I had my first row with Middle Son this morning. I’m talking full blown stand up argument 5 minutes before the school run where he and I stood yelling at one another. It was all over a lost shoe. And it was all over in minutes. But it shook me. It’s not that I’m not used to the odd quarrel or heated debate – far from it, I come from a long line of shouters and arguers – but it was the first time that Middle Son had yelled back at me with real anger in his pre-teen voice. And what’s more was that he was right – his tone of voice was wrong, his words came out all unpreparedly wrong, but the point that he was making was right. And it was upsetting. And he charged out of the door to school without saying goodbye. And that too was upsetting.
You see, the lost shoe wasn’t lost at all – I had forgotten to put it in his bag in the first place, and he had used his initiative, and I had told him off for it. Yes, perhaps if he had packed his bag himself as I had asked, the shoe wouldn’t have been left behind, but I had done it myself in the name of speed, and had got it wrong. And he knew it.
It is very difficult to gauge as a parent when the balance shifts and you are no longer on the pedestal, the child realizing that you are only human, and all his perceptions change.
I guess it is whether you step off, fall off or if you are pushed. I’m hoping that I will simply step off the pedestal – admit my failings as a mother and perhaps gain my kids respect as an adult. It’s not an easy thing to do when you have been in charge of a little life, but at some point you have to let them make their own decisions, and their own mistakes. And by the same token, if you make a mistake, ‘fess up and say you’re sorry.
One of the lively topics of conversation that I have with my friends is if you would prefer your kids to play up at home and be good at school, or vice versa. A few favour the latter – a controlled professional environment teaches the kids to take control of their actions and feelings - but I am definitely of the former train of thought, not because I want my kids to be seen to be well behaved in public, but because I would prefer that they have the space at home to be frustrated, to learn to control their tempers, their anxieties and their hormones in a safe environment where they won’t be judged by society at large.
Middle Son was only doing what I had allowed him to do, what I had encouraged him to do, and by shouting back at me it taught us both that the parameters were changing, and the pedestal wobbling.
And when I go and watch him in a mixed year schools athletics competition this afternoon where he is the youngest in his team, he will of course ignore me politely until I proffer the universal peace offering that is a bag of Haribos.
And then I will be shouting again. Shouting his name with pride with a whole load of other mothers clinging on to our pedestals as we watch our young people compete.