was a little nervous to burst her bubble.*
As the two women left the café the listener gave me the smallest smile and wink, leaving me somehow reassured that there was far more to the story of the poor compliant boy, which gladdened my heart a little. I pondered why in fact, as parents, we have a need to portray an illusion of ‘perfect’ when it comes to our children. Because let’s face it, perfect IS an illusion, and its dull and un brave and not a burden we need to handicap our children with – ever.
Until we meet again,
* I met her again some months later – the truth had been revealed and she was pleasantly resolute and I also know that the girls grew into wonderful young people, making their mother justifiably proud.