Mistakes I made


I’ve
 often worried about mistakes I made when my children were young. The other day, my youngest daughter wrote a searingly honest post on her blog, prompted by the story currently in the news about a young girl who has run away with her teacher.

I’m sure that if my children sat down with me individually, they could all remind me of things I did that hurt them, or that upset them. I don’t think that will happen, but if it did, I would admit my faults, and apologise unreservedly for all the times I failed.

It occurs to me though, that we are all affected in some way by things that have happened to us during our lives. These things are part of what made us into the people we are today. Past hurts can make us determined to be better parents to our own children.

I was blessed with wonderful parents who loved me and brought me up to the absolute best of their ability. I never doubted their love, and as a young child I always believed that they knew best.

In fact as I grew and started to form my own opinions about things that I knew were not in line with theirs, I did so quietly. I’d learned that my parents had very fixed views about some things, and that it was probably easier just to keep quiet about my own differing views.

It was as a result of my upbringing that when my children reached the age of about sixteen, I started to trust them with deciding when they were going to come home. The question was always “What time will you be home?”, and never an order to be home at a certain time. It worked for us. They often came home earlier than expected, because they knew it was their decision.

It was as a result of the trust I placed in my youngest daughter at the age of sixteen that she got into the difficulties she talked about in her blog. This has affected her all her life, has contributed to the bouts of depression she has suffered from, and has ultimately shaped her into the person she is today.

Whilst I cannot say that I’m glad it happened to her, I can say that I think that it made her a more thoughtful parent to her own teen. She will always have in the back of her mind the problems that might arise if he’s allowed to be in the company of some other adults too much. She will be watching for problems. She won’t automatically trust other parents with her child, as I did when she was sixteen…. and she might not expect her teen to be able to cope with making his own decisions when he is that age.

Perhaps as a result of her experiences, my daughter will be more like my parents were …she’ll have learned from my “mistakes” just as I learned how to parent from what I perceived to be their mistakes. Who knows? Maybe that’s why there’s such a bond between Grandparents and Grandchildren!

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Chains of connection

For some time now I’ve been reading and enjoying my younger daughter’s blog. I’ve been constantly surprised by the new insights I’ve gained into the life she lives, and sometimes by the way she thinks, but mainly I’ve been delighted to follow the way her children are growing and developing. It keeps them close to me despite the fact that they live about 200 miles away.

When my husband said he could help me set up my own blog, I thought at first it would be difficult to know what to write, but as I tend to be a bit opinionated , I think perhaps I won’t find it too difficult.

For today, I want to talk about how it felt when I was first told that I was going to be a Grandparent, nearly twenty years ago now. It came at a very sad time in my life, the news being given in the phone call I had made to my eldest son to tell him that his father and I were splitting up. So on the one hand I was terribly upset, and then I was being given this utterly joyous news.

Up until then I had given little thought to Grandchildren and to their relationships with their Grandparents, beyond the very happy memories I had of my own Grandparents. Suddenly all those jokes came back to me,about Grandparents and their obsessions with their Grandchildren, their boasting and their photographs. 

I started to think about something my Father had said to me about something entirely different. He had been talking to me about The Book of Common Prayer. He said he liked to go to services where they used these old  prayers, because they gave him a connection to his ancestors, who would have said the same prayers, used the same words, followed the same services.

I realised then that one of the things that was so amazing about this new Grandchild, was that she was connected through the generations to all those people. That however she turned out it was due in some way to each of these people, diluted the further back you go, of course, but that is what makes it so interesting. Who knows whether her eyes are like those of her great grandmother? We know her curls are from her mother…and perhaps also from my Dad.

Since the birth of that first beautiful child, I’ve been blessed with nine more Grandchildren, and I’ve searched the faces of each newborn baby to see what I could recognize in them. Some of them have looked a lot like my own babies, some looked more like the other parent. All of them had something of me, whether I could see it or not. All of them are special individuals, and I like to think that something of my parents and my grandparents lives on in each one of them. It may be my Father’s intelligence, my Mother’s beauty, my Grandmother’s work ethic, my Grandfather’s stubborn ways, who knows? All I know is that I have never got over the feeling of wonder at the birth of another child into the chain that is our family.

Imagination as an aid to childcare.

I was watching an episode of Nanny 911 this morning. The parents seemed to think that they could make up for endless moving from state to state for work, by offering the children no discipline at all. The children were playing with machetes outside, and the father seemed to think it was ok because he had blunted the blades. They still looked pretty lethal to me!

It made me wonder whether some people are incapable of imagining the consequences of things they do. Those parents can never have wondered what would happen if the little boys decided to play fight with their machetes.

On a police programme last week, a car was stopped because the children were not strapped in. A woman in the back seat had a child on her lap, and a small baby was strapped into a car seat, but the seat was not strapped in. The police officer was really angry, and told them he often had to deliver bad news to families, and didn’t want to have to do that to their families. The people were eastern Europeans, who couldn’t really see the problem, as at home they always travelled like that.

Last year I saw a little girl, aged about three. She was dancing around the shopping centre, and happily singing “We’re going to the dentist, We’re going to the dentist” I was watching her, thinking how lovely she was, when her mother grabbed hold of her and said “Will you shut up? What’s so good about going to the f***ing dentist anyway?”

The phrase “some people shouldn’t be allowed to have children” comes to mind. I was lucky, I had four children, but it must be very upsetting to people who are desperate to have a baby, to see people who have lovely children and don’t seem to appreciate how lucky they are.

Go into any town centre, and you’ll see it all. People shouting and swearing at their children. Pushing buggies whilst smoking. Babies being fed fast food rubbish, Women who can’t even be bothered to sit down and cuddle their babies whilst they are fed, so they prop the bottle up on the blankets, whilst they carry on wandering round the shops. People sitting outside pubs drinking whilst their children run around unchecked, and their babies remain in their buggies breathing in the smoke from their parent’s cigarettes.

Last night we had a meal in our local pub. There were children running round outside, banging on the windows and generally just being children, having fun. Their parents were not taking any notice of what was going on. What was most worrying to me was that it was dark, and the children were not staying in the garden, they were playing in the car park.

In our local supermarket there is a coffee shop, used by lots of young mums to meet up for a chat. I can’t tell you how many of them let their children get down from the table and run around. Do they not think about people walking around with boiling hot coffee? About elderly people who might over balance?

It really is just a matter of thinking ahead and using that wonderful gift, the imagination. When my children were small, my friend said she thought I was a bit mean because I got cross with my son for helping himself to a biscuit from the tin in the kitchen. I didn’t mind him having a biscuit, I just had the rule that the children could not eat anything without asking permission first. Not because I was mean, just because one day they might help themselves to Granny’s tablets, thinking they were sweets.

So here I am, a grandmother, and still resisting the urge to interfere and tell people to start using their imaginations!