Róisín Ingle . . . on evaluating parenting skills

 

It’s that time of year again when some of us insecure types like to sit down with a glass of something cheap from a supermarket with a four letter name to scrutinise, without fear or favour, our mothering prowess.

I like to break up my annual Mother’s Day Eve checklist into different categories. You can customise these for yourself if you like. They work just as well if you are a father, aunt, uncle or godparent, and can also be adapted for pet owners.


Education
What I think I should be doing: Getting a friend to teach them how to play chess. Generally hothousing them; they should be halfway through Ulysses by now. My motto should be: I am Tiger Mom, hear me roar. That way they’ll do their Leaving Cert at 12 and be out of my hair and in college by their teenage years. Correcting them when they say chindrel instead of children.
What I am actually doing: Finding their flashcards from Montessori all over the house, in plant pots, and once in the rubbish bin, but that was definitely not my fault. Getting frustrated with phonetics and muttering “We learnt words properly in my day”. Saying “Let’s watch Dora instead” when they try to get me to practice words with them. Considering sending them to Billy Barry. Laughing indulgently and ruffling their hair when they say chindrel instead of children. Score: 3/10


Nutrition
What I think I should be doing: Turning them vegetarian, obviously, and sugar-free, dairy-free, wheat-free while we’re at it. Teaching them to love goji berries. Being imaginative at snack time with pulses. Brainwashing them to believe beetroot juice is delicious. Stealing stuff from my nutritionally angelic friend’s fridge.
What I am actually doing: Stealing stuff from my nutritionally angelic friend’s fridge. Meatless Monday, but forgetting I’m doing it and throwing a packet of lardons into the pasta sauce by mistake. (Mmmm. Lardons). Failing to get past bread and jam as a snack. Shamelessly bribing them with Smarties. Making a wholesome soup once a week which contains at least five vegetables I didn’t eat until I was 25, which they happily slurp away on. Score: 9/10 (The soup cancels out the Smarties and lardons.)


P hilosophy/spirituality
What I think I should be doing: Dusting down all those fascinating child philosophy books I bought when pregnant but never really read. Taking copious notes and applying them before it’s too late.
What I am actually doing: Letting the books gather dust. Covering all possible philosophical and spiritual bases by repeatedly telling them two things: “Everything changes” and “Everyone’s different”. Score: 11/10, if I say so myself.


T elevision
What I think I should be doing: Throwing it out the window.
What I am actually doing: The lot. The whole shooting mat ch: Lion King, Tangled, The Little Mermaid, Dora, Diego, Ben and Holly, Beauty and the Beast, those odd-looking mermaid guppy things that freak me out, Thomas the Tank Engine . Deleting all the Peppa Pigs I recorded but only because she was getting on my nerves and I’m detecting a certain whine in the children’s tone that is directly related to her. Score: 1/10 (For deleting Peppa )


Conflict resolution
What I think I should be doing: Calmly telling them that biting, punching, thumping, spitting, hair pulling and general sister-baiting is not what we do. Getting down at their level and speaking in a firm yet calm voice. Praising positive behaviour.
What I am actually doing: Making the offending child sit down on my new invention, drum roll please, The Thinking Step (patent pending), so that they can “think about what they’ve done and come up with an idea to make the situation better”.

The Thinking Step. Changing Your Parenting Life One Step At A Time. The Thinking Step – The Thinking Parent’s Naughty Step. (Sorry, just trying out a few marketing ideas, for when I’m on Dragon’s Den .)
Score: 2/10:
I googled The Thinking Step and some genius got there before me apparently. Boo.

Playdates
What I think I should be doing: Having hundreds of playdates in my house.
What I am actually doing: Pretending I don’t know what the children are talking about when they talk about playdates; waking up at night terrified about having playdates. Listening to friend’s horror stories about playdate etiquette. (It is a thing. Playdate Etiquette is an actual thing.) Cleaning parts of the house I’ve never touched in case of any spontaneous playdate happenings. Deciding, on balance, that it’s probably character-forming for them not to have any friends. Score: 2/10

Overall Mother’s Day Eve Evaluation: Doing my best.

roisin@irishtimes.com