parents

You aren’t morally superior because you had a baby.

Bern with her daughter.

Is there such a thing as the perfect mother? I really don’t think so.

Are there ways to be a good mother? Award winning Guardian columnist, Suzanne Moore says yes. And I tend to agree with her.

Let’s face it, parenting is like a trying to navigate your way through a foreign country without a map or knowledge of the local language. You can read every book on the shelf but at the end of the day, you pretty much just have to trust your instincts, cross your fingers and hope for the best.

The rights and the wrongs are fairly black and white. DO NOT let them play on the road or light matches. DO try to feed them nutritious food and keep them sheltered and safe.

But there are some other, less obvious lessons as parents that we can’t be told about, that we have to experience firsthand to understand.

Suzanne Moore points out, it’s not all about you.

In her recent article that was published in The Observer, “How to be a good mother”, Moore encourages mothers to relax, recognise that no child ever died from crying and most importantly, to get a lock for the bedroom door “If you ever want to have sex again”.

Here are some more of her wisdoms:

“Everything is a phase. Even the long one from 10 to 16 called adolescence or the Seventh Circle of Hell. At this point you need to know only three things: children do not learn by your mistakes but by their own; the fact that they want you around does not mean they want to be with you or even talk to you; and lastly, parents are very poor at risk assessment. In other words: let them go.”

This too shall pass. It will feel like you are in the middle of a hurricane for most of your child’s life. Just know that from toddlerhood through to adulthood, they will keep you guessing. They will surprise you, scare you, delight you and often disappoint you. And although you won’t always like them, you will always love them. Hey, you might get lucky and never receive an eye roll or an irrational slammed door. If you do though, can you contact the Vatican? You may have just witnessed a miracle.

“If you want a life, make your children portable. Teach them to sit at tables in restaurants, sleep in airports, talk to strangers, pass out in buggies in pub gardens. Do not let them express their feelings at all times. This is manners. Please, thank you and knocking on a door before they go in will open doors for them for the rest of their lives.”

Seriously, that last sentence should be every school’s motto.

“Put a lock on your bedroom door if you want sex. Ever again.”

Seriously. Just do this. I say this even though my youngest child has learned how to spring the lock recently. Sometimes it feels like I gave birth to Butch Cassidy.

“Introduce them to new partners only if something going on is more than sex.”

Life is messy as an adult. Your own relationships can be confusing to your children but it doesn’t have to be. I agree with Suzanne here. Until you are sure that the person has the potential to be more than just ‘fun’, try and avoid introductions.

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“Understand that however many times they have seen you naked and “putting blue worms up her bottom” a little bit of mystery is still essential.”

I won’t elaborate here, but yes, there will come a time in your life when you are asked the question “What is that blue string Mummy?” Try to avoid or be suitably prepared.

“Education. You think your child is gifted? Amazing how all middle-class children are. If you think education is exams and networking with people exactly like you, please don’t drone on to me about it. Education is about connecting ideas and people.. As Tagore said: “Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”

Look, I get it. We all want to believe our children are brilliant. So if your child is super bright, that’s wonderful, but remember that being book smart doesn’t mean your child will be automatically happy. To be socially intelligent, to have compassion and empathy for others, these traits are just as important as getting an A in Algebra. In short, don’t turn your child into an academic arsehole just so you can tell your friends about it. There are many facets to a well-adjusted young person. Help them find the balance.

“You are not morally superior because you have reproduced. Do not alienate the child-free. Fight against the idea that kids are the ultimately privatised luxe item. We are collectively responsible for all our children. Therefore include those who desire to be included. We are all richer for it.”

Urgh. I’m a parent and I still hate morally superior parents. Seriously, it’s just the path that YOU or I have taken. This doesn’t mean it’s the right or best way. Each to their own.

“Staying together for the sake of the children. Really? The most screwed-up people I have ever met are the products of this delusion. Oh, and it’s the kids who have had self-sacrificing mothers who extract the cost later. There is nothing more lonely than parenting in a dead relationship. Why live a lie?”

I know firsthand that this is true. Our lives improved 100% the day my Mum left my Dad. Everyone was happier. I think parents underestimate their child’s ability to adapt. I’m not saying it’s easy, but in the long run, everyone is better off.

I think Suzanne sums it up beautifully with this:

“There is light at the end of the tunnel. Always. Motherhood is sentimentalised but ill-rewarded in our culture, and I speak as a selfish, difficult mother. But my children know I love them and that what matters is not A*s but happiness. My family is full of adoption, half-sibings, different dads. So I always say blood is not thicker than water. Love is thicker than blood. And the delight is to feel how deep that runs.

Oh, and take them to the sea. In the water we are all children. Even mothers.”

“Nothing quite takes your breath away like watching your child walk into school.”

For me, I’ve personally learned that nothing quite takes your breath away like watching your child walk into school. Sometimes they are hesitant; sometimes they stride in with confidence.

Yet no matter how old they are, or how young, you quickly realise that they are now responsible for themselves, that you just have to just watch them go be who they are going to be. That, and you can never have too many AA batteries in the kitchen drawer on Christmas day.

So how about you? What have you learned as a mum or parent? Or even as an outsider looking in? What do you think makes someone a good mum?

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