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Children and Grief | Psych Central

I recently came across a photograph of my father as a small boy (around 3 year old), standing in a crowd of family surrounding an open coffin of his dead grandma. Back then, death rituals were passed down like a shape of nose – from generation to generation, varying across the country and depending on things like family status. What was happening to children during the rituals depended on the tradition in a particular family.

Most of families today need to make a personal choice about children’s role in death rituals – wether they are going to participate in funeral and wake, what information are they going to receive, who and how is going to talk to them.
Does any general rule apply? Is there a one answer for frequently asked questions?
In search for a sensible voices on the subject of death from chidren’s perspective, I came across the article below, which gives straightforward answers to some of the questions. We obviously don’t have to agree, but the article undoubtly give us material to think and to relate to.

Source: Children and Grief | Psych Central

Sweets Banned From Schools Why people resist reasonable changes 

  
There are some obvious facts about human health, which are being ignored by many people, for many generations. We all know that sugar causes teeth decay and is a major factor in growing obesity. Yet, we are surrounded by sweets, organised in a way which tempts us to buy them on every step. Cheap fat and tons of sugar wrapped in an expensive brand, waiting for us, lined up next to checking points – always handy.
Many of us know that eating habits are developing in early childhood and are difficult to change later on. This why we all – as a society – should be interested in doing something about those millions of products, directed to children and being packed with fat and sugar even more than products directed to the rest of our population.

I’ve been always fascinated by the subject of individuals and societies making conscious changes about themselves. How does it happen? Is it possible? What are the ingredients of a real change? Why on Earth it is so difficult, even when the reason for change seems obvious?
This latest case from Polish schools is an example of powerful unconscious forces, which work collectively against the change. 
 Starting from September, Polish government banned unhealthy food from school shops and canteens. I can’t see more reasonable decision and I am pleased, that authorities are able to take an ethical stance and take a lead in changing school environment into a healthier place. The message is clear: ‘We are responsible for what happens at schools. We know that unhealthy food is bad for our children, so we can’t allow it on our ground. We do what we believe it’s right and we expect other adults to do the same’.

It’s perfectly understandable that policy makers don’t want to collude with the system which doesn’t care about children’s health and wants more profit from selling unhealthy food.
Resistance to change came from many angles:
– Polish Employees Association takes it as an attack on small businesses 
– Social media circulate the jokes about chocolate bars dealers in schools. These posts are presented by people working in education sector and by parents

– Shops surrounding schools are packed with children during breaks. Shelves with unhealthy food get empty

– Children bring their own salt and sugar to the canteens.

What worries me is that adults, who should be representing voice of reason, collude with this behaviour and support it. The cause of making government look stupid is much more important for them than the real chance to make a healthy change in their children’s lifestyle.
The change isn’t going to happen if all parties don’t engage with it. Children have their right to oppose the change and laugh at it, but the role of parents and teachers is to distance from this reactive laughter and set an example for positive outcomes which will be attractive enough to follow.
It’s important to realise that our resistance to change has it’s unconscious side. 

Consciously, people bring to the table various ‘rational’ reasons for not wanting to obey new rules: they would be saying it’s bad for small businesses, it’s a violation of freedom of choice, it’s pointless in a world where you can buy sweets around the corner anyway, it’s badly implemented.

But what brings these arguments to live is an unconscious dynamic of our emotions. To really engage with change we would have to become aware that:

– we are in denial: we emotionally cut off ourselves from health warnings. Simply speaking, we don’t want to hear it and act accordingly

– we regress: we employ our ‘child within’ to fight a reasonable ‘adult voice’.

Introducing healthy eating habits is a task for policy makers, local businesses, people working with children, parents and of course children themselves.

