Monday, 11 January 2010

A case of rose-coloured spectacles?

I was having a phone conversation with my Mother a while ago whilst at the same time trying to fend off various requests from one or other of my children. The conversation stopped, started, stopped and re-started a number of times while I listened to Renée tell me that Edie had pulled her hair, Edie ask me if she could have something to eat, Renée tell me that Edie had now bitten her and Edie ask me to wipe her bottom.

These days, it's extremely rare that I manage to have a phonecall without any interruptions, at least during the day. The important ones, the ones where it really won't do to have a screaming child in the background have to be left until the evening, by which time I'm completely exhausted and can think of nothing I'd like less than to be chatting on the phone. Needless to say, I don't make many phonecalls.

But during this conversation with my mother, she happened to say, something along the lines of,

"These days children really are the centre of attention aren't they?"

I bristled a little I think.

"What do you mean Mum?" I asked.

"Well when you and your brother were younger, it never used to be like that at all. Your Father and I had our own lives."

And before you start imagining me as a young child being herded around by an endless supply of Nannys, I can assure you that that couldn't be further from the truth. My Mother was at home with the two of us, trying her best to keep us entertained, just as I try my my little ones.

I pressed her on it a bit more, interested to uncover her secret to perfect parenting. Annoyingly, though, she couldn't recall the elusive elixir, only that things had been different.

But it did get me thinking.

Yes, my children are the centre of my world. But do I have any other choice? I mean, do I, if I choose to be a Stay-at-Home-Mother? They're five and three. Can I really expect them to entertain each other while I get on and lead an independent life in another room? Do I even want to? Well, yes, actually, sometimes I do, but that's probably because I've been couped up with them for rather too long, thanks to the snow.

But seriously, we've all heard the old expression 'children should be seen and not heard'. Now I can't imagine that that applies to anyone these days, but it must have done once.

Have children changed so much? Have the adults? Do we indulge our children with too much attention? Or perhaps, as I'm sure is the case with my Mother, she likes to put on her rose-coloured spectacles. I'll give you a quick example. We never had snotty noses as children. Oh yes, and childbirth didn't hurt at all.

See what I mean?

So maybe in a few years, I'll look back, put on my rose-coloured spectacles too and forget just how hard it was.

Here's hoping.

In the meantime, I just have a couple of bottoms that need wiping...

Apart from my own, obviously.


  1. I think kids have become the centre of some families rather than part of the family. In fact, the formula for perfect parenting is... nah, just kidding.

    Re the phone thing. I have taugh Flea that if the person she wants to talk is already speaking to someone else then she MUST say "excuse me". If they don't immediately respond then she waits until they stop talking. When she's trying to get my attention rather than saying "excuse me Mummy" 25 times, I taught her to just put her hand on my arm. I know she's there, and a quick glance is enough to reassure her that I'll pay attention when I'm free. Works for us, anyway.

  2. Hello you,
    Came across my old blog and re-read some of your comments, so nice.
    But on to all things 'rosey'.
    I do think we might pop those glasses on later on in life, as we conveniently forget all the screaming we did when our various children were little and just remember the good bits.
    Hope all is well.

  3. My mother in law wearing wears massive double rimmed thick lensed rose spectacled glasses.

    When I was in labour, just before I left for the hospital to birth the 3 year old, she said to me ...

    "Don't worry, it's just like a stomach ache"

  4. I think both sides of this are true. I do think we are more involved with our kids, for better or worse. I don't have any memories of my mother, who stayed home with us when we were small, PLAYING with us. But I feel big pressure to be playing with and reading to my son when we are home. Maybe it is better for our kids, maybe it is worse. Who knows!

    On the other hand.... they forget. I know they do. I am already completely putting off the parents of infants and toddlers, thinking "Get over it already. It is not THAT hard!" But if I stop to really think, I can remember that it WAS really THAT hard. I'm only a few years out and I am already forgetting.

  5. Don't be fooled. My kids were born in the 80s and they acted the same way. It's just that you are the pinnacle of their world when they are young. And even a phone is an unwanted interruption. Enjoy it! When they reach 15 or so you will be the last thing on their mind :)

  6. I taught mine the same way Sally did, and when they were old enough I also taught them to understand that some things (eg "I've just set fire to the cat") were important enough to interrupt the grown-ups for, and some things (eg "It's not fair, s/he won't let me do xxx") weren't. One of my funniest moments was realising they had gone suspiciously quiet when we had some friends over, only to find them fighting viciously but entirely silently in an out of the way corner upstairs so as not to interrupt anybody!

    People do forget that it's bloody hard work when they're little, and I'm convinced that there's more pressure on mothers these days to be perfect at everything - I certainly don't remember my Mum playing with me when I was little, all I remember is her doing endless housework and training me to join in as soon as I could hold a dustpan. Needless to say, I never do ANY now if I can help it...

  7. Oooh, perish the thought, you've just brought back memories in the bottom wiping area... glad that's over with and she can do it herself!!!

