Is it normal to have some sort of imposter syndrome about being a parent?
Sometimes I’m not sure I can even say I engage in any actual parenting, since I seem to spend most of my time either at work away from my son, or being micro-managed by my mother who seems to think that I need to be taught how to parent by an expert in the field (her), using the Join-the-Dots-Guide to Parenthood. Indeed, our increasingly divergent parenting styles-hers “strict” and mine “louche” apparently-along with an article I recently read online about gentle parenting and avoiding the kind of outrageous parenting fails that lead to a lifetime in therapy for the sprog (“forced affection,” “being made to say please and thank you” and, most disturbingly, “saying “Good job!” as a form of praise”) got me thinking that not only has parenting in general become an utter minefield, but it must have been very different in the olden days. So different, in fact, that I think it must have been something like this.
- The Olden Days
Children were seen and not heard. Think of the scant appearances of Lady Mary’s son in Downton Abbey. Children were to be formally presented to their parents in the drawing room each afternoon, wearing a sailor suit with a starched collar. They must be decorative mutes, available on request for showing off to passing dignitaries, possibly with a genteel accomplishment such as piano playing, pious embroidery or rudimentary French to be showcased on request.
Children are both seen and heard. Heard to trill “BEEP BEEP!” repeatedly at a high decibel level all around the pub on a Sunday lunchtime whilst the dignitaries eat their lunch and mumble about the olden days when children were decorative mutes; and seen running around, hiding under furniture and ducking under the legs of passers by.
2. The Olden Days
Tantrums are dealt with by a lot of shouting and a slap round the legs.
We have seen the error of our ways, thank goodness, so tantrums are now dealt with by a combination of strategic ignoring, cuddling, breastfeeding and whatever we think won’t end up with us being recorded by a passing Smartphone and sent to social services, or worse, judged by the Daily Mail. Articles about gentle parenting spring up all over the place, largely to make us feel eternally guilty for bribing with ice cream that one (every) time, whilst members of the older generation hang around tutting about how everything was better in the olden days when children were all so perfectly behaved that they didn’t even have tantrums, at least not during the half an hour each afternoon when they were being formally presented in the drawing room.
3. The Olden Days
Everyone just muddled along, hoping that no one’s head got caught in the mangle or trapped in the spinning jenny at the cotton mill. Jumpers for goalposts, everyone had their doors unlocked and prolific sex offenders marched around the BBC with impunity. None of this nonsense about children having feelings and stuff, and perhaps not wanting to give the elderly neighbour a kiss or choose whether to eat their greens without being sent to bed with no dinner.
We are all terrified we are scarring the little bairns for life every time we utter a cross word or walk past a dead fox in the street. We’ve gone soft, apparently, and the kids are walking all over us. And I for one am happy about it.
Now I just need to make sure I don’t commit any Crimes Against Parenting, like saying “good job!” instead of giving “descriptive praise,” whatever that is.
Am I doing this right? Someone please tell me I’m doing it right.