In view of Mothers Day in the UK yesterday, I thought I’d tell you about a funny little conversation I had with my son last week. For those of you with younger kids, be warned that like me you will reach a point with your almost-adult kids – usually at the end of seven years of testosterone-fuelled silence with boys – when they believe they have a right to use the limited wisdom they’ve acquired in their twenty years, to judge your choices and more poignantly, your parenting skills.
And let me assure you, it’s too soon.
I mean, I’m glad that my son feels he can reach out and share the disappointments of his young life with me. I assume that means we’ve forged some bond, (although with his ADHD, saying what he thinks has rarely been a problem), that he is comfortable about airing his views about the not so finer points of our journey together. But what I know – and what he has yet to find out, (and when he does I will be thousands of miles in a world of silence in a nunnery in India), is that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to parenting.
And I have learned from our time together – and unless I become one of those fifty-three-year-old women that fall pregnant in menopause because I haven’t been punished enough – the wisdom I will take away from him is not to try and mold our kids into our expectations, not to catastrophise too much about their refusal to conform. I would also recommend making friends with the local policeman, hiding the car keys once they have their license and access to Valium at all times.
We were in the car the other day, unusually only one row down about where exactly he is going with his life, when out of blue, he turned to me and said, ‘Remember when you changed the pin on the Disney channel, Mum? I’ve gotta tell you, that was badass. That scarred me.’
‘Well, you were becoming like those Disney brats with your whatevers every time I asked you to do anything – like go to school.’
‘You mean, you made me the victim of your own anxiety about bringing up a brat?’
‘Maybe…,’ I said, ‘Anyway, changing the pin didn’t work, did it?’ I said with a cheeky grin.
‘No, but it made me hate you for a really long time. A boy needs his daily dose of Hannah Montana,’ he said with a wink.
‘Mylie has a lot to answer for then.’
And I lectured him reminded him about how none of us parents really know what the fuck we’re doing most of the time, and while it definitely would have been a smoother ride if I’d had a textbook Dr. Spock kid, the rules of parenting keep changing anyway. (Although it never gets easier – I’ve lost count the number of times my fifty-something friends and I have spotted the toddler tantrum in the Coles cereal aisle and been forced to abort our Pods mission).
My parents didn’t have to worry about the influence of The Prince of Bel Air or that their daughter would think killing people on Grand Theft Auto (while they believed I was at school) outstripped education on every level. And in the same way that I look back and think my parents had it easier – because in the seventies you could put your needs ahead of your kids and you didn’t have parenting psycho-babble bullshit pushed in your face each day – my kids will probably say the same thing each time they dump the grandkids on me in the future and do a runner.
‘Yeah, remember how you hid my PS controllers as well?’ Kurt went on, obviously really bitter.
‘And how did that fuck you up, exactly?’
‘Lets just say I wasted a lot of time hunting through your cupboards, finding shit I didn’t need to find at age of eleven – if you know what I’m saying,’ he said, eyeballing me. ‘That was pretty scarring.’ I was forced to look away.
‘Well, that was a pre-meditated life lesson?’ I lied. ‘In a perverse way, my anxiety about you getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by the age of twenty taught you not to invade the privacy of others. How is your thumb, by the way?’
‘We both know that’s not why you did it, Mum,’ he said. ‘You did it to be mean. It was a power trip. But do you think any of that shit actually worked?’
‘Probably not,’ I said, ‘but it felt really good at the time.’