herald

Friday 15 December 2017

I am going to be a mum first then a friend to my children

MY personal nightmare goes like this. It's 8.25am. The place is our kitchen. Supernanny is standing, glaring at me over her short-rimmed spectacles, hands on hips, tutting and shaking her head into the imaginary camera.

At what is said to be the most stressful time of the day for parents trying to get children out to school, Supernanny would have to invest in a rack of naughty steps for me to get control back.

At that time, when Aoise and Edward need to hear positive encouragement, my panic buttons are flashing internally like the demented White Rabbit saying: "We're late. We're late."

It's no wonder, as I'm trying to put the top back on to the marmalade jar and slide Ed's arm into his coat, that the following can happen: cries of "he/she's copying me" or "he/she is making faces at me".

This can sometimes end with me avoiding the noise, fleeing to the bathroom, staring in the mirror and counting to 10 (really quickly, because, obviously, we have no time) before purposefully walking back up the hall and dishing out a number of blood-curdling consequences.

Today, it was "no kick boxing". I had regained control. So why then, this afternoon, was I sitting in the club mentally urging them on -- watching them scream out their commands while kicking a boxing bag into shape? Why was I hoping they'd look around, wave and smile to reassure me they would not be mentally scarred for life from all the commotion that morning?

And then it hit me -- it looked as if I was becoming one of those statistics; one of those 30pc of parents who admit to being a pushover.

A British Ministry of Defence poll warns that less than a quarter of parents are reluctant to discipline their child in case they, heaven forbid, upset the little mites. More than half confess they are more a "friend" than a parent, and, shockingly, only one in three has ever sent a child to bed early (the bedroom, here, possibly having our children's Holy Grail of Sky TV, which hubby and I refuse).

And that made me think: was a hectic lifestyle ironically turning me into a wimpy, stressed tornado, who just wanted her children to like her?

Was I prepared to have peace, at any price? Where had Control Mum gone? Blue Peter Mum? She'd delighted in spending time cutting out shapes with her children, using double-sided sticky tape and saving masses of toilet-roll tubes just in case we decided to make space ships. Where, too, was Abba-esque Mum? The one who could crank up the volume on the stereo, switch on the toy disco-ball light without getting a headache and have everyone leaping about the kitchen? And, most shocking of all, where was Swotty Mum, who'd spent the nights scoring out chore charts, and fussing over yellow smiley stickers for "good work" and red ones for "excellent". Most important of all, I realised the naughty step was now lying in the shed.



Smudge

Somewhere along the line, things had got blurred. That smudge came from them growing up and me wondering if I could be their friend and mother. Can you have both?

"We talk and I listen to him," one mum recently told me. "I'm more like his sister and we have great fun together."

Another friend holds the opposite view. She's a single mum with a five-year-old daughter. "Yes, she is my best friend and I love her with all my heart, but I do believe in discipling my child when she is misbehaving and, yes, sometimes that does involve a slap on the back of the hand.

"In today's society, children get too much too soon and don't have any boundaries. Children need to learn respect and that they cannot have everything they ask for."

I remember school chums who called their parents by their first names. It sounded so cool. But as sis says: "Were we ever friends with mum and dad as children? Not really. In some ways, it can show a lack of respect. Parents have a role to bring up their children to be good and responsible adults. Friendship comes with maturity on the part of the children and sometimes the parent."

Kitchen -- 4pm. I just want to be friends, I think. But sorry, I'm mum first. Children, it's not you, it's me, as I'm rummaging around the back of the cupboard to see if I can find some of those left-over, faded, yellow stickers to brighten up the naughty step.

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