I often recount what an outstanding mother I was before I became a mother.
I was going to: exclusively breast feed my children until they were each twenty-seven whilst supplementing my liquid gold with 100% organic, free-range, homemade, manna from heaven.
Alas, then I had children.
However, I have managed to maintain a few ideas that I came up with, or learnt about, before I became a mother - and they resonate just as loudly with me now as they did then. Some of these ideas I came up with myself and some I discovered along my personal growth journey. What I can say, though, is that all of the concepts described below appealed to me before I became a mother and have survived nearly five years (KAH) of parenthood.
So it’s not entirely true what they say, you can know the kind of mother you want to be, before you become one…
1. No Spanking.
This may seem like a fairly obvious one but to be honest we did veer off the 'no-physical-punishment' path for a week or so and it SUCKED!
Firstly; it doesn’t work, at all. Secondly your kids hate you and, thirdly you hate YOURSELF.
The reasons for not spanking seem utterly obvious to me but if it isn’t to you then the fact that spanking (including your own child/ren) is now 100% illegal in South Africa, should do the trick.
2. Emotionally-Neutral relationship to food.
I will never tell my child to: finish his food, eat vegetables first, rather eat this because it’s healthy, have one more bite, etc. I just want my kids to know their own bodies and trust those magical and wise cues that are naturally presented to them all day long. their instincts.
They can eat when they are hungry and drink when they are thirsty. Whatever is in the house is available to them (granted this is generally a selection of very nutritious and mainly raw options) and, if I’m eating something I will never disallow it because it’s “not good for them” (e.g. chocolate). we only have one rule which is that there is nothing more to eat after dinner.
I genuinely feel like my children will never prioritize their own health if the priority of health is not modeled for them. My health is just as important to our family as theirs. I work so hard to model the relationship with food that I want them to have so when I do eat something like chocolate I always say: “isn’t this totally delicious?” and then I offer them some. sometimes they actually even turn me down.
I like to educate my kids that anything can be elevated for the good and so when they are eating, whatever they’re eating, I describe something positive about that food type. Obviously this is easier to do with a carrot than a slice of cake but you get the picture.
Food is not a reward, food is not a punishment, food is not good or bad or dangerous or the panacea. Food is just food.
Now, I obviously can’t say with absolute certainty that my childrens' eating habits are a direct result of my efforts but they do literally love cucumber and oranges and pistachio nuts and avocado (and chocolate cake).
3. The F-Word is a swear word in our house. Fat. The F-word is Fat.
This a pretty simple rule but its implications run deep. You can’t just eliminate the word ‘fat’ from your functional lexicon and assume your children will think you love your body. In the words of my genius psychologist, Steven Kaplan: “he’s two he’s not an idiot”.
Children see, hear and FEEL everything and so if you really want to create a home where an awareness of fat vs. thin doesn’t even exists then you have to live a life where fat vs. thin doesn’t exists. And the struggle is real.
As a result I’ve had to fall in love with myself - all of the kilos, all of the pimples, all of the wrinkles (not that many – thank you Botox!) and all of the things in between. I do the same for my husband and children and I let my kids hear me. I tell myself and my husband how good we look when I notice it and I joke about it when we don’t.
I often catch my nearly five tear old son telling my two year old daughter how beautiful she looks. Tov L'Hodot LaShem!
4. We don’t tell them they’re clever and we don’t tell them to be careful.
These are rte other swear words in our home and this is an actual linguistic exercise if there ever was one.
Even though we don’t use those words we do still want to convey those messages: 'you are clever, you are intelligent, you are capable, you can manage' and, 'you can get hurt, this is dangerous' etc.
So basically we spend our days coming up with creative ways to describe to our children HOW they have been clever and HOW they can be careful (read: 'your left foot is very close to the edge of the jungle gym - what do you want to do about that Judah?' and 'i'm amazed at how creatively you built a ship with your magnatiles'). It can be exhausting sometimes but I can’t bear the thought of the alternative: inauthentic and insincere knee-jerk reactions that serve my ego far more than they do my child’s self-esteem or all round safety and well-being.
5. Absolutely Zero Physical Affection without Permission.
This rule applies but is not limited to: parents, grandparents, hired caregivers, friends, siblings, teachers, and so on.
Only to be relaxed in an emergency (eg pulling my child out of the road etc).
If someone tells my child they can only have a treat for a hug I delete their number. You have been warned.
So there you have it; I’m outstanding - the world’s best mother some say…
Stay tuned for the parenting maxims I SUCK at!