    But I know exactly what you mean. Why is it that the older generations never had it as bad with their kids, but times were so much harder? A lot of households didn't have phones and some didn't have tellies. There weren't as many toys around, and money was scarcer (is that a word, hang on, I'll ask me mum), but I know my own mum has completely forgotten how difficult it is to bring up children. She has my sister and 4 yr old niece living with her and everyday I hear of some drama which all boils down to forgetting the past. Oh well, I guess the one consolation is that we can do the same when we're old.

    CJ xx

  8. Yes, we often do wear rose coloured spectacles, it's true, as time dulls the memories of bottom wiping and grizzles just as it does the pain of childbirth, which is just as well or no-one would have more than one child! I think we children were the centre of my parent's universe just as mine now are, and yours too. If I hadn't come into motherhood again in my 40's I probably would have gone down the same route of complaining that kids are allowed to get away with too much nowadays etc etc, but thankfully little E has kept me grounded enough to realise that kids have always been the same - a lovely handful. x

  9. My grandmother used to tell my sister and me that we were much more spoiled than her children....but then again there were just two of us, while she and my grandpa had seven. My mom and her siblings were often left to fend for themselves and they didn’t have as many toys and material comforts as my sister and I had...but again, there weren’t as many available at that time.
    While primarily older generations may argue that children today are increasingly indulged, I think this is probably a consequence of changing times/culture of how children are viewed as well as a case of rose-coloured spectacle wearing. If my grandma had a baby tomorrow, her approach to child-rearing mostly likely would be a bit different.

  10. Both of my parents worked, after my sister and I were in Kindergarten (Reception,) so we had a live-in Nanny who watched us, who was picked up from her flat on Sunday evening, stayed with us all week in her room at the other end of the house, then we took her home on Friday night. And we would get home to an empty silent house, we'd look at our parents, they'd look at us, and we'd all kinda wander off to our own areas. I cannot remember my parents ever playing with us, not even a Board Game. Which is sad to me now, but then it was just normal.

    No, I didn't want to have my children not know who I was until they got to be 16-18, I wanted my children to have a Mommy, a Mummy whom they KNEW and could run to for comfort. So, yes, I worked part-time, but I had the type of career where my children could be with me, (great for breast-feeding,) and they were with me, every day. They learned early to be quiet when necessary, but also knew, if they needed ME, I was right there for them.

    It was hard and stressful, sure and I often failed, (and I still do,) but I wanted to give my children a gift for later in their life; when they think back and remembered their own childhoods later as adults, they would recall not just the holidays where parents relaxed and smiled (finally), but the thread of minutia that ran through their life, daily, constantly, back and forth and and created the weft and (yes) warp of the family they belonged to. I want my children to have this when I'm gone, a soothie of memories to wrap around them. That's what you are giving your two right now, a real childhood, made of sturdy fabric.

    Ok, ok, enough of the cloth references. I'm sorry I got carried away. It's so obvious I have this huge pile of mending to do, isn't it?

  11. I seem to remember having to 'get on with things' when I was young.
    I also remember being left at home on my own quite a lot.....and my thirteen year old brother having to shower me (when I was three)....which in my mind is just wrong.

  12. That exchange with your mother does sound spookily familiar to ones I have with mine. Although, as I am frequently reminded, she did it with three and I only have two. I hope we don't forget - that's partly why I'm writing my blog - so I can look back and remember what it was like.
    I find I get prickly (prefer your well chosen word - bristle)on anything to do with childcare with my mother even when I know there's no hidden agenda and even when she's complimenting me!

    Love your blog. From a fellow Brightonian. Or are you Hove actually?

  13. I think its a change in emphasis - now we want to be more involved with our children and perhaps have moved away from letting them play on their own. I certainly remember having to not disturb my mum whilst she got on with stuff but still her taking time to do things like cook with - perhaps rose tinted glasses on her part about how unintense kids are

  14. What a fantastic post. My parents both think that I do far too much with the boys. "Just leave them to it" my dad told me repeatedly last summer. Leave them to what exactly? Self induced lobotomies utiliising light sabres? The complete destruction of every piece of furniture and item of significant value you own? For a start, they had 2 daughters (who were both impeccably behaved angels, obviously) and never had to handle the combined (and commonly destructive) energy of boys just 2 years apart in age.

    I do remember being left to my own devices a lot as a kid. I played for hours in the garden or in the street with friends. If I got bored my mum would typically retort 'well, I am sure you can go and find some traffic to play with'. We went to the seaside one day a year in the summer holidays. From a very early age we took ourselves to the local playground. I never thought it was my right to assume that my mother, or father, was there to entertain me - although they loved us and obviously did get down on their hands and knees occasionally.

    I am a different mother. As difficult as it can be on any given day I really want to savor my son's company before they grow out of wanting me for a play mate. I often felt surplus to requirements where my mother and father were concerned and I don't ever want the boys to think that looking after them is just one giant chore (although a lot of the time, that is exactly how it feels).

