Here are just a few of the things permanently unticked on my parenting ‘to do’ list:
- Batch cook Moroccan lentil scrolls for the 7-year old’s bento lunchbox (and buy bento lunchbox)
- Reduce 11-year old’s screen time by 80%
- Schedule wholesome family board game sessions which don’t necessitate Band Aids
- Research (Google on phone at 2am) symptoms of scurvy due to low vegetable intake
- Have both kids recite their times tables faster than they can reel off Minecraft hacks
- Be more Insta-gram…less instant noodles
While I’m a big fan of lists (preferably in a moleskin notebook, scribed in neat black ink), this one just serves to remind me that I’m #failing.
It’s not just the unticked lists that confirm I’m a bad mum, it’s the world wide web.
Sanctimonious parenting forums, flawless social media feeds, news stories warning of the evils of peanuts through to penicillin, all overload a generation of already overloaded parents.
A quick scroll of any news site (especially the comments) will confirm that Generation Z and Alpha kids are overweight, screen-dependant, allergy-afflicted, less literate versions of the ones before…and guess who’s to blame?
Maybe poet Phillip Larkin nailed it when he wrote “they f**k you up your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do”.
However, there are two things to remember about this theory that we’re the worst generation of parents ever:
- Much of it’s unsubstantiated
- It’s totally self-perpetuating
Let’s tackle the unsubstantiated bit first.
The truth is bad news gets more fuss, it sells papers, it’s click bait. A sense of perspective is needed. Our kids aren’t (completely) doomed.
Yes, we have an obesity problem but every generation’s taller than the one before so BMIs have only marginally increased. Dr Gavin Sandercock (Child Fitness Expert at Essex University) says “I think many people expect the difference to be bigger, but it’s a ratio of height to weight, which are both increasing”. The latest UK National Diet and Nutrition survey also shows that fizzy drink consumption in children has dropped by a third in the past nine years.
Yes, we’re in the midst of a child mental health crisis but stats are skewed by the fact that conditions like anxiety have only been recognised as clinical categories in the last 30 years. There are also positive impacts of society’s newfound mental health awareness, Psychologist Jean Twenge who researches generational differences says “iGens exhibit more care for others.” She also says “iGens, more than other generations, are respectful and inclusive of diversity of many kinds”.
Yes, there are areas in which we could do better but our children are pretty forgiving. Jean Twenge says “They are more likely than previous generations to hang out with their parents “. Researcher and social trends analyst Paul Flatter says “when we ask them about their role models, teenagers are much more likely to describe their parents, and their respect for them, and for their hard work, than they are to quote footballers or film stars.”
Now let’s tackle point (b).
The belief that we’re all failures has got to be self-perpetuating. Does all this self-flagellation make us better parents? Nope, it makes us miserable ones. Miserable parents are not good parents.
In my case the fear that I’ve failed if my kids reject my batch-cooked aubergine dal in favour of spaghetti hoops, turns mealtimes into battles. The pressure to raise well-rounded individuals means forcing my school-weary kids into extra-curriculum timetables and much yelling of “just get your bl**dy shoes on!” Turning Sunday afternoons into homework boot camps for fear of teacher-judgement ends in snotty tears all round.
There’s only one thing that should be permanently ticked off a parenting to do list – ensuring your child knows they’re loved.
To be a good parent: silence the guilt, the cyber noise and your inner critic.
Burn your A-Level Philip Larkin text. Cuddle your child.
Vicky is a Cotswold-based writer / blogger / content creator with a lively, engaging style. She has a Diploma with Distinction from the London School of Journalism and her pieces have been re-tweeted globally, translated into Arabic and made into podcasts. She has written lifestyle, expat, parenting, education and travel pieces but will embrace any topic
Her portfolio is at www.victoria-mitchell.com