Each of us can start by reviewing our attitude towards change itself. We need to focus on what’s positive in the idea, even if it is implemented by a government we don’t particularly like.      
   

photo: sqworl.com

Coming back to school – why it is an emotional experience

  
Children are soon going to go back to school after two months of holiday. For some it was time filled with pleasures, alarm free waking up, visits to families and exciting adventures. For others it was bitter – sweet mixture of school and task free time, but also time spent alone, while friends left town and parents were mostly working. There are also children who had a horrible time being off school, because it meant for them time of no care, no break from stressful family dynamics, no structure to hold on to. It’s certain that children coming back to school have very different experience of holiday and very diverse expectations about what is to come. This can create emotionally difficult situations and it gets more challenging when it soon becomes clear that there is no time for proper adjustment. A demand to get to work kicks on very quickly. Structure of classes, every day routines, homework – this all comes together as a reality so different to what most children experienced during the summer. 

While some children will be excited about seeing friends and buying new school equipment, others might feel anxious about coming back to peers who create challenging pressure to fit in, or about being embarrassed to see their parents struggling to get money for necessities.    
At school, among other children and observed by adults – parents and teachers, students are exposed and there is nowhere to hide.
For the above reasons, and many others, end of holiday and beginning of school is emotionally challenging situation. Even if children mostly look forward to starting the learning, it is still an important transition and this always creates some level of anxiety.
What is our adult and parents role in this process? 

1. Understanding our children 

We need to help the children to understand what is going on for them. Our role is to provide a safe environment for our child to express emotions and to find a space within ourselves to contain the difficult ones. This means being careful observers. If we see our child acting out and not being themselves, it’s worth to try and find the meaning of it.

2. Knowing ourselves 

We should know how we feel about starting a new school year. If we get anxious about getting back to school routine, we should be aware of it and accept our not so positive feelings. If we are afraid of how our child is going to deal with difficulties this year, we have to separate our feelings from child’s feelings and make sure we deal with our own emotions, instead of projecting them onto the child.  

3. Being sensitive to other children’s issues.

As I mentioned before, some children are coming back to school with very heavy emotional baggage. They most likely aren’t able to maturely express and verbalise difficult emotions. They instead might be acting them out, getting rid of tensions by getting into fights, rebelling against teachers, etc. They might also have difficulty with focusing on tasks and conforming to the school’s norms.Trying to understand these children and not just reacting to their behaviour is an important task for all of us – parents and teachers. We are part of a wider community and there is a risk that instead of dealing with our own problems, we will see the troubled children as the only ones who have problems and they will soon become scape goats.

Teachers and parents should be sensitive to diversity of experience and acknowledge that for some, coming back to school might be a real struggle and for some a rescue – when the structure provides a safety net that may be missing at home.  
In short, it’s time to be awake and ready to take in and work through children’s emotions. 
I wish you all that it comes together with real joy of starting something new and exciting.  
* photo from https://familymattersmallorca.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/primary_school_children_540x299.jpg

Parents and Experts: how far have we come?

David Beckham and his daughter Harper. http://bit.ly/1L3bfl1 photo from: Guardian

I visited my grandma today, together with my mum and my 6 months old son. We were chatting a lot about children and two comments stayed with me. One was my 87 years old grandma’s recollection: ’ we had to feed babies to a strict time schedule, it was the most horrible thing ever”. Then, later my mum said: ‘And then, there was this most horrible thing ever: parents were not allowed to stay with their ill babies on a hospital ward’.

Both memories made me think about the significance of experts back in early 1960s and 1980s There was no discussion with parents, doctors and nurses decided the regime of feeding and care and it would be dangerous to question them as they had total power over your child’s welfare.

Can you imagine the trauma of a child being fed at certain time against his or her will? Can you imagine the stress of a parents who felt that they are doing something against what they knew was right for their child, but they were under such a pressure that they proceeded with what they have been told to do? My grandma and my mother until this day hold these memories as ‘The most horrible things ever’.
This leads me to question, what is the role of experts today? Clearly a lot has changed and the brutal and total power regimes have changed, but there is still a huge power imbalance even if it’s more subtle.  

