Confidence is a strange old thing. Over recent weeks I’ve found myself wondering what makes a confident parent and questioning where my own confidence comes from.
As a family we’ve been going through a period of transition. Izzy, our youngest daughter, has started school.
It’s not the first time we’ve packed a child off to school. Helen, our eldest child, started four years ago.
Over recent months and weeks, I’ve found myself in numerous situations that I was last in all those years ago. From buying Izzy’s first pair of school shoes to introducing her to homework, I’ve felt at home as I’ve done this before.
I’ve also been preparing Izzy’s fifth birthday party. While it has been stressful (you can read why here) I found myself muttering to myself as I was organising things the other day.
“Yeah, I know stuff. I can do this,” I said, as plans came together.
It was a big moment, truth be told. I actually felt like I knew what I was doing!
I hesitate to say I’m a confident parent, but years of dealing with teachers, other parents, other kids, health professionals, sending kids to school, doing the school run and organising parties means I have picked up a few things along the way. Even so, much of what I know as a parent has been learned through trial and error, mostly error.
Let’s take school uniform as an example as I’ve had to ensure Izzy had enough for her big day. Up in the loft was a bag of Helen’s old uniform from when she was in Reception class. It was the usual thing, we’d placed it there ready for Izzy when her time came to start school.
When I unpacked the bag, the contents spilled all over the place and I found myself swimming in jumpers and cardigans. All those years ago I had bought far too much uniform. It’s a mistake I haven’t repeated but it was a useful reminder sitting among the evidence of past, very expensive, errors!
As for parties, Mrs Adams and I learned the hard way to keep things simple when we organised a small event following Helen’s baptism. We can laugh about it now, but we messed up the preparations big-style.
This was the first time we’d put together a formal family gathering and we were running so late getting things ready that relatives stepped in to get Helen into her baptismal gown. We also over-catered massively. Without willing volunteers helping in the kitchen, no one would have been fed that day.
As for other mistakes, well, there was the pirate ship ride at the theme park. Let’s just say that a child might meet the necessary height requirements and be enthusiastic to try such a ride. This doesn’t mean they’ll enjoy it.
Ah, then there was the ghost train experience on Brighton Pier. You should definitely avoid ghost trains until your kids are in their thirties. Oh, and never, ever leave a toddler to have a nap near a tub of Sudocrem.
In fairness the Sudocrem incident happened while Helen was in granny’s care. Nonetheless, it goes to show that even well-experienced old-timers can make mistakes. In this instance it’s a mistake we’re still living with as we never did manage get the Sudocrem out the carpet.
Moving on from my own experiences, part of the reason I have been thinking about confidence is based on conversations with other people. Over the past couple of months I have met and spoken with a number of mums and dads who doubt themselves and their abilities. It’s been painful listening to their stories.
The impact of anxiety and low self-esteem has been crushing for these individuals. Combine this with judgment from other parents (often perceived judgement) and these guys really struggle. Not that I need to tell you this, I’m sure we all know people who fit this description.
Confidence has to be built up. It comes through experience and that means making mistakes along the way.
I once heard the most fantastic quote: “It’s not a case of mother knows best, but practice makes perfect.”
Perhaps we should celebrate and laugh at our mistakes as much as we do our successes? It’s merely a case of being honest and admitting all parents screw-up from time to time. It would make this parenting thing much easier for everyone if all mums and dads took this approach.