The G of Living Imperfectly: Generations and Guilt #atozchallenge

Whether you’re working from home because your kid is sick, you freelance or you’re still looking for a job, there’s one thing you must do during a conference call: Get your kid to shut up.

Children hate anyone who takes your attention away from them. Like the animals that can sense an impending earth-quake, children can tell when you are about to say something very important to a client. They have a superpower and they use it for evil. You must prepare. – Sh*tty Mum: The Parenting Guide For The Rest Of Us by Laurie Kilmartin, Karen Moline, Alice Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner, Abrams Image 2012

Letter GIf you are a parent who is always perfect in how you deal with your children and have no tolerance for those who are not then you are going to hate this post. I suggest you look away now to avoid the stress and anxiety not to mention beads of sweat that will form above your immaculately presented upper lip once you have delved into my imperfect world. For I am about to jump into that can of worms that is perfection and parenting or as I sometimes call it, perfecting the generations.

I have been a human being for 50 years. I have been a parent for almost 20 of those years. Little did I know that almost 20 years ago, I would be given my pass to the secret code. The Mo Code. Back in 2012, I wrote about the Mo Code in a blog about how to survive a road trips with teenagers. The Mo Code is my term for things that real mothers do and say, rather than what they should say. This is in sharp contrast to the utterances of Stepford mothers or the advice given by parenting manuals and advice columns, highlighting a kind of parenting credibility gap.

From the day I first gave birth, I was thrown into a vortex of expectation, both mine and others’. Everyone wants to be perceived to be the perfect parent, or if not perfect then at least a good one. And so the Mo Code comes into play. How dare we admit that parenting is hard or that little Johnny sometimes wears the same socks for three days straight? Or that we have allowed our children to watch TV for 15 minutes whilst taking a client call? Or that we sometimes feel overwhelmed, ill-equipped, tired and stressed, namely we are not perfect parents? Most of us admit these things only to the closest of confidants and definitely behind the curtain.

And then there’s the guilt. Guilt, parenting and perfection is the great triumvirate of birthing. Those clever ad executives with their baby product clients know this and peddle all three. Everyone’s a winner, right? Well everyone except us parents. Because any satisfaction or that we may have gained from buying into this consumer perfection, quickly evaporates when the next product comes onto the market.

Really, at the end of the day the only legitimate judges of our parenting are our children and ourselves, and even then how success in parenting is defined is highly subjective.

The important thing is that we keep parenting real. We need to talk about the hardships, the pitfalls, the wins and the losses and what really works for us. And we need to do it without guilt and with humour and authenticity. In this way we will be doing a huge service notimagesFEOCU3NX only to ourselves but to future generations of parents who will carry the weight of expectation well beyond the time their baby bump has disappeared.

For this reason, a book such as Sh*tty Mum: The Parenting Guide For The Rest Of Us  is to be welcomed. Not everyone will applaud or understand as the Amazon reviews will attest. However, it brings the real covert behaviour of the Mo Code out into the open and creates a new dialogue from a most refreshing angle. As this post from Essential Kids tells us:

In fact, a recent survey by parenting website BabyCentre in the UK found that lying is widespread among mothers. The pressure on them to be ‘perfect’ led to more than half of those questioned saying they felt the need to lie about their parenting skills to make them seem like better parents to others. Nine out of ten mothers confessed to using television to keep their children quiet, while 71 per cent admitted to lying to their child to make their day easier and a fifth of those questioned said they occasionally replaced a healthy dinner with chocolate and sweets.

These statistics don’t surprise me and I suspect they would be closely replicated in Australia.

It’s a real shame that we feel the need to be pressured by perception. Parenting is a unique journey for all of us and we should be supporting each other rather than treating it and our kids as the trophies of our perfection.

I really hope that one day we can let our parenting authenticity shine though so that we can enjoy it 100% guilt free like these authors.

Herding Teenagers? Unlocking The Secrets Of The Mo Code

School holidays.

Two seemingly innocuous words. School is a means of delivering education and education means empowerment. Holidays are fun, free, relaxed and something to look forward to.  School holidays are therefore an opportunity for fun, free, relaxed empowerment, right?

