What Kind of Parent Am I?

Parenting Approach Blog Post - Tiger

Personal Labels

Over the years I have taken a number of personality and behavioural surveys and profiles. You too may have done some of these at work or as part of a team building exercise or perhaps on a lazy afternoon when flicking through an old Cosmo magazine. Here are some of my results:

  • Myers Briggs: ISFJ
  • DISC: C and I dominant
  • Tendency: Upholder
  • Love language: Quality Time
  • Kolbe action style: High on ‘Fact finder’ and ‘Follow through’
  • VIA Strengths: Highest – Love of Learning, Lowest: Humility (well I do write a blog about myself!)

Check out the references to find out your results (note some websites may charge for the report).

Maybe these survey results tell you a lot about me. Or maybe the fact that I absolutely LOVE ticking all those boxes tells you all you need to know. I realise that these are just tools, and that no test sums up me, or anyone else, perfectly. However, I relish in the structure they give and the knowledge that there are other people quite similar to me in this world.

 

Parenting Labels

So when it comes to parenting, I thought I would also like to try and fit into a category, to find other mamas just like me. All I would need to do is research the key points of the main parenting approaches and slot myself in to the one that resonates the most with me – voila – instant community.

Here are a few I tried on for size. These are major philosophies and I do not want to trivialise their importance, but to keep things short, I have summarised their main tenets into a couple sentences. Check out the references for more information.

 

The Tiger Mother

I initially liked the sound of this – who wouldn’t want to be associated with these majestic beasts? This parenting approach places a huge emphasis on academic success and non-academic structured activities that garner awards such as classical music practice.

Unfortunately I cannot lay claim to being a tiger mother. My four year old now does soccer practice because he told us he wanted to. And my 18 month old daughter has been barely exposed to anything remotely structured as an activity, except for the occasional sing-a-long during Rhymetime at the library.

 

Slow Parenting

I then thought perhaps I am the opposite of the tiger mother – have I embraced ‘Slow Parenting’? This advocates a lot of free play, less toys and places emphasis on a child using their imagination and being out in nature. It sounds idyllic, plus I would love to have less toys cluttering up the house.

The issue I have with ‘Slow Parenting’ is its name. In the 1980’s when I was growing up, this ‘movement’ would have been simply known as ‘Parenting’. I spent many hours on the weekends with my sister and our friends making huts out of the gorse bushes or bamboo strands in our neighbourhood, and I am pretty sure my parents have never heard of ‘Slow Parenting’.

Plus it discourages kids from watching TV so it is ruled out of contention for me on that count alone.

 

Natural Parenting

I love the idea of natural parenting with its emphasis on being as close to your child as possible, natural childbirth and what is best for the environment.

My second child went onto solids via baby-led weaning. Not because I was trying to be a natural parent, but because, well, it was baby-led. Eloise refused mush off a spoon almost straight away.

But I just never could get the hang of baby wearing – I always thought my baby would fall out of the sling. And anyway, I believe I have a life-long ban from this movement for the 100% use of disposable nappies (diapers).

 

Conscious Parenting

With its emphasis on empathy, understanding and tolerance along with self-regulation and mindfulness, ‘Conscious Parenting’ sounds more like an aspiration rather than something I can adhere to 24/7. It seems kind of obvious that we would all want to be conscious parents, but I am fairly sure that people who (although only occasionally) drink wine in the shower are excluded from this category.

 

Good Enough Parenting

So if I give up striving to be the perfect parent should I then instead embrace the concept of ‘Good Enough Parenting’? The basic argument here is that no more striving to be the perfect parent means less stress, which is good for the whole family.

However, this may lead to no attempt to improve us as parents or to develop our kids as potential leaders. I would rather try – and possibly fail – to be a conscious parent, if this is the alternative.

 

Where To From Here?

These are all perfectly valid and legitimate forms of parenting, backed by scientific research and anecdotal stories of parenting success.

