Sunday, 6 February 2011

thinking

It occurs to me that it has been a long time since I posted anything here aside from eye candy. I'm not entirely sure why that is - a lot of busyness doesn't help, but also sometimes the things I'm thinking a lot about have implications for other people and it's hard to feel like I can really talk about them here without breaching confidences, or privacy or just plain being misunderstood.

Or, as in the case of work, breaching my employment contract. That one is a real shame because I am aware all too often at work that I get an 'insider's' look at how democratic government and Westminster bureaucracy works and in a land of compulsory voting we would all do better if we knew a little more about that. It can be tiring to hear people slag off politicians, vote them in with ridiculously high expectations of what they can achieve, feel really angry that they don't manage to achieve more and then blame them personally for everything that's wrong in their lives (especially when said people have not much idea about how all the stuff that does get done, gets done).

The world abounds in examples of countries where government has failed to achieve one tenth of what ours do and maybe if people understood a little more of what it takes to make stuff work they would be a little less critical and a little more helpful. Or at least save their criticism for the times and places where they are really warranted. And the media could focus on reporting serious shit instead of stuff that really is of no importance.

And if all this sounds a little banal it's only because I am not in a position to be specific and it's like trying to make a case with one tongue tied behind my back. I can't tell you how annoying it is.

I've also been thinking a lot about parenting and about reasonable expectations to place on kids, and on parents, and about confusing my own selfish desires with a well thought out position on independence. I am not a mollycoddler, I do not want to keep my kids young or cocoon them. I think challenging kids to develop and become independent is a critical part of parenting and an enormous advantage throughout life. It was how I was raised and I am very glad it was. I was taught to take risks, but to think about and be strategic in doing so.

But like all other views of parenting, it can take a battering when things are under pressure. As Wil has entered his 'afraid of the dark' phase I am torn between pushing him to confront and overcome his irrational fears (especially when at least some of the time I am pretty sure there's less fear and more manipulation involved) and wanting to protect him and comfort him.

Now don't jump to conclusions - these things are not black and white and I'm not mean about it (he has lights on outside his room and a night light and cuddles and I lie down with him if he's really agitated - sometimes all the way until he is asleep), but constantly trying to gauge where to be on that grey scale has been messing with my head.

And quite possibly more so because I have been doing a bit of the old switcheroo between solo parenting and co parenting. When I am alone quite a few of the goal posts shift, in part because I don't have to negotiate with another adult for consistency and philosophy but also because my capacity and will is more fundamentally stretched.

Parenting is a pragmatic exercise - quite aside from what we believe there is what we are able to do - but when I am moving from solo to co parenting this is in such high relief that I feel awash with the way all this slips from my grasp. The result is of course that so very much of the time I feel like I am doing everything badly. When I find myself alone and taking the shortcuts I inevitably must I feel bad for how this impacts my kids.

But then suddenly I have someone looking over my shoulder who is wondering why I'm taking those short cuts, why I'm not doing things the way they've always been done. And then, well, then I feel even worse. It's no comment on the bloke - it's a natural consequence of adjustment - but none the less I find myself full of doubt. The bottom line is no matter how things run I find going from being in charge, accountable and responsible for everything 24 hours a day to being in a partnership with ambiguous divisions of labour and expectations way harder than I like, and that I don't find it easier over time I find disappointing and a little alarming.

I am also unnaturally attuned to the enormous diversity that surrounds me - the parents who don't let their kids out of their sight and those who free range, those who show a bit of tough love, those who value attachment and peace above all else, those working the flash cards with their preschoolers, those letting their kids lead the learning process, those who spend at least a few nights a week away from their kids to pursue their own lives and those who have never had a babysitter in the house.

And while diversity doesn't have to be division (because being different doesn't have to mean being judged), when I am feeling less certain everyone else seems so much more coherent. Like I'm on some kind of wiggly ride while everyone else is down on the board walk. Is that a good thing? For me? For the kids? Can they be separated? Can I ever know?