Are we able to say ‘no’ to Dr’s, teachers, psychologists or other ‘experts’ when we know that their advice is not right for our child? Do experts really listen to the parents who know the child best, who know their children’s needs, and have the direct experience of that child and their own expertise? Does it need a lot of courage to question the experts today? 

Experts’ advice are omnipresent in every space: online, at GP’S, in parenting books. David Beckham reacted recently to a newspaper that got an “Expert” to criticise his parenting when he gave his child a dummy (pacifier), he hit back and said “Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts ?”
The trouble gets worse when our child is ill or not doing well at school, and as a parent we feel worried and vulnerable. Then it’s harder to be confident and to trust yourself against the experts, or even if you know you are right, to stand up to their power. 
Experts often cite science and research to support their advice, but it’s worth remembering that so often they offer conflicting advice, each claiming their own scientific proof. It is also worth remembering that experts used to claim many truths that have since been proven very wrong, such as blood letting and claims that smoking was a healthy habit. 
Let’s learn from it and don’t let our own parenting voice to be under-heard. Of course we should listen to experts and try to find out what’s best for our child, and of course experts should listen to us. There is still a lot of room for improvement for ‘experts listening to parents’, and part of that is taking responsibility ourselves and developing as more confident parents. 

Breastmilk or formula: what’s behind your choice?

 

I can’t fully describe the experience of becoming a parent. Intensive mixture of images and emotions which I’ve never experienced before came to me within first few days of having a baby and this changed me as a person. One of the most powerful impacts on me was the sudden realisation that from now on I am responsible for another human being’s life. And first of all it means I need to make sure the baby eats well to maintain herself and thrive. This is very basic and primitive experience. Here I am – stripped of all everyday life selves and faces, coping mechanisms and routines – faced with tiny baby who simply needs milk.

At some point, most parents to be are presented with the choice: breastmilk or formula?
Often an earlier decision is exercised and verified by reality – it’s impossible to foresee all circumstances which will influence the way we do things after the baby arrives.

In some circumstances the choice is made by parents – for example in case of some health conditions breastmilk is affected by the condition itself or by the drugs which need to be taken.

The breast versus formula discussion, is fuelled by emotions, judgemental voices and over simplification. It would come close to the top of the list of those things that can evoke parental guilt. 
It’s difficult to discuss this delicate matter; to be broad enough to avoid unhelpful polarisations of opinions, and careful enough not to offend anyone. It’s very important to acknowledge that we are talking about other people’s choices and circumstances, which they face in a very special moment in their lives. It makes them vulnerable and high emotions are aroused. 

What can be helpful in opening up and broadening the discussion is trying to understand various reasons and motives behind our choices. I analyse social media coverage on breast/formula feed and draw on my own experience as a mother, who meets many other mums. I came up with the idea of ‘Scripts’ which describe complex reasons for which we choose to breast or formula feed. 
I invite you to engage in describing the main scripts which stand behind the way we feed our babies. Some of our reasons are conscious – we are fully aware of them and can easily name them (i.e.: ‘I formula feed my child, because I can combine it with my working life’). Other reasons might be unconscious – our behaviours and decisions are guided by our own motives and social forces that we are not always aware of (i.e. ‘I formula feed, because the responsibility for the child overwhelms me, and I want to share it with my partner). Moreover, our choices always have a healthy side and a shadow side, which is present despite our honest positive intentions.

I want to make clear, that I stand for deeper understanding of feeding the babies, not for judging any choices. 

By exploring our scripts that guide our infant feeding choices, we can address some of social pressures, and personal dilemmas that we face, and by doing so be more honest with ourselves and others without feeling guilty or pressurised. This discussion needs to take place free from the judgemental attitudes on both sides that make mothers (and fathers) feel insecure, anxious and very often guilty.  

