When I was pregnant with Rebekah 15 years or so ago I read “normal” parenting books. I hadn’t heard of attachment parenting, unschooling, babywearing or any other yoghurt-knitting styles. These are now things which even if I don’t/didn’t do I am aware of and accepting of.
So I read mainstream baby books and whatever came in the bounty packs. I probably had the equivalent of this DK book. I must have been heading the alternative way though because we did spend ages working out how to do Chinese fold for a terry nappy and had some dreadfully leaky Kushies. I liked the idea of breastfeeding and talked to the health visitor about vaccinations (she was unusual as she didn’t immediately try and convince me to vaccinate but rather gave me info on homepathic alternatives).
Anyway, according to everything I read or heard at workshops etc about parenting, the key to successful parenting was consistency. It doesn’t matter what style of parenting you use as long as you do it consistently.
Well now 15 years on I can safely say that I have been pretty inconsistent and actually the kids seem to be turning out just fine – well if making dinner independently, writing complaints letters, believing it’s appropriate to swim in the sea at the beginning of march and playing cards are just fine skills to have.
I left Rebekah to cry herself to sleep (she didn’t seem to want to be cuddled and wailed for longer when we held her), Ruth sorted herself out and Jonathan I nursed to sleep for 2 1/2 years. Girls slept in their own/shared room Jonathan co slept for about 2 1/2 years. They all sleep just fine now!
I have started – and not finished – reading-aloud story books many many times (we still haven’t finished the The Lion Children). We have filled in the first 4-5 days of the Advent book every year and not carried on with it – ditto Lent. We have started doing art every Friday (only works when we invite friends and hence are forced to do it). We have about 15 part-completed scrapbooks. Each. I have been promising Jonathan since last September that we will go to Tae-Kwon-Do (honestly we really will get round to it – in a couple of weeks). We have planned rewards for not bickering while doing the dishes (lasted for about 3 weeks before we forgot – although the kids didn’t).
And so it could go on.
And I won’t even mention the amounts of resources we have lurking about which we have never used (well maybe just a few):
- a video from Southern Water about….well, water.
- a pack from the flour advisory board about…well, flour
- an old newspaper
- a Victorian pop up market
- a citrus powered clock
- a book about Hendon as it used to be.
- all my old teaching resources from when I did my teacher training
etc.etc. etc. all of which really might come in handy (well maybe not the waterboard video given that we don’t have a video player any more). After all, the fleece that has been sitting under Rebekah’s bed for a couple of years was used in abundance at Christmas.
It’s probably just as well that we fell naturally into autonomous education as I don’t think I could have stuck at doing a curriculum or even consistently doing half-an-hour’s maths and English at the kitchen table every day.
I am rubbish at remembering birthdays etc. but sometimes I manage it. I bought a flute and worked at playing it for about 4 weeks. I have had a go at knitting (actually I’ve sort of stuck with that), felt making, using a sewing machine (yes those of you who know my fear of using them will be surprised to hear I once did a dressmaking adult-ed course)
I’m inconsistent in, what is refereed to as, my “spiritual life”. I don’t do the “good little evangelical” daily quiet time, I read my bible either hardly at all or loads at one point if I want to find out about something or if something has sparked my interest. I enjoy lively worship music and I loath lively worship music. I suddenly developed a liking for Gregorian Chanting. I have always liked accessible versions of the bible but when I heard bits of the King James version being read on Radio 4 I found it strangely compelling (and when we read “you are snakes” rather than “you brood of vipers” in a modern translation of Matthew 3:7 I was really cross about the loss of the more poetic language). I set up bible study groups which we manage for 6 months and then something happens and we don’t get going again. We do bible quizzes on a Sunday evening – only we don’t any more. I like rituals but we don’t do many of them and they vary from year to year. And so on.
In our marriage we’ve had regular date nights – and then they’ve become irregular and completely disappeared and then they’ve maybe started up again. We’ve had a go at the Dialoguing technique we learned at a marriage-encounter weekend. We’ve taken regular and then not so regular walks together. We’ve had regular time set aside weekly to do paperwork and cleaning (they are mostly ongoing but we often don’t do them).
But I’m not even consistent in my inconsistency. I have consistently stuck at my marriage and home educating my kids. Through most of my life I have gone to church and wanted to engage in some way with God.
And yet now – acknowledging that I am mostly inconsistent and not feeling guilty about being inconsistent I feel overall the most content I have ever been. I am more relaxed about being inconsistent, about doing what seems right for me and for my family at the time and not what is considered to be right.
This morning I picked some daffodils from the garden I am not supposed to pick the daffodils from the garden (my own internal rule not Martin imposing gardening authority over me!) as i like them to be there as I look out over the garden, but this morning on Shrove Tuesday as I am getting ready for the season of Lent picking the daffodils and seeing them on the breakfast table seemed like the right thing to do and I was happy with it.
Some of my inconsistencies I am unhappy about and feel to be failures – such as not doing more reading of novels together with the children – but most I have come to accept as part of the way I am made up. I like doing things for short amounts of time. I don’t like long term commitments (although a marriage of 20 years before I hit 40 is a fairly good long term commitment 🙂 ) but prefer one-off activities – although we did maths every week for over a year – however we never managed a consistent time for doing the study for Rebekah’s RS exam.
So after some consideration I don’t think consistency is quite as important as it was made out to be. My inconsistent levels of expectation on what I want the kids to do and not do don’t seem to have unduly confused or upset them – what I expect of them changes with our circumstances at anyone time. I am sure my husband would rather I consistently had the dinner on the table when he came home from work rather than somewhere from half an hour before he arrives home to 9 o’clock at night but aside from that he seems mostly happy to stick with my inconsistencies.
I have a tendency to enjoy something (playing games on a Sunday night for example) and then think that we should always do it – when I don’t manage this I often feel disappointed and guilty whereas when I accept that I can do something just once, enjoy it and then see how it goes in the future I feel much happier and am actually more likely to do the thing again.
I have been coming to the realisation that a bit of inconsistency might just make me adaptable and flexible and perhaps accepting that’s how I am might just make me feel very content about how my life is.