But they are just not right for me. Actually that is incorrect. They are all right for me, in different circumstances, but not a single one is exactly the right fit.

Then I realised what I was searching for, the structure I have been craving, is something I have already started creating: I am a ‘CherishMama’.

My website, cherishmama.com is a sanctuary. But for who exactly? This is still evolving, but currently it is for parents like me. Ones who do not fit easily into other parenting categories.

We are an eclectic bunch of flawed Mamas (and Daddies) who cherish the fortunate and privileged position we have of being a parent, but sometimes huff and snarl at our kids. We do strive to do our best, but sometimes end the day by drinking wine in the shower. At last, I have found something that ticks all my boxes.

 

 

References

Myers Briggs: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

 

DISC: http://www.thediscpersonalitytest.com

 

Tendency: http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2014/03/quiz-are-you-an-upholder-a-questioner-a-rebel-or-an-obliger/

 

Love language: http://www.5lovelanguages.com

 

Kolbe action style: http://www.kolbe.com/why-kolbe/kolbe-wisdom/four-action-modes/

 

VIA Strengths: http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey

 

The Tiger Mother: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_mother

 

Slow Parenting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_parenting#Slow_movement

 

Natural Parenting: http://codenamemama.com/natural-parenting-resources/

 

Conscious Parenting: http://www.teach-through-love.com/conscious-parenting.html

 

Good Enough Parenting: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201512/the-good-enough-parent-is-the-best-parent

Parenting Approach Blog Post - Eloise in Highchair

 

Peppa Pig – Addiction, Alliteration and World Domination

Peppa Pig Blog Post - Peppa Image

Guilty Admission

If you had mentioned Peppa Pig to me three years ago, I wouldn’t know what you were talking about. But now, this British children’s cartoon series, with its five-minute episodes centred on the eponymous four-year-old talking pig, Peppa, are a dominant presence in our home. These days, I cannot imagine daily life without Peppa Pig on TV.

What is even more disturbing is that a few months back I found myself lost – for hours and hours – in an Internet search about it.

I had a sudden realisation after watching the ‘Funfair’ episode for perhaps the fifth time, that all the animal kids had alliterative names – Candy Cat, Suzie Sheep, Zoe Zebra, Rebecca Rabbit. All except for Peppa’s little brother, George. It made no sense to me.

I delved into the recesses of the Internet and found a world of parenting forums where similarly sad and slightly desperate parents had posted this and many other questions about Peppa Pig. I did feel at least vindicated that I wasn’t the only person out there using up quality time in her day hunting for answers about something so pointless and exasperating. But in the midst of it I started to think – why do we all care so much?

 

Fall Down Laughing

I mean, when I first started watching Peppa Pig with my toddler, I could not for the life of me see what the big deal was. In each episode, Peppa does an activity or goes somewhere with her family or friends – say to the public swimming pool or for a picnic – and then at the end of the episode all the characters fall down laughing.

That is it.

There is barely an attempt at any sort of narrative arc, and the animation is not sophisticated and everyone is a little bit mean about Daddy Pig.

 

World Domination

Yet last year, the company behind Peppa Pig reported annual sales of $1 billion – cue lots of “bringing home the bacon” headlines. Most of the revenue comes from merchandise – an estimated 12,000 products have been given the Peppa Pig treatment. She is everywhere – on lunchboxes, toys, games, and even my one-year-old daughter’s second hand stockings.

The TV show has been going for over ten years but as the episodes are only five minutes long, there is less than 20 hours of TV responsible for this global success. It is screened in over 180 countries and if you visit the UK you can now take the family to Peppa Pig World – its very own theme park. Projected earnings are set to double to $2 billion in a few years and more theme parks are planned.

Although it has been described, fairly indelicately, as ‘toddler crack’, it is not our children who are the frenzied consumers of anything Peppa. It is not our children having heated debates on parenting forums. It is not our children building theme parks. Peppa Pig has taken over the world. Why?

