Monday, 30 November 2015

The sins of the mother...

... will be visited upon the son.

Back in the mists of time, BigBear and I made a pact that if we had a child we would do everything we could to make sure said child grew up without all our insecurities, fears, low self-esteem and general fear in the face of life.

Some time after that I sat in my doctor's office, my boy playing at my feet and sobbed that I didn't want him to turn out like me.

And here we are, with a lovely little four-year old boy, and I find myself doing and saying and being all the wrong things. I can almost stand outside myself and watch my own actions, screaming internally "No, no, no, no, no, don't say that to him!" And yet, there I go, teaching him that only success matters, that only being right and good and perfect matters, that making mistakes is wrong and bad. I don't want to teach him those things. I want him to know that he's loved and wonderful and brilliant no matter what he does. But then I go and get over-tired and become the mother I don't want to be.

You're probably thinking I did something really, really awful now. And I didn't, not really. But I did see a fleeting moment of hurt and confusion in his eyes, enough to know that I was imparting the wrong lesson.

We were writing LittleBear's thank you letters for his birthday presents, with me playing the part of Boswell to his Johnson. I'm not sure what the recipients will make of such statements as "I liked it a lot and a lot and a lot and a lot!" but I wrote what he told me to write. Then he applied the carefully chosen dinosaur sticker (what else?) to the letter, and wrote his own name. I'd written it out for him beforehand, just as a reminder of how to form the letters, and he did really very well.

But then I got frustrated. I got frustrated because we weren't just doing it for fun, or for his entertainment. We were Trying To Get Something Done. It's when I make my worst parenting decisions. That, or when I Have Expectations. Both of those are the ultimate killers of joy. They're when I stop living in the moment, stop allowing LittleBear to be his own sweet self and start imposing weird and impractical and inconsistent rules upon him.

So, there's LittleBear, accidentally writing P instead of b, or drawing an o the same size as an R when the previous time he'd got his proportions much better. And what did I do? I didn't say "That's really well done, my lovely boy", no, I said "No, that's wrong. Why did you do that? You didn't listen and you're not paying attention!" I got cross. I told him off. And he looked hurt and confused and said "It was just a little mistake..." And my heart broke just a little bit. Because he's only four, and why should he be writing already? Because he has years and years ahead of him when getting things right or wrong will matter. Because he was enjoying making marks and having a go, and I spoilt it. Today went from being fun to being me trying to make him do something so I would feel better about the manner in which we were thanking people for his presents. I didn't want to look bad by having my LittleBear make mistakes where other people could see them. It was about my pride, about me wanting to do The Right Thing, about me wanting things to be perfect, about me and not my LittleBear.

When we finished and I was swamped with remorse and guilt and self-recriminations, I gave him a big cuddle and told him he'd done a lovely job writing and I explained that I'd been wrong to be cross when he'd made little mistakes, that it was OK to make mistakes because that's how we learn. I asked if he understood, as I snuggled my nose into his lovely soft hair and he replied ...

"Mummy, you're in charge of Humboldt Penguin, and I'm in charge of Giganotosaurus and they're going to go hunting for snow bunnies together."

And they did.

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