Why I abandon educational ships multiple times a week, and don't feel like a shitty mum for doing so

August 31, 2018

We all have best laid plans. Those of us with children try our best to provide fun, educational and enriching activities for them much as we can. Whether it's a trip out to a paid activity, a game set up at home, or a movie you've rented because you think they'll love it, we all try our best to do nice things for our children.

As sometimes they could not give a fuck.

Sometimes the paid activity become a very expensive opportunity to drive to and from a location with a little car seat tussle and a parking lot tantrum in between; a game turns into an exercise in lightning speed destruction; or the movie is of literally no interest whatsoever and the free junk mail that was just delivered is in fact the best toy ever.

I used to get a bit miffed with the old parenting equation that seems to equal: more effort in means less result out. I was never upset at the children, they didn't know they were spoiling mummy's Pinterest perfect vision of how parenting is supposed to go. I mostly just wondered what I was doing wrong that meant they weren't engaging in these wonderful opportunities I was giving them.

More recently I've come to realise that the answer is I'm not doing anything wrong at all, and actually the more freedom I give them to engage with what I'm providing- even if that means wandering off in the other direction and being totally engrossed by a wooden spoon- the more they are getting out of it (and the less I want to bash my head against a brick wall).

There are certain things that as a parent you have to have your limits on: Eating something, ANYTHING, that isn't a carb; sleeping at least a few hours a night; being kind to others; anything that involves staying safe; and that penises (whilst very amusing) do not have a place at the dinner table. We're not talking about foregoing essential social and emotional life lessons in the place of a Disney movie here, we're talking about finding the learning in places and things that your children connect with the most- and you're the one that knows those things best.

How my children engage with an entertaining and educational activity is where I'm relaxing my limits... to becoming fairly non existent- and we're all benefitting from it.

Reading, for example, my children at not readers. They have never been bothered about books, they've not really been fussed about being read to, and trying to get them to look at the pages and pick out the cat is about as likely as getting them to pick out the winning lottery numbers (there was a time I'd have been equally ecstatic about both outcomes). Books and children are like bread and butter, they GO together. Everywhere, everyone is telling you to read with your children, how much children love this or that book, how entertaining and enthralling story time at the library is for all children (spoiler: it's not).

But what if your children just don't give a shit? (I even had a fellow toddler parent tell me my children are 'really odd' for not being into books... Massive thumbs up to you you dick, here's to us all doing our best together eh!).

Serious middle of the night hours went into worrying about 'the situation', the more I tried the more it turned into 'a thing'. And then I stopped trying, I left the books in easy reach and engaged them in the stuff they were showing a massive interest in- anything physical. We stopped forcing the issue and let them do them; and after some time, on a quiet afternoon when I wasn't really paying much attention: Eddie picked up a book. He leafed through, took a look at the pages then toddled off. I cried.

Now books are a part of our world, maybe not as much as they are for other families but instead of becoming something they were forced to do when they really wanted to be jumping off the top of their play kitchen, it's something they've discovered as a fun activity rather than a chore.

That was the turning point for me. I recognize the importance and essential need for my children to be educated, to be given enriching opportunities and to have their developmental needs met and supported... their developmental needs.

My children are my children, they are loud and noisy and never stop moving. Right now they don't get anything out of a book that they won't get from us singing a song and taking a walk (read: run) somewhere fun. They are learning about curiosity from me not from George, they're learning to say goodnight without a red balloon, and they know how much I love them without a nut brown hare in sight.

I know I'm doing a good job providing all the good stuff, the important stuff, the health and wellbeing stuff. So if they don't want to sit and listen to a story in the library to a point where I think they may actually climb a wall (or turn off the main breaker to the projector system... yeah, sorry about that), we'll go play in the playhouse and learn about taking turns and sharing with the other kids that are there. If they don't want to colour in the worksheet and don't understand why its so important to sit still, we'll go climb stairs and count each one up and down. If they think the dressed up story book character is the actual devil, then we'll go run around a field and point out all the birds and aeroplanes in the sky instead.

So if every bone in your body is saying 'bail out, bail out now!' but the little voice in your head (which oddly, sounds just like that arsehole parent with all the opinions) is saying 'you're doing a crap job if you don't stick this out', don't feel bad for hauling arse and GTFO.

As much as it's ok for you to do you, it's ok for your children to do them.

Want to know more or talk about what I've written here? I'll be doing an Instagram story about this post and keeping it in my highlights- I'd love to hear your thoughts about our own self image and when the influences of who we are 'supposed to be' come from for you.

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