Apologies if the talk about wads of cash, rampant consumerism and addictive drugs seem abhorrent, but I feel like this is worth digging into.

 

Success Theories

Firstly, there is the emotion hypothesis: you either love or hate Peppa Pig. You can even dislike it and come to love it, as I have. Or you can like some of the episodes but get annoyed at how mean they all are to Daddy Pig. Or think that Peppa is mostly a delight but sometimes quite naughty. But the point is, no one says ‘Oh, Peppa Pig – I can take it or leave it’. Anything that invokes a strong emotion is bound to stay in your mind when out shopping.

Secondly – the mystery theory. Peppa Pig brings up more questions than answers. Not only is George not called Peter or Paul, but there are many other unanswered questions. Like why are all the parents called Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig, even by their bosses? When the show is about talking animals, why is there a doctor and a vet? And what the heck is that Mr. Potato thing? If you start down the questioning line, you will fall in a well that you will never clamber out of – right down to why is George voiced by TWO actors when all he says is ‘dinosaur’? All these unresolved questions stay in our consciousness and are still around when our child’s birthday is coming up. Add this to 12,000 products and you have a success equation that adds up big time. A little bit of mystery goes a long way.

Next is the simplicity proposal – maybe the extremely short episodes, uncomplicated story and basic sketches are not negatives at all, but instead what makes Peppa Pig so addictive. In a world where I never feel like I finish anything, watching an entire five-minute episode of Peppa Pig is something of an achievement.

Or maybe, just maybe, it is so successful because it is so joyful. As it is from the perspective of a four-year-old, it projects a kind of youthful joy that invokes a comforting nostalgia. Who doesn’t remember how much fun it was to jump in muddy puddles? It is mildly humorous in a very British way. I dare anyone not to smile in the ‘Hide and Seek’ episode when George is found in Daddy Pig’s newspaper.

 

Alliteration and Addiction

I never did find a satisfying answer to the alliterative names conundrum. In fact to make matters worse I found out about one other character with a non-alliterative name – Joey the baby Kangaroo – which makes the anomaly even more infuriating.

But occasionally, Peppa Pig does come through with an episode that alleviates some curiosity. It was a good day when I stumbled across the episode where Miss Rabbit gets awarded for all her hard work with a medal from the Queen. I had been wondering for ages how Miss Rabbit can do so many jobs. That wasn’t exactly answered, but at least it was acknowledged.

Whatever the reason for its worldwide success, there is no denying Peppa Pig is not just ‘toddler crack’. There is a worrying addictive element for us grown ups as well. I know this because our daily bite of Peppa Pig has been replaced with Emma (five minutes of the female Wiggle). And although Emma’s smile lights up our TV screen, I am having Peppa Pig withdrawals.

When an object you desire is no longer around, you tend to obsess about it even more. Maybe write an entire blog post about it. Mmmm, perhaps I need to get out bit more.

Peppa Pig Blog Post - Peppa Family Image

The WHY Stage

 

he WHY Stage Blog Post - Lots of Whys Cartoon

Like a Switch            

Dylan turned three years old a few months back and just like that he snapped into the ‘WHY’ stage. I think most people have heard of this phase. The word ‘Why?’ and sometimes, just for a bit of light relief, ‘What’, ‘How’, or ‘Where’, is spoken copiously.

There is no regard to conversational rules, how irritating it can be or indeed, a lot of the time, what the answer even is. Asking the question seems to be the only priority.

I know it is essential for a child’s development, enhances learning and shows that a child is reaching another milestone and all that blah blah. But my goodness, It really is one of the longest and most infuriating phases during toddler and pre-school years. When will it end?

Argh, it has caught on and now I am asking questions as well.

 

The Different Types of WHY

What I have noticed over the past few months are patterns of questions. Here are a few:

  1. The no matter what is said, the answer is ‘Why?’

“Its time for a bath.”

“Why?”