Therefore I invite you to look at your scripts and especially focus on those hidden, not obvious reasons and motives which stand behind your choices..
The way to identify your script is to complete three following sentences. If you are willing to share your script, please do so in comments below this post:
‘I breastfeed (breastfed)/ I formula feed (fed) because… ‘

The healthy side is this…

The shadow side is this…

When identifying my own script I came up with the following:

I breastfeed because this is the obvious thing to do in my family and my circle of friends – it’s a norm within my social background and I accept this norm and simply believe it’s a right thing to do. 
HEALTHY SIDE: By making a choice acceptable to my social network and family, I get support from them. The baby gets fed from a confident parent who is familiar and supported with the way their child is fed.
SHADOW SIDE: As the baby is exclusively breastfed, it doesn’t allow my husband to engage in baby’s feeding, which ties the baby to me. If he wants to take the baby out, there is a two hour time limit. This makes the baby completely dependent on me, in terms of feeding, so I do get a lot of control which can be difficult to let go when the time is right (when the baby needs that).
Feel free to share your thoughts and discover new ways of looking at your motives and circumstances. Tell us about your scripts. This can be enriching for all of us!
P.S. Publish your answers below the post or to keep your privacy write to me: agatawestern@gmail.com

*photo: http://www.sienceofrelationships.com 

What sort of parent are you?

 
Parent ‘tag’ is very popular in media. It’s easy to join or at least follow many conversations about parenting going on in social media. I read or scan so many information directed to me as a parent not because I’m parenting blogger but because I am a mother breastfeeding the baby and wanting to occupy my mind with something during that process. Or a mother having half an hour break for myself and being too tired to read the book. Or a mother searching for input on a particular issue which worries me. As a parent of small children I also find parenting the most interesting subject at the moment.
What I look for in those all numerous articles, advices and opinions is a consolation – a comfort of someone else saying something close to my view on breastfeeding or praising the way parents manage children’s screen time, which happens to be similar to mine. I also get excited when some opinion appears to be totally opposite to my view: I criticise it and I go mad: ‘it’s wrong’ I think ‘you can’t say that! it’s not a right way of bringing up children!’

Right – Wrong, Right – Wrong. This is a good way, this is The Way to start a spoon feed, this is The Way to breastfeed in public, the way to deal with siblings rivalry etc. etc.

Parenting world of opinions is completely polarised and it sucks people into thinking in these black – and white categories.
This creates a world where any real reflection or discussion which could enrich people with different views is practically impossible. The comfort becomes a distant dream too.

I lately read an article about letting children to fall asleep on a breast when the night time comes. The author was pro breastfeeding to sleep and critiqued the other article in which a psychologist was warning mothers that this is a bad habit, that breast is for feed not for comfort and that a child will have trouble falling asleep when gets older.

At first I was reading and thinking: ‘oh, great, the woman is talking sense – I am in fact breastfeeding my child to sleep now.’

But then the detailed explanation came and I started to feel bad: ‘ the child is unable to separate herself from the mother until 18 months old’ says specialist. ‘Every attempt to break the mother – baby fusion before 18 months is against nature, is wrong, unfair, can be damaging for a child’. 

‘Oh dear’ – I thought – ‘I do break the fusion…Sometimes it’s my husband putting children to sleep…Oh no, I left my daughter for a week with her father when she was only 14 months, have I done something wrong?’

And then I realise: It’s unfair to impose on us parents such a strong opinions, from arguably informed sources. No one is better informed about our children and family context then ourselves. This is very understandable that we seek reassurance about the way we do things, so yes: we’ll keep reading the stuff. But in my experience we are more likely to get doubts and worries fuelled, rather than become more confident with what we are doing.  
So I keep reminding myself: black and white world is a phantasy. There is no one magic formula to bring up children. Every child and every parent is different. 

What is in your childhood luggage?

We all were once children. Last week I came across very interesting interview (with capturing title: No one annoys me as much as my mother) which addresses relationship with parents from a perspective of grown up children undergoing psychoterapy. The interviewee is a Polish psychotherapist – Danuta Golec. 

I translated a fragment of this interview, which I found very helpful in understanding one of the most crucial parenting skill: containing difficult emotions. 

What are their [adults who talk about their parents] complaints?

