Responsibility. Having children bestows onto you potentially the most responsibility you will ever receive in your life. I don't know about you but six weeks after having my first child the responsibility became overwhelming and I began having anxiety attacks whenever she showed signs of illness, or when I became convinced I was doing something 'wrong'. My baby never slept (why did everyone else have a baby who slept?) She had colic from almost day one (why did no else have colicky babies?) It took me months before I realised that everyone else was just as insecure as me and becoming a new parent is simply mind blowing (in good ways as well as terrifying).
Despite knowing that everyone else felt the same, I never shirked off any of the responsibility. It was always my job to ensure my children were raised to be well-rounded, competent and fully functioning (whatever the hell that actually means) by the time they reached adulthood. Therefore, I continued to beat myself up when something didn't go to plan.
'Mum, you forgot my book bag, argh, you will have to go and get it!'
'Mum, you sent me to school in a uniform covered in food.'
Cue guilt, cue emotional torment, cue all feelings that I really must be the worst parent in the world. But then it dawned on me, when do we stop taking responsibility for our children's actions? I certainly won't be held responsible for the terrible business decisions they make in their thirties, or their terrible taste in boy/girl friends, so why on earth am I held responsible for everything that is going wrong now? Last week my three year old dropped her pear on the walk home from preschool. In the world of a tired three year old, this was quite literally the worst thing to ever happen. I considered the five second rule, but given I was steering her around the biggest pile of dog poo ever as she dropped it, I decided against it.
'Mummy, look what you did, I want my pear'... lots of crying, feet stamping, promises of new pears as soon as she got home etc. But as the meltdown continued all the way home I eventually cracked. Actually it wasn't my fault, I told her, if she had been watching where she was going I wouldn't have had to steer her around a massive pile of dog poo. If she had been holding her pear with two hands, as I asked her to, she wouldn't have dropped it. If someone had actually cleaned up their dog poo none of this would have happened. We all know that it is too much to ask of a preschooler, they never watch where they are going, and they never do as you suggest, but that doesn't make it my fault.
Petty, perhaps, but if I think back to all the things I have taken the blame for, I really shouldn't have sweated over most of them. forgotten schoolbags for instance, she is definitely old enough to start taking responsibility of her own belongings and so we discussed it. We discussed how I will always try and help her, but I have other children to get out of the house, other things going around in my head, it is important that she looks after herself. We had to discuss it again when she failed to keep her room tidy, or when her special music box was broken because it was left on the floor, so yes, we are not quite there yet. But I feel we have made a start, and you have to start somewhere.
Cutting yourself some slack on the responsibility front does not make you a bad parent; if we go around accepting all our children's judgement errors as our own, when do they really learn right from wrong? My eldest (and my youngest in fact) certainly wont be starting secondary school using the excuse 'my mum didn't remind me pick up my homework' so why have I allowed it to be an acceptable excuse in recent days? The best we can do for our children is to teach them right from wrong, to lead a good example, and to own up to our own mistakes, if they have good role models in their life then I hope, in turn, they will make positive leaders to others in future. Until that days comes I am going to sweat the small stuff much less and when things don't go quite right for my kids, it won't always be my fault. Sure, some days will be hard, and I hate the idea that they may be hurting when things don't turn out well. However, I appreciate every day is a lesson, I will guide them, as a teacher might, but they have to learn that only they can truly determine their own future.