“Let’s read a book.”

“Why?”

“What did you have for lunch at daycare today?”

“Why?”

 

  1. The double why:

“Its time for a bath.”

“Why?”

“Because you are dirty and its nearly bedtime.”

“Why?”

 

  1. The I have no idea of what the answer is questions:

“Why is it called ‘ham’?” (Wikipedia here we come)

“Why do leaves fall from trees Mummy?”

“Because it is winter time” (feeling good, know the answer)

“But why?”

“Er…”

 

  1. The inappropriate why:

“Why has that man got many chins?” (Move trolley fast down aisle one).

 

The Different Types of Answers

I have also taken note that how I answer depends on what sort of question it is, whether I know the answer and how often ‘Why’ has been used that day (i.e.: how exasperated I am). Sometimes I do answer the question properly and directly but often I use these alternatives:

Do not say anything

Used when I am irritated, do not know the answer, realise that answering would not make any sense, or all three combined. Best time to employ this approach is with the ‘double why’.

“Its time for a bath.”

“Why?”

“Because you are dirty and its nearly bedtime.”

“Why?”

-Silence-

Of course this may backfire and I sometimes get a continuous stream of ‘why, why, why’ but I find if I hold my ground they dissipate fairly quickly.

Fire the question back at him

This tactic is good when I think Dylan knows the answer but has gone on autopilot with his ‘Why’. Best used to reiterate a learning point.

“Stop sitting on Eloise.”

“Why?”

“Why do you think you should not sit on your baby sister?”

“Cos I squash her and she cries.”

However, it is dangerous to use it when you are not certain what the answer will be. Believe me, do not reply back “Why do you think that man has many chins?”

Make up the answer

I find it fun to make up the answer sometimes. It shows imagination and creativity on my part and has the added bonus of not letting on that I really have no idea of the true reason. Sure, he may get to school with some weird beliefs but who is to say what is real these days?

“Where has the other part of the moon gone?”

“The stars and clouds took a bite out of it”

The clichéd response

I even use the proverbial “Because I said so”. Every time I say it I cringe at how unoriginal I sound. However, sometimes it eliminates a long and unnecessary response.

“Why do I have to brush my teeth every day?”

(I could say that it makes teeth strong, because I care for him or it is a great habit to continue if he wants to be a fully functioning adult, but instead…)

“Because I said so”

 

Navel-Gazing

The ‘WHY’ stage is not all bad. It helps me to see the world from Dylan’s point of view. It allows me to revisit accepted beliefs, learn new ideas and see things from a young, fresh perspective.

The other day, Dylan said to me “Mummy, why are we here?” And I started thinking. Why are we here? What are we all put on this Earth for? What is my purpose in life? How can I construct a legacy I would be happy with?

I wasn’t sure where to begin to give a full and appropriate answer to such an esoteric question from a three year old. While I was still ruminating, Dylan’s little voice popped at me again:

“Why are we here at this shop Mummy? What do you want to buy?”

– Oh, no meaning of life answer required today. Thank goodness.

“Mmmm, lets buy some sandwich things, maybe some ham.”

The Why Stage - Ham Picture

Surprise!

Surprise Blog Post - Boy or Girl Image

Be Careful What You Wish For

When I found out I was pregnant, I decided that I did not want to know baby’s gender until he or she was born. A typical conversation from about six months into my pregnancy was as follows –

  • Other person: “Do you know what you are having”
  • Me: “Yes, a baby”
  • Other person: “I mean a boy or a girl”
  • Me: “Yes, hopefully either a boy or a girl”
  • Other person: “But don’t you want to find out?”
  • Me: “I think it will be obvious when the baby is born”

Yes, I was deliberately being a bit antagonistic but I had decided that there was very little that was a surprise in the 21st century information age. Everything seems so immediate nowadays. After all, we can online shop with next day delivery, look up information on the internet and have an answer straight away, plus take a photo and not only see it but upload it in a flash.