It varies, but I can observe one commonality, which I would call: a lack of psychological consciousness.

Some adults think that they weren’t seen in childhood. Their difficulties and needs – emotional in particular – were pushed away. We are not talking about neglected children; they might have had great conditions – being taken to horse riding, swimming lessons, but parents didn’t know what conflicts children were struggling with and what kind of help they needed.
There was a lack of thinking parent, who would understand that child has an inner life. Lack of someone who is able to stand [contain] emotions.
To stand emotions?
Yes, we are talking about parent’s internal space, where we allow our child’s emotions – be it anxiety, sadness, anger. We can take these emotions there, look at them and change them, so as they can become less frightening. We can compare this process to digestion. Child is not able to swallow big chunks of food, we need to break them up. Some adults are not able to do so. Ten year old girl is sharing her difficulties at school and mother is getting anxious, so she sighs: if you won’t stop I am going to get crazy, (…) I’m going to hang myself. In this way mother communicates to the girl that she can harm mother with her problems, so she shouldn’t disclose them anymore, or shouldn’t even have them. Later in life, this grown up girl can hold the unconscious conviction that if she approaches someone and gets very close, she can destroy this person, and this person will lost their mind or die. Obviously, every parent may have a moment of being psychologically unconscious, unavailable, but if this becomes a repetitive pattern it causes trauma to a child.
In some adults’ experience parents were strongly focused on themselves and their own needs. For example they saw the child just in one dimension which was fulfilling their aspirations. They wanted a happy and cheerful child, who amazes everyone. So they did. But if the child tried to show his/her different side, more true version of the self, they went into panic, or just did not accept it. Child was talking to hand – I don’t have friends at school, I am sad. – When you grow up you’ll laugh at this. Go and play.

Anything else?
Sometimes adults feel that something was pushed into them in childhood years. Parents, instead of accepting and taking in child’s emotions, thrown their own unwanted emotions at a child. Psychological maturity means (among other things), that we are able to see ourselves as a range of things, not only as a pure goodness. We can see anger, guilt and envy. If a person is unable to do it, then every unwanted piece of himself/herself needs to be removed or placed in someone else. Am I envious? Never! You are! (…). We call this mechanism projection
If this is parent’s main way of functioning, a child is constantly bombarded by unwanted emotions. He/she catches a lot of content, which parent doesn’t know how to deal with. Child also doesn’t know what to do with this kind of baggage. This emotional situation can be repeated in people’s adult life problems. They constantly deal with someone else’s psychological baggage. They feel obliged to live other people’s lives. I am a luggage filled with objects, something is banging there, but I don’t know who does it belong to.’

 

Full interview by Grzegorz Sroczynski, Wyborcza.pl 20.05.2015

Who is thinking of the children? Marriage Equality

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Ireland is holding a referendum on same sex marriages. I am engaged observer of public debate which is taking place here. As a Polish person, I feel envious that the matter of equality preoccupies politicians and is addressed in the society. Unfortunately, in Poland many minority groups are still silenced and mostly invisible. The blog ‘mammyinwonderland’ gives very down to earth perspective on children’s issue which is risen by ‘no’ campainers. I thought of writing a post in simmilar tone, but I am rebloging a strong and valuable voice, supported by teacher’s experience.

mammyinwonderland

This week, on Friday, Ireland holds a vote. In reality two, but the age of presidential candidates turns out to be pretty uncontroversial. We will vote on whether or not to allow same-sex couples to marry. It is a straightforward question. We will not be asked for ours reasons or thoughts on the matter we will simply tick Yes or No.

We are voting because in our constitution a family consists of a married man and woman. To change our constitution requires a vote. If there is a Yes vote we will now refer to the family as a married couple regardless of sex.

