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I Have No Parenting Advice to Offer

By Kerri Sackville - 31st March 2011

Before you invest too much time reading this post, let me warn you: I don’t have any parenting advice to offer. I may have been a mother for nearly twelve years, but I feel as equipped to counsel you about parenting techniques as I am to reflect on quantum physics or Pythagorean theory (and as my family will confirm, my knowledge of these areas is very limited indeed).

I find parenting my three children the hardest, most perplexing job in the world and I am constantly worried that I am not very good at it. I’m not talking about the physical requirements of  being a mum – the laundry, the cooking, the schlepping, the cleaning – though they are tedious, to say the least. I’m talking about the actual responsibility for these three small people who, despite having half my genes and half my husband’s, are distinctly unique individuals who baffle, frustrate and delight me every day.

It wasn’t always this way. When my son was born I was one of those revoltingly irritating mothers who found the whole motherhood gig a bit easy. Little Man was a wonderfully settled baby who ate well, slept well, and was solemnly content most of the time. I instinctively knew how to respond to him, and had a great couple of years, pushing him around the shops in his stroller, going to playgroup, even studying part time at uni.

I had it all under control. I was the perfect mother. Until  two years later, when I gave birth to Pinkela, and Little Man tried to smother her with a pillow. Things started to fall apart. I could not leave my baby and toddler in a room together for three whole years, so deep was Little Man’s resentment of his sister.  I found that trying to cope with two small children – including one who didn’t want the other around – left me frazzled, hopeless and constantly exhausted. I had no idea how to fix the situation. Perfect Mother had well and truly flown the coop.

The bitter sibling rivalry passed, and by the time Pinkela was three, she and her brother were the best of friends. By this time, however, other issues had reared their heads. Little Man has turned out to be a beautiful, sensitive, intense and challenging child – super bright, super argumentative and super good at getting the better of me. Traditional forms of discipline just don’t work, and I’m forever reading books and trying out different techniques only to find myself defeated and back at the drawing board.

Pinkela, on the other hand, is just the opposite – relaxed, easy going and dreamy. The problem is, she’s so relaxed and easy going that she lets people walk all over her, and so dreamy that she constantly ‘forgets’ to listen in class, do her homework, practise her violin, or put her dishes in the sink.

There is no manual to tell me how to get the most from my kids, no instructions on how to make sure they are happy. I have been bewildered at how useless a parent I can be, how completely lost I can be for answers at significant moments. I always assumed I’d be like Mike or Carol Brady – there with the sage advice that would fix any problem. Instead I’m fumbling around, doing my best as each issue arises, and loving my kids as hard as I can.

It is hard, this parenting gig. Never have I felt so awed by the responsibility of my role – to take these two children, and now their little sister too, and help them develop into happy adults. Never have I been so keenly aware of what is at stake if I fail. And never have I been so passionately motivated to try.

Just because we give birth to our kids doesn’t mean we know how to help them through life, any more than buying a car means we know how to drive it. All we can do is run alongside our children, trying to keep up the pace, ensuring they know we are there, until they need us no more and they are safe to sprint off alone.

I can’t offer you advice. All I can offer you is my experience of motherhood, so that if you’re ever struggling, you will know you are not alone.

Editor's Note: The family depicted above is not the blogger's. However, like the blogger, they also appear to live in an "impossibly white house" (see blogger's bio).

image freedigitalimages.net
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