What Kind of Parent are You?


I was lucky to receive three cards on Mothers’ Day. The first to arrive was a sparkly depiction of two unicorns-large and small-portraying an idealised, rainbow-backed vision of motherhood, cosy, pretty and delightful. The second a hand-drawn picture of two figures side-by-side, one larger in trousers [me], the other small in a dress [Grand-Offspring]. The third a photo of a ravaged old hag.

Of course I’m delighted by all of these depictions of myself, as parent and grandparent, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, they’ve all remembered the day. If your Offspring have negotiated all the hurdles on the way to adulthood and continue to communicate with you it must be some kind of miracle.

Parenting is like navigating the seas, periods of calm punctuated by violent storms. Sometimes the storms are catastrophic. Sometimes the calms are flat enough to believe you are becalmed and stranded, never to reach the shore.

When the offspring are safely grown and in their own nests you may consider your duty done but that is very far from the truth. You continue to feel responsible, to offer support, to care, in a way that few creatures in the natural world do [except perhaps for elephants?].

Myself, 38 years ago and pregnant, I was an ignoramus on the subject of babies. While I was acquainted with the development and behaviour of young children, when I had the first I was exhausted and  panicky in equal measures-a rabbit caught in the headlights. My long held belief that babies ate and slept was shattered. As they grew I was unprepared for the frustration, penury and utter boredom that life with toddlers can be. But in other ways they were, at that time, the very best part of my life.

Becoming a grandparent is well documented as delightful and easier [in that you ‘can hand them back’] although there are hazards and traps to avoid. I was prey to much advice as a new mum-‘Pull yourself together; you’ve only had a baby’ was one gem [as I lay strapped to various devices in the hospital bed, post Caesarian Section]. So I try to stick to merely describing my own experiences while also attempting to adhere to parental rules and guidelines regarding treats etc

There is a huge variety of parenting styles, from controlling to liberal and most are dependent on our personalities as adults and, perhaps, our own experiences as children. There is no such thing as a perfect parent so we must rely on guesswork, friends or manuals to solve conundrums like faddy eating. The fact that I came to depend on the quaintly old-fashioned ‘Baby and Child Care’ by Dr Benjamin Spock demonstrates how long ago I became a mum. But if not trendy, his approach to child rearing seemed calm and sensible at the time.

Above all I do hope I’ve managed to maintain some vestiges of humour as they’ve grown up. Long may it continue!


What well behaved Mummies must do-and not do…

                When Mothers Day comes around it is always delightful to see or hear from one’s offspring, receive cards and display graceful acceptance of their dutiful appreciation. But other than this I tend to feel a little melancholy as the day arrives; because I have reached the advanced stage of becoming the oldest generation, the matriarch, if you like, and this means I have no older, female family members to choose a card or buy a bunch of flowers for.

                I also grow more aware, as my adult children grow older of the pitfalls I can easily fall into whilst attempting not to replicate the behaviour of my own parents as they aged. Whilst I have promised myself what and what not to do, I begin to realise that I may transgress without knowing it! Horrors! So in the interests of keeping to the regime of well behaved, uncontroversial, un-embarrassing mother I write this list of Dos and Don’ts for myself.


Dress appropriately

Remember that song about the ‘Harper Valley PTA’?…[a number one hit for Jeannie C Riley in 1969] Well I suppose most people will be too young! Basically it was about a ‘mom’ who wore miniskirts to the school parents’ meetings. Whilst I am not yet ready, I feel, for elasticated waist, floral skirts and Bri-nylon ski pants I must be aware of the minefield of fashion faux pas that stretches ahead.


Undertake age-appropriate activities

One of the difficulties with this one is that I don’t actually know what activities are or are not age-appropriate. Should I be attending flower arranging classes, knitting things and playing Bridge? Or is it ok to take up motor-bike riding, learn electric guitar and go to raves?



Remember things

That thing about going upstairs for an item and returning with something totally different does not improve with age, rather it becomes worse. Being aware of memory loss does not address the problem. What was I saying?



Repeat Oneself

My own offspring are not slow to remind me of stories I’ve already told them, remarks and events they’ve heard before, which is, of course only too kind of them. I’m sure it is a most galling and irritating trait. I imagine, however that if I were to stray off into the realms of fantasy there would be much more cause for alarm.

My own offspring are not……..[oops!]



Like what they like

There is only one thing worse than your mum hating your music. That’s if she likes it. Apparently one should not claim to share one’s sprog’s taste in music, fashion, film or any other area of culture, or even, in fact know that these names exist, or ask about them. [Relates to number 2 of the ‘dos’].




This must be the worst behaviour any ageing parent can display. ‘You don’t wanna do it like that’- the most annoying words any adult offspring could have the misfortune to hear. I resolve to hold my tongue, that is if I can remember to do so.


Happy Mothers Day!

At some point in our lives as parents we cease to become god-like beings our babies look up to and want to emulate and become mildly comic and ridiculous caricatures of ourselves or annoying, cloying, drivelling old buffers.

How to avoid all this? I really don’t know.

Answers on a postcard…….[or in the comments box, please]