Not many people saw my point of view and I thought it was because many of us had lost the respect of waiting for something wonderful to happen. But I was wrong. It was because most of the people I talked to were already parents. They didn’t understand my wish for surprise with the gender because life as a parent is chock-a-block full of surprises.

 

The Day One Surprise

In fact my first surprise with Dylan occurred before I found out he was a boy. Just before he was born, my midwife said to me – “Your baby is coming as I can see blonde hair”. With my brown hair and brown eyes, I never imagined that I would have a blonde haired, blue-eyed child.

Over the past three years I have encountered all sorts of surprises as a mummy. Here are a few, split into the good, bad and the ugly…

 

The Good Surprises

Most of the good surprises arise from the astonishing amount of development that occurs in the first three years of life. Dylan’s first smile at a few weeks old, his commando crawling by five months and when he first started saying ‘Mummy’ at 18 months – all of these were good surprises.

His ability to learn new things amazes me. At two he not only said “nigh nighs” to his toys but pushed them over to imitate that they were sleeping. He has learnt his manners a little too well and now when I say “time to go to bed” he says, “no thank you please”.

Seeing imagination emerge has been fascinating. Just after Dylan turned two, he was eating some cucumber in his high chair and held up the dark green crescent part that was left over and said “boat” to me. It was also an eye-opener when I realised his long-term memory had developed. When Dylan was two and a half, I pulled out a t-shirt for him to wear and he said to me “thank you Granny Trish” – my mum had given that t-shirt to him over six months earlier.

I sometimes feel like I am at most two steps in front of my child. Just the other day, Dylan pointed out a fly inside the house and asked me to move it outside. I asked him how I should do that. He said I should “blow the shoo-fly out with my hair driver” – that is, get my hair drier and use that to blow the fly out of the window.

 

The Bad Surprises

I have had my fair share of bad surprises. At seven months, I discovered my baby lying on his tummy in his cot despite being in a swaddle and a Safe-T-sleep. At eight months, I left him alone with a magazine for a few moments and then found a huge wad of paper in his mouth. And at ten months I trialled the ‘leaving him to cry method’ when he wouldn’t have his nap, only to eventually go into his room to find blood all over his face where he had cut his lip on the wooden cot rail.

The worst surprise so far was seeing how much blood could come out of one little finger shut too quickly in a door and subsequently spending a long evening at A&E.

Sometimes the bad surprises can be good. At 18 months, I left Dylan alone in the secure living area of our house for a few minutes only to come back to find that he had climbed onto his high chair then onto the kitchen bench and crawled along and got into the advent calendar chocolates. He turned to me and said “chocolate” for the first time.

 

The Ugly Surprises

Then there are the ‘ugly’ surprises. These are mostly scatological in nature, but thankfully not that common. The unexpected arc of pee when changing a nappy, the surprise number two in the bath a couple of times. When a cry wakes you in the middle of the night and you walk into your child’s bedroom to be hit by the overwhelming smell of vomit – now that is one nasty surprise you don’t forget in a hurry.

At ten months, Dylan would follow me into the toilet, pull himself up and when I flushed it, he would put his hands down into the cascading water. One day when he was just over one, he looked like he was chewing on something and when I opened his mouth I discovered a dead fly. At 18 months old, I caught him just in time after he turned on the oven, opened the door and tried to climb in.

Now he is almost three, I worry most about what he says and does in public. Recently at the supermarket, he asked me quite loudly “why has that man got a lot of chins?” And although I like the fact he is pretty much toilet trained, when he pulled down his pants at a busy picnic area to “water the forest” I didn’t know whether to run over to help or pretend that he wasn’t my child.

 

The Biggest Surprise of All

The biggest surprise of all is that my tiny baby has grown into a little man. Dylan, you are almost three years old. Happy birthday my beautiful boy and may you continue to surprise me for many, many years to come.

Surprise Blog Post - Constant Fear Three Year Old