I didn’t write any posts on this so far because I felt I had nothing to contribute. I have shared posts where people have outlined their own personal stories, the people who this vote will directly affect. I am privileged. Nobody had any say in whether I got married…

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Ordinary Parents

Royal Mother
Kate Middleton – The Duchess of Cambridge – gave birth to her second baby. It’s not this fact itself, what brought me to write this post, but another blog which in a humorous way commented on Kate’s perfect look during child’s presentation just few hours after giving birth.

The author very accurately picks up ridiculousness of a situation when woman being inevitably damaged and exhausted after enormous effort of labour, appears in front of the world ‘done up’ and ‘dressed up’, wearing high hills.
photo from Kate Middleton facebook page

Yes, the videos and photographs of Kate Middleton reminds me that I don’t belong to royal family and after I gave birth, no wider audience cared wether I had my hair brushed or nails done (and more: if I’d like to dress up straight after labour, someone would bring me on earth and told me to just lay down). It’s fortunately not part of my task as a mother to look perfect. But is it that obvious that the whole parenting venture isn’t about being perfect in any aspect? Isn’t the underlying message from Duchess to other parents: ‘perfect’ is what we all want?

‘Perfect’ is what the photograph captured but what was left behind?
Looking at the photo of Kate Middleton I’m reflecting on big picture of parenting. I am trying to capture what really matters in being a parent and what being a good parent means. I believe that in our era of parenting, where the pressure on parents coming from many angles is very high, we tend to forget what our priorities are and we might find ourselves in a place where we never feel good enough.
Experts and Ideal Parents
In fact, these dangers were present and spoken of in early 60′ of 20th century. Dr Donald H. Winnicot, English psychoanalyst, was particularly concerned about two issues (both of them become even stronger over the years and our culture is investing in turning them into the signatures of contemporary parenting).
One of the issue is a growing role of parenting experts. The market of education and advice for parents is really massive. Parents constantly hear what they should be doing and what is best for their children. I recently saw the post on facebook, written by child psychologist, inviting parents to write their concerns on the psychologist’s facebook wall and she promised to answer each of them in few sentences. This is very vivid example of the wider issue: the ‘expert’ badge, the voice of specialist, is in our culture very powerful. The experts sound so convincing that we are inclined to trust their voice more than our own judgements. This undermines parents’ confidence and makes them feel worried that they constantly miss some skill or important bit of information. Somewhere in experts’ minds exists a perfect and right way of doing things and we, ordinary parents will never be able to fully reach that. We then sip drops of wisdom from specialists’ mouth, hoping that this will be at least good enough.
The second issue is idealisation of parents. To illustrate what it means, I recall today’s radio program, where some caller criticised mothers for returning to work instead of staying at home with children. It was a judgemental speech, claiming that most mothers do have a choice and they still prefer career than the best start in life for their children. That lady simplified the dilemma and ignored complexity of the situation. She divided the world into two: good mothers staying with children and bad ones, returning to work. Her reasoning was fuelled by emotions: she split* them into two and assigned all the good ones to good – stay at home mums and all the bad ones to the other group. This is a process which we all sometimes go through, usually not being aware of this. Black and white world with simple divisions  is a product of our phantasy and it prevents us from seeing shades of the real world. How we as a society perceive parents seems to be influenced by this mechanism of splitting. They are good or bad objects – in minds of others and in their own minds. They experience emotional pressure, the necessity to be ideal and to fulfil unreal expectations.

To be ordinary

Parenting isn’t about trying to be perfect and fulfilling unrealistic expectations.  Parenting is about ‘ordinary’. Ordinary parents are good enough to provide right care for their children. And to be clear: vast majority of parents is doing great job of loving, caring and nurturing their children.
*original concepts of splitting and good enough parents come from works of Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott.

Parents and children on the go

image

 

Parents and children in public space

Parents with children cannot travel anonymously. They attract attention of others, whether it’s when they need help getting to the bus with a buggy or their child starts crying inconsolably. Parents know that in a public space they are watched and judged. But they judge others as well. Being responsible for a child’s safety and comfort, they carefully study every move of a stranger hanging around or trying to make contact. They keep a safe distance whenever they can. You can’t be too careful when it comes to your child’s safety.

