parents

8 reasons why stir-fry parenting works

Note: this is not stir fry parenting.

There’s a lot of hand-wringing over raising kids these days, isn’t there? Mostly over kids who are well fed, well educated and well loved. I don’t know if the hand-wringing benefits the kids but I do know that it’s exhausting parents and that can’t be good for anyone.

1. I don’t spend 10 seconds feeling sorry for my kids. Unless they are bleeding or vomiting, I don’t get too upset on their behalf. If they miss a party because we’ll be away or the budget means they can do gymnastics or ballet but not both –  that’s a bit of a shame but not much. Tears over not being in the same class as your best friend are tears wasted and missing the Junior Masterchef final because it’s on a Sunday night isn’t worth me emailing the CEO of Ten.

2. You’re special but not THAT special. I reckon if you sign up for a school or a sport, you go with the flow. If your class does NAPLAN, so do you. If everyone is expected to swim in the carnival, you will swim. Even if you hate it. The good swimmers need someone to beat so it’s a way of helping them feel good. Chances are those kids aren’t as stellar in the classroom so give them their moment.

3. Go outside. This isn’t possible for families who live in apartments or arctic environments but if it’s possible for you, I highly recommend it. If you’re shopping for a house and have a choice between a media room and a backyard, go for the latter. There are myriad benefits: healthy appetites; vibrant imaginations and a house that stays tidier, longer. Of course the kids need stuff to do outside so you might need to furnish them with props – old bedsheets, pots and pans, a trampoline if you can afford it. Or (best of all) other kids. Get to know your neighbours and open your world to them. Be clear they are there to play –  not to be fed and watered. We installed a bubbler in the yard for precisely this purpose.

4. It’s okay to suit yourself sometimes. When my daughter was offered a place at a kindy closer to home than the one my son went to, I leapt at it even though there was a question over whether the program was as good. One mother questioned my decision, ‘You wouldn’t compromise her education for your own convenience would you?’ she asked.  ‘In a heartbeat,’ I replied. It was kindy. I had a son in school and was pregnant with our third. Fifteen minutes saved was fifteen minutes gained and that’s priceless. So far, no ill effects of the b-grade kindy are evident.

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5. Classrooms are for kids. I try to keep out of classrooms. I trust the teachers and more or less leave them to it.  Also, I feel kids need stories to tell – what happened at school, at the party, in the playground. If you’re always there, what’s there to tell? And they need bad stories as well as good – the cranky supervisor at after-school care, the kid who hogs the swings, the spider in the toilets.

6. ‘I can’t be everywhere.’ This is a fact, not an apology. Kids are very good at making you believe everyone’s parents will be at the sports carnival and everyone’s mother does tuckshop and they will be the only one with an Australian explorer diorama they actually made themselves. It is not true. Be there when you can be and give them a hug when you can’t.

7. Third children rarely get pony parties and that’s okay. I know parents who bust a gut making sure all their kids are indulged as much as the first. This is expensive, exhausting and pointless. Either they weren’t there or can’t remember. When my youngest child (Sally) caught a glimpse of the photos of her older brother’s ridiculous first birthday party, I reminded her she regularly stays up beyond 9pm – something Ben never did at five. She has also seen the first two Harry Potter movies. So no ‘mummy medals’ for me.

8. Kids are not cakes; they’re more like stir-fries. You can kind of make it up as you go along. I know people who disagree and slavishly follow the recipe – thinking if they add the correct quantities of organic vegetables, time out and Italian tuition the only possible outcome is a genial Rhodes scholar with Wimbledon potential. These people stress if an ingredient is unavailable or forgotten. They spend their lives checking to see how it’s working and angsting through the oven door.

Those who subscribe to stir-fry parenting work with what they have. Sure, there are a few rules to follow – a hot wok works best, ingredients should be more or less the same size –  but the results are delicious, exciting and the best part is no two stir-fries are ever the same.

Kate Hunter is an advertising copywriter with 20 years experience and hundreds of ads under her belt. She’s also written two novels for young readers: Mosquito Advertising, The Parfizz Pitch and Mosquito Advertising, The Blade Brief. You can visit Kate’s website here or follow her on twitter here.

Do you have a parenting philosophy?  Did your parents stir fry or did they stick to a recipe?

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