Friday, April 18, 2008

I take all my parenting tips from the Hollywood stars

I never thought Angelina Jolie and I had much in common, save for us both being partnered up to hotties and looking awkward when we wear high heels. But turns out, we share the greatest bond of all: we're really crap mothers.

I think women's magazines are poisonous, what with their misogyny and those dodgy clairvoyants, so I never read them, save in doctors' surgeries (when it's like anaesthetic to dull the one hour wait for my four o'clock appointment) and the chip and fizzy drink aisle of Coles, where I wander forlornly, wondering who thought getting rid of Atomic Tomato flavoured crisps was a justifiable way forward for Samboy. And here I read that grave fears are held for Ange and Brad's kids. Grave fears are held because there'll be six under six (I only ever got to two under two), the kids fight, they're jealous of each other and they're given junk food (which according to a dietician is a 'ticking time bomb') to eat. Truly, these kids are doomed, damned and betrayed by such cruelty, as their clearly disturbed behaviour (Pushing! Fighting over toys!) shows.

I have no idea if any of the reports are true (though I tend to doubt the reliability of 'sources' and 'those close to the couple') or if people believe them, and can't think it actually affects A & B in anyway to have this written about them, but it really shits me that these kinds of messages are spewed into my world for the punters' weekly dose of moral indignation.

In the last day or so Nell, Lu or both have:

* eaten marshmallows and green cordial before bed and then fallen asleep without brushing their teeth;
* watched the whole series of Walking With Dinosaurs, twice;
* Eaten paint;
* Eaten chook food (in my defense, it was organic);
* Head butted and body slammed each other; in one memorable instance, Lucy kicked Nell in the face and Nell bit her toe (just like those python crushing the elephant/ elephant falls to the ground and crushes the python scenarios);
* Competed constantly for my attention;
* Screamed loudly and annoyingly in public places;
* Always wanted what the other one had;;
* Tantrumed because there'd be no playing in the dog park mud today.

And while I don't think these reflect the very best parenting practices and kiddie attitudes, I'm okay with all this (perhaps a little worried about the paint). Because I'm a good parent and my kids are good kids.

That magazine had a lot in common with the brouhaha over the 'I hate kids' posts a month or so ago, over at feministing. The posts annoyed me but I was really pissed off by the comments, here and at other sites, that often took a 'tolerant' stand of 'I don't blame the kids, I blame the parent'. People's whining about kids behaving badly reflects a belief that a) kids spring fully formed from the head of Zeus, all clued up on social rules and self-discipline; b) have no claim to freedom of movement or freedom of association; and c) that adults conform to social, legal and moral rules (cf. any early Saturday morning outside of the Saloon on Charles Street/ any other pub anywhere).

And I'm kind of sick of people holding parents to a standard of behaviour, a clarity of judgement, a commitment to purpose, that we don't expect of the childless. I'm not talking about systematic cruelty or on-going abuse but the daily stumblings as we try our best. People are fine about their 'addiction' to chocolate, their lazy Friday take-out noodles, their bludging in front of the telly, their spending money on expensive shoes instead of rent, their failed attempts to start exercising or whatever other quirky vices we all lay claim to. And that's fine, because we are all lazy and tired and forgetful and all the other things that stop us being The Very Best We Can Possibly Be. Yes, I do have a duty to my kids' welfare that is different to the duty we as adults have to our own selves, but my kids eat a lot less junk food and watch a lot less telly than the average Australian who frowns when the girls eat a brownie and whine annoyingly amongst a self-satisfied cafe crowd.

And I think there's a kind of irony in that magazine, with that article, sitting right next to the Salt and Vinegar chips and the Fanta in Coles.


Anonymous said...

My kid has started chucking tanties at the pantry door. He's figured out where the biscuits are kept. So this evening, while I cooked our organic veggies, the Bloke and the Lad sat on the kitchen step together eating Arnotts Teddy Bear Biscuits. He also eats a lot of peanut butter sandwiches, primarily because they're the quickest thing to get him when he decides he's Hungry! Now! Starving! Dying!

I'm only working on being a Good Enough Mother. My mother outlaw had her kids on Pritikin food until Pritikin died (then she stopped because she worried there was a connection). My sister outlaw has rebelled and now eats a steady diet of hot chips, my brother outlaw will eat anything deep fried (Scottish heritage will out) and the Bloke's hardest choice is "Hamburger or pizza".

Ariane said...

Yes, and yes and yes.

Are there mothers who are not doing their best? Maybe. I think I have known some who really didn't care much about the future of their kids. That tends to result in behaviour in both parent and child that is pretty disgusting to anyone watching.

Then again, my children and I have been responsible for behaviour that was pretty disgusting to anyone watching.

I think on average my kids and I do ok. I think there are people for whom this is not true. What do you do? Some of those people are slack by choice, many more are slack by circumstance. I don't think we should consider that acceptable, but I don't think "shock horror" helps either.

My sister reckons we don't need national service, we need a compulsory year of rehab for all 18 yr olds. Maybe that would help.

Oh, and my kids watch more telly than any average anything, and I am suitably guilty, but they are well mannered, does that help? :)

Victoria said...

Ha! I cannot even begin to explain the fights, trantrums, bad food eating, huge amount of tv watching and general five kids under 11 insanity at my house, and somehow I still think they're gonna turn out ok (well, the untraumatised ones anyway, not sure about the girls yet but you can only do your best). I dont know where this confidence comes from, but I know you have to work hard to not internalise "bad mother" messages. Anyway, it's all pretty hilarious!!
As if Brangelia's kids are going to suffer because there's so many of them!

Anonymous said...

Junk food! Dear lord! But all those people surrounding them and taking photographs every time they leave the house is really good for them :-)

Atomic Tomato chips! Man, I loved that flavour - I'd forgotten what it was called.

Gillian said...

omg this is bliss to read - from a mother who tries her best but still questions and worries and does all that anxious stuff that needs to go out the window in order to let in the fresh air of . . . something.

Gillian said...

LOL and the really funny thing is . . . my son does eat really well, watches hardly any TV, blah blah blah and he can still be the most impulsive, unpredictable, sometimes downright aggressive little boy . . .

Anonymous said...

Well, that's the thing, isn't it? You can let your kids eat loads of junk food or none at all; watch all the telly or nothing at all (no, not even the educational stuff); have one child or five and
a) you'll still leave yourself open to claims of bad motherhood because we live in a society that reserves the right to find women wanting just because they are women;
b) your kid will still behave atrociously sometimes, because we all do, and anyone who purses their lips and tut-tuts will have that judgementalism visited upon their house and their arse to the nth degree.

When I said my kids eat less junk and watch less telly than the average Australian, it wasn't so much an 'I'm not so bad after all' comment as a 'people in glass houses ..' comment.


blue milk said...

Oh totally, totally, totally.

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