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If you are a mother of teenagers, like me, you’re now reading this sporting an all knowing grin. That grin that says you know otherwise, that years of experience has taught you that all the relaxing, fun and empowerment are on the kids’ side of the ledger and that you will be secretly applauding the day school resumes and your life returns to the track called S-A-N-I-T-Y. We never speak of this publicly of course, except to our closest confidants lest we be judged as anything less than wonderful parents. But tap into the roots of maternal realism and you will discover a world of secret code, secret handshakes and stories you won’t find in What To Expect When You Are Expecting.  This is called the Mo Code.

After three weeks of mid year break, my teens are back at school. This three-week break was a little different to past holiday breaks for several reasons. My 17 year old, Future Baseball Star, was eight short weeks away from “Trials” which is the last big exam event/ practice run before the real deal starting in late October. My 13 year old, Geek God in Training, just entered “manhood”, a significant event which we have celebrated in the past by embarking on a coming-of-age trip. As a family, we needed time together before the Teens scatter to the wind of their own lives. So, it was with much hope and determination that I herded the Teens and the Italian Stallion together for a five day road trip.

After you have attempted to herd cats teenagers a few times, you begin to learn the anatomy of the herding experience and as a community service to all of you would be mothers or mothers of teenage boys  in training, I present to you the following extract from the Mo Code. Please treat this with the reverence and confidentiality deserving of a rare glimpse into the secrets of the Code. For all you experienced mothers of teens or adults, treat this as reinforcement and part of the duty to support each other in this most arduous part of the parenting journey.

Herding Teens 101

    1. Once you have decided on the activity for which herding is required, give your teens the two weeks to go early warning signal. This allows time for your teens to process the information (this will take about four days) and for them to feel that they have issued you with the required number of complaints about said activity.
    2. Ignore said complaints or only deal with them by way of witty rejoinder. Never try to reason with your teens or state that contrary to their beliefs, your chosen activity will be fun, entertaining and memorable. Never show doubt or fear. Teens can sniff both a mile away.

    3.  During the lead up to the activity, eat and sleep well. You will need your strength.

    4. Invite your teens to research the place or activity beforehand and to suggest any things they might like to do. They will ignore this opportunity, but it is important that you issue the invitation.

    5. Subtly remind your teens to arrange or rearrange their schedules so that you have the required time available for the chosen activity. The key here is subtlety – you wouldn’t want them to miss anything really important to them, would you?

    6. Sporadically drop into conversation some of the detail of the activity you plan, but do not respond to the complaints or if you do, use only the strategy in B above. Teens do not like complete surprises.

    7. Issue the one week to go early warning signal. For details, see A above.

    8. Reassure your teens that any hotel or place where you will stay has electricity and a WIFI connection. Trust me, you can’t fight this one. It’s better to go with it and make sure you spend time away from the hotel or place.

    9. Have your teens pack their clothes etc. But do a quick check before you leave or you might end up with two T-shirts, three gadget chargers and one pair of boxers for a five day stay in winter! Have said teen take any necessary remedial packing action.

    10. Keep up the good cheer, positivity and unflinching witty rejoinders… you’re almost there!

    11. Pack any personal provisions you need to see you through the “Cacophony Of Complaints”. This is the first hour after you embark on your chosen activity where your teens will escalate their complaints to a crescendo and eventually come to realise there is no turning back. It is critical at this point you adhere to point B  above and also that you drop a few fart jokes (as opposed to actual farts) here and there. Deflection/distraction –  works for teens as well as it does for toddlers, only the level of (non) sophistication changes.  As for provisions, I suggest, as a minimum, an I-Pod, chocolate, chewing gum, reviews and info on the latest teen movies, games and bands and a water pistol.

    12. Playfully engage with your teenagers for the next couple of hours, humorously lamenting with them about how much being away from their usual routine does actually suck. Reminding them about world poverty at this point is not a good tactic, although reminding them about similar suckiness their mates had to endure at the hands of their parents seems to work.

    13. Herding completed. You are now free to go about the business of making happy family memories.

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There it is, the thirteen steps to herding success from the Mo Code.  Successful herding will give you immense satisfaction and wonderful anecdotes.  Trust me, I know…I’m a professional.

Have you ever had to convince a less than supportive group to come along with you somewhere? Do you have any great herding stories? Any refinements to my extract from the Mo Code?