    Gosh - haven't I rambled? Sorry!! Can you tell I really loved this post??

  15. What's the point of having children if they are not the centre of our world?

    Mind you, I think my glasses may have just tinted over a little. I saw someone in the supermarket the other day trying to control her very unruly little girl who was having a hissy fit near the cereals and I actually allowed myself to believe that my two never behaved like that in public !!!

    I'm off to the opticians ....

  16. My mum played with me. And she taught me (probably more than played with me, actually) and read to me and took me on adventures. She had a character called Betty who she would be (with a Brummie accent) to make me laugh (though actually sometimes Betty freaked me out a bit, as I recall). I did also play on my own and with friends - creating imaginary worlds and exploring them. We played family games in the evening when my dad was home from work, then my mum would go out to work (as a waitress in a restaurant) while my dad put me to bed and read me bedtime stories. I always got lots of attention and thrived with it.

    My sister, born 12 years later, was stuck in front of the TV a lot. My mum was working in her office - tutoring children from two of the local children's homes - a lot and my dad would just sit in the kitchen doing his crosswords and complain that my sister was using him as a climbing frame. My mum would give her attention to get her to do her reading or sums, but nowhere near as much as she did me. They did go on adventures together, as well, though. They did a lot of travelling to Esperanto congresses, and they had a good bond over that.

    So... my point? We had completely different childhoods, even with the same parents. Times change and people change with them. And our perception of our lives changes with them.

  17. Everyone has an opinion about the best way to parent our kids. Grandparents. Other parents. Single people without children. My gay hairdresser who sometimes babysits for friends.

    The bottom line is there really isn't one right way to parent. Children. Parents. Everyone is so different. Times have changed. Popular parenting styles have evolved. Cultural/ethnic differences exist even now. I don't really remember what giving birth felt like. Of course, I can expect that my memory of motherhood will get clouded over time.

    You're doing a great job raising your girls. Ignore your mother's comments.

  18. I think the previous generation spent more time cooking and ignoring the children, but they were still often busy for the family. I've been trying to ignore my children a little more - fostering independence and all. That's the excuse I give myself anyway.

  19. I don't think they remember. My Mum often tells me about how she worked and looked after us kids (she occasionally did some typing I think not quite running her own business!)and can't understand why the kids didn't just sit beatifically under my desk whilst I was working. Now they're older she can't understand why the grandson (nephew) had dreads and piercings and often says 'You girls werent like that!' Our Mums change (as we do) and so does our relationship with them until we inevitably start to take care of them. In the inbetween times they start to resent the kids' and how much attention they take (off them) and from us! I wrote about my Mum and the changing relationship recently here

  20. I've had exactly the same conversation with my mother and I think she's right, I do give my children more attention than she gave me. I would sit with her in the kitchen while she cooked but I can't remember her really playing with me, until I was older and we'd play card games etc. I also know that I didn't interrupt her when she was on the phone, because I knew I wasn't supposed to and I did what I was told (mostly!). I wish my children would do what they were told sometimes...

  21. Re the phone call thing - we didn't have telephones at home when I was little (in the 70s) so of course we couldn't interrupt mum on the phone!!

    In a way I agree with your mum in that we've let children become all attention seeking because we give them that attention. I have discussions with my husband about not giving daughter our full attention as soon as she demands it, but letting her know when we can play with her if we have a job to do. We kind of disagree on this, but I guess it's because I have the housework to do at home, plus paperwork, marking, decorating, gardening, etc, while he can just give her the attention and not think about the jobs! Heigh ho!

  22. Our phone barely rang when I was a kid ... and when it did we'd be just as excited as my mum and wouldn't think to interrupt! I do agree that those rose-tinted specs do go on the longer time marches on. Great post!

  23. Sally - you're so right with the phone thing - I think I really need to lay down some ground rules. Shall start today - thanks for the tips. And yes, children are now the centre rather than just a part of the family - good way of looking at it.

    Lulu's/Jo - Hello darling - d'you know what? I've been meaning to update my blog roll with your new blog for such a long time now - so sorry I haven't done it. I always visit people's blogs via my sidebar rather than through my reader which is probably why you haven't seen much of me :-( - crap blogging friend!! And yes, I'm looking forward to wearing the rose-coloured glasses actually - anything to make me forget the bad times!!

    Laura - Hee hee hee hee hee - that got you well-prepared for it then??!!! So funny. My Mum was just the same. And having been through labour twice, I know feel that my job is to tell future mothers the truth - not sure they all appreciate it though!

    Emily - Thanks for the comment - yeah it is really that hard - at the moment I haven't got to the point where I've forgotten, but I'm looking forward to putting the glasses on!! And yes, I do think we 'play' with our children a lot more - both stay at home mothers and working mothers - always pressure to be all things I think. Maybe we should all lighten up a bit...Having said that, chidlren's television is my best friend!

    Kim - Hi and thanks for popping by. Yes, you're right - I should really make the most of it shouldn't I??? I hate to think that I won't always be the centre of their world ;-))!