And then there is a public space, which is an issue itself. Commuting with a child is a strategic exercise. It’s like orienteering – you need to navigate the town to be able to meet all your child’s needs, be in a right place at the right time and accomplish the task which brought you out in the first place.

How we interact in public space is strongly shaped by our culture. The same applies to the way public space is designed and organised. It reflects the attitudes we as a society hold towards different social groups – the elderly, parents with children, cyclists, etc.
I recently travelled by train with my two months old child and it was both physically challenging and emotionally difficult. Later on, when reflecting on this experience I realised that it exposes two aspects of parenting specific to our society.

Mutual Distrust

Being a parent in our society is an isolating experience. Children are solely their parents’ responsibility and if something goes ‘wrong’ in a public space, for example the child is temperamental, becomes noisy or too busy, overtired, parents might feel as if they are invading the public space and should immediately disappear. They may experience guilt, as if disrupting someone else’s peace was their fault. As parents are made to feel accountable for their children’s’ behaviour, we as a society prefer them to hang out in places designed for them, not interfering with our quieter, grown-up lives.

Children aren’t treated as equal members of society, the same kids who will grow up to build its future. If they ‘misbehave’ in a public space it is not recognised as normal behaviour but instead a reflection of their parents’ disciplining abilities.

Also, it is not in our code of behaviour to approach a parent with a child to offer a helping  hand, i.e. hold the child for a moment when the parent is packing up.

In todays world, when we hear so much about cases of abuse, kidnapping and other harm adults do to children – everyone becomes a suspect and the wariness became our default behaviour.  It sometimes takes even the form of paranoia. In Galway, where I live, there is a Christmas Market every year. Last year I came across an appeal circulating on Facebook, written by a concerned mother who saw a man trying to catch and supposedly kidnap her daughter. The woman was advising others to be wary and have their eyes open at all times. A few days later, there was an update by the same woman ; police investigated the man and it turned out to be a grandfather mistaking the woman’s daughter for his grandchild. These days we know much more about cases of crime involving children, but the actual probability that something like this will happen to our child is still very small – as small as it was when children in my generation were walking to school by themselves.
Therefore it is very strongly felt that parents are on their own – because they are the only ones responsible for their children and also, because it is dangerous to have different social arrangements.

Showcase of Skills

The sight of others watching parents in a public space is a harsh reminder of the judging of parental skills which take place every day.

In our culture, parenting is defined as a set of skills which parents apply when interacting with their children. This is the reason why advising parents seems for so many people an obvious thing to do. It is then so easy to undermine parents’ confidence about their own way of doing things. People in social space often seem to have strong doubts about parenting skills of others.

When I was rocking my son in the buggy, a man approached me and offered a piece of advice: ‘you can interact’ – he said – ‘if you wave your hand in front of him – like this – he will react’.
I witnessed many online discussions about parents and children in social spaces – often in restaurants – and they were all soaked with judgemental discourse of ‘skilful management of child’s behaviour’. People would usually be giving out about parents, blaming parenting crises and spoiled children and comlain, that ‘a spoiled child ruined somebody’s romantic dinner because the parents dared to come to a restaurant and couldn’t properly handle their child.’

I would like to ask people bringing this to the table, how many times in their lives has their romantic dinners actually been ruined by a family coming for a meal. I think this picture just shows the hostility towards parents and children in a public space, which supposedly does belong to others – mature and grown up people.

This picture accounts for challenges which our society presents to parents and their children. This doesn’t mean that there are no positive exchanges and friendly people offering help or starting up nice conversations with parents.
I described the ‘mutual distrust’ and common definition of ‘parenting as a set of skills’ to show that these aspects of parenting in our culture can be very undermining for parents and their confidence. It’s sometimes good to realise, that if we feel inadequate or uncomfortable in certain situation it’s not because we are wrong, but because the wider context is set up to make us feel like that.

Knowing this we might be able to reject this role and follow our own path.