I really need to explain the piano metaphor of that last post, don’t I?
Contrary to how it appears, I’m not actually advocating hitting your kids over the head with a piano (although if you can lift a piano, kudos).
So here is a post I was convinced I’d posted yonks ago which would explain it nicely. Only I apparently left it in draft.
Belatedly, here it is. So do not blame piano-hitting-kids phenomenon on moi.
For all my blathering about parenting, I don’t write much about how I parent my kids, y’know, what kind of parent I am.
I’m not a very good one.
Which is to say, I’m OK, but far from fantastic.
And I’m OK with that. Because I’m with Matt Ridley on this one. And, ye gods, I hope Matt Ridley will forgive me for this mangling of his words, but in his book Nature via Nurture, he talks of studies done which suggest that whilst neglectful or abusive parenting may well alter gene expression (and personality) in your children, OK-ish parenting won’t. There is no difference in terms of gene expression (and therefore personality) between OK parenting and super-dooper parenting.
Which is to say, whilst your child may not find out she’s a musical genius until adulthood because you didn’t give her private piano lessons from the age of three, unless you actively beat the kid over the head with a piano, she will still be a musical genius eventually. That, naturally, is my own little example; can’t blame Ridley for that one. Ridley actually says:
‘…truly terrible parenting can still warp somebody’s personality. But it seems likely that…parenting is like vitamin C; as long as it is adequate, a little bit more or less has no discernible long-term effect.‘
Ridley’s book was published in 2003, so things may well have moved on. But I am capable of nothing if not clinging to an idea when it suits me.
And it does suit me. By letting myself off the hook of having to be ‘a perfect mother’, I can just get on with being the best mother I can be given all the circumstances. Which is not to let abusive parents off the hook because underlying all those circumstances is an obligation not to be horrendous, of course. But it does become a self-fulfilling prophesy; by allowing myself to relax and get on with it, mistakes and all, I am a much better mother than I would be if I spent my days chasing motherly perfection.
And the older my children grow, the more it suits me. Because I realise more and more the limits – and the amazing power – of my influence on my children. I am but one cog in the machinery of their lives, an important one for sure, but as long as I connect with all other cogs and don’t fuck up the whole machine by breaking down (or mis-cogging, or whatever the hell cogs do in a metaphor like this), I’m playing my part entirely satisfactorily.
Which is to say, OK parenting is actually OK.
So, seriously, you can stop beating yourself up about whatever you beat yourself up about doing wrong, OK? It’s not just me telling you this revolutionary stuff; it’s science. Not the kind of science that gets popular play in the Daily Male, of course. Not the ‘girls really do like to pick up dirty laundry more than boys – it’s genetic!’ type science.
But science nonetheless, and that’s good enough for me.
But then that’s the kind of person I am.