14 comments:

Ali said...

Your post grabbed me today (in a way that they often do) because hubby is due back from a long business trip (to Australia, ironically) and I will be doing that solo to co adjustment thing.
The odd thing about this trip is that, for the first time, I have felt the household to run smoother in his absence. Yes I am tired because all the adult jobs have fallen to me, but I felt that I've been very present for the boys. There have been one fewer sets of needs to negotiate and I have felt less pulled in different directions.
That isn't to say it won't be great to have him home, and the kids are looking forward to it too. But I realize how much their playing one parent off against the other saps my energy.

Nikki said...

Even though I don't fully understand the workings of the government nor have any idea of the specifics of your currently- upsetting situation, I'm with you on the political thing.

As for parenting... if you want to feel like you're the most consistent, competent parent in the world, head on over to MY HOUSE!!! I think you're probably doing much better than you think you are, and your kids are lucky to have such a thoughtful, fair and conscientious mother.

trash said...

"Diversity not division." Can I nominate this for a worldwide motto?

It is always intriguing to me how people miss the assosciation between their expectations of governmental achievement and reality.

Living in a country where voting is optional I always want to growl at people who complain about governement but in the same breath say how they don't vote.

Jodie said...

Sooz, I did write at least 6 responses, but they were essays...
Crib Notes : Come to my House - it all works out .

Rachael said...

All I can say on the parenting front, is it always seems everyone else has their crap together. One of the most difficult things for me has been trying to work things out on the fly and not know am I choosing the right course of action. The occurs several times daily! Also the feedback is not immediately forthcoming, so it's hard to re-calibrate :). I'm pretty sure we all have these trials and that the fact you are aware and considerate means you are doing a fine job.

Di said...

Nope, you will never know. And (as I'm sure you know) everyone else feels like they're on the same wiggly ride that you imagine you are on.

Lilli boo said...

I love the way you think and are so articulate in the process. I agree with you on both the way politicians are judged here in Australia and the apparent naivety with the processes of government (my understanding comes from being born and bred in Canberra dare I admit this!) and secondly "Thank you" for your beautiful insight as a parent. One I struggle with daily as I juggle my three children's needs, my partners and my own...still trying to find that ubiquitous balance.

Leonie said...

I love your thinkings.

sueeeus said...

What they said....

....and also, just so you know you're less alone, I'm on that wiggly ride and holding on for dear life!

You are strong, and you think things through so well. Your kids are growing up into amazing people -- a fantastic reflection of you and D.

Julie said...

Thank you for your thoughtful post. As usual you manage to articulate much of what I feel, sometimes before I know that is what I am feeling. I think it is the rare parent that actually fully adheres to one particular parenting philosophy, and perhaps those that do are the poorer for it. The further I go down the parenting track, the further away any absolutes become. Julie

greatbalancingact said...

"quite aside from what we believe there is what we are able to do" - ain't that parenting in a nutshell! Ditto to what everyone else says about the wiggly ride. I've long ago abandoned any attempt to be the perfect parent but I'll die trying to be the best possible parent to N that I can be with all my imperfections.

Ren said...

Great post sooz... Have often pondered these things, esp the bit about how our gov works. And the solo vs co-parenting thing... I find similar expereinces and feelings - even though S is home every night, but there are diffs between the days when he's at work and the days when he's home. My whole routine is out the window and things get done differently. Not nec better mind you...


take care and lots of love. Miss you, you know!

hutnyk said...

heya Sooz - knit a book on this! Go on. Or get your knitting machine to do it (in all its spare time - hah!). Hope all is well. Good here - not yet crushed, nearly 50 x :)

sooz said...

Ha, John, which particular bit is book worthy do you think? Teaching those who don't give a toss why politicians are only human? Or making the case that solo parenting may be a superior option? I should get a good bashing either way...