Andrea Mara

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The Things I Thought I Knew – A Parenting Evolution

“But why can’t I make a sandwich with a burger bun?” my youngest asked, “There’s no bread in the press anyway.”

He had a point. And despite being the mother who won’t let her kids have treats in their lunch boxes (I’m the meanest mother in the class apparently) and despite everything I know about processed food and long lists of unpronounceable ingredients, I gave in. Pick your battles is something I’ve learned over a decade of parenting. Also, as he rightly pointed out, we had no bread.

“This is so yummy!” he said as he started to eat.

“Yeah, that’ll be the sugar and the salt and the fat…” I replied, because it wasn’t just any old burger bun, it was a “brioche” bun.

“And you’re the best mum ever,” he smiled, as he devoured the last bite.

If you’d told me ten years ago I’d feed my kids sandwiches made with burger buns, I’d have laughed. But then there are lots of things I thought I knew back then, when I had just one newborn and a stack of well-intentioned parenting books at my beck and call:

The Plan: My kids won’t watch TV

My baby is showing no interest in TV so I’ll just leave it switched off and she’ll probably never want to watch it. I might let her watch the odd bit when she’s older, so she’s no the only one in her class who doesn’t know what a telly is.

Ten years later

“Are your kids booked into any camps?” a friend asked, as the Easter holidays loomed. They were indeed – an excellent one called “TV camp”, which takes place in my own living room. They don’t even have to get dressed to go there, and it’s completely free of charge. So while I ploughed towards deadlines and did work-calls upstairs, my kids inhaled toast and TV shows downstairs, and told me it was their best Easter holidays ever.

The Plan: I won’t give my kids treats

This one is a no-brainer – sugar doesn’t provide any nutrition, so there’s no way I’m giving it to my kids. I’ve found a lovely recipe for sugar-free flapjacks and they don’t know any different.

Ten Years Later

The sugar-free flapjacks they loved when they were two were earning me turned-up noses by the time they were three. Then they discovered pester power and I discovered bribery, and we met in the middle.

The Plan: They’re not having my phone

They can learn to amuse themselves, ‘tis far from phones we were raised, and we turned out fine. Counting cars or playing I-Spy is a perfectly good way to pass time.

Ten Years Later

GP waiting rooms, queues in the barbers, and airplane flights are all much more doable when my youngest has a phone with a game. I’m doing it for the greater good, believe me.

The Plan: We’ll do homework thoroughly every day

Another no-brainer – of course we’ll do all the homework.

Ten Years Later

One long protracted, distracted hour into homework with my youngest, and we’ve five out of seven things done.

“Can I go play outside now?” he says, “Are we finished?”

“Yes, we are definitely finished,” I tell him, as I reach for the gin. (Metaphorically speaking. Of course.)

The Plan: I’ll never let my ten-year-old go to a Taylor Swift concert on her own

Image credit: Commons Wikimedia

Or any of the other things she thinks she should be allowed to do – wear high heels, buy a smart phone, and have her own You Tube channel.

Ten Years Later:

Well, she’s ten now and… I’m kidding, she’s not going to Taylor Swift, she’s not wearing heels, she doesn’t have a phone, nor her own You Tube channel. She’s still not having treats in her lunchbox, and I’m still the meanest mum.

And on one level, that feels like a good benchmark – if I’m sometimes the meanest mum and sometimes the best mum ever, I must be getting something right. Burger bun sandwiches notwithstanding.





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