Have you ever found that having children all of a sudden made you very reflective about your own life? Even back at the very beginning when you were first expecting your baby? I think the very prospect of bringing new life into the world, a life that you will be responsible for suddenly helps put things into perspective for all of us. You begin to ask yourself questions like – Am I happy with where I am in life? Have I achieved everything I wanted to or are there still things that I would like to accomplish?
Then the focus turns to your offspring. You begin to ask yourself – What sort of a life do I want for my child? Am I in a position where I can give them everything that I want them to have? All of a sudden life becomes very serious and contemplative and I bet these are questions that we have all asked ourselves at some point because let’s be honest – we all want the best for our children.
But I can’t help wondering if it runs a little bit deeper than that. Sometimes I think that when it comes to our own children, as well as wanting to give them the best of everything, what we really want is for them to have a better, more improved version of our own upbringing. We think back to our own childhoods and our own experiences of growing up and use that as a template for how we then raise our kids. All the mistakes that we made and all the times that we think back upon and don’t remember so fondly, we want to make sure that our children do not go through the same. We want their experiences to be better.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a very good upbringing and overall have little to complain about. My parents always did their best to give us everything that we needed and as a result I like to think that I turned out to be a pretty decent human being! However having said that… there were definitely elements that I do remember that had a slightly negative effect on me and as a result will now ensure will be different for my daughters.
One in particular is my memory of birthday parties. When I was a child my party was always a pretty low-key affair. It mostly consisted of a cake, a plate of rice krispie buns and Country Spring orange and red lemonade that was often poured into mugs because we didn’t have enough glasses. And although my mum probably thought that this was fine all I really wanted was to have a party like some of the ones that I had been to at my friends’ houses. The parties with bunting, balloons, games like Pass The Parcel and a party bag to take home with you. The type of party bag that had a small packet of jellies, a fun size bag of maltesers and a small bottle of Cola or Fanta. But my poor mum’s imagination didn’t stretch that far! And as a result I now have this mild obsession with birthday parties and I love giving my daughters a big splash when it comes to theirs.
Another memory is the haircuts and the matching outfits. Oh dear God the matching outfits! My mother was obsessed with dressing us the same even though my sister and I were five years apart. It was only when I was fourteen that I managed to get my hair down past shoulder length when I finally told my mum that I didn’t want to have a bowl-shaped hair cut anymore (I know my younger sister harbours a particular resentment for this one). Again I know our parents probably didn’t realise it at the time but some of the decisions they made for us when we were growing up have resulted in deeply rooted neuroses that we have now carried into our adult lives!
My husband is also slightly neurotic when it comes to his hair because as a teenager his mother used to spray blonde from a can into his hair in an attempt to make his brown hair lighter – I kid you not! She (unlike my mother) didn’t like short hair and always tried to encourage him to grow his hair long. As a result he now gets his hair cut every month and if you go near him with a can of spray he will either break out in a cold sweat or run away screaming…
The thing is though that as much as I might draw from my own experiences in childhood when making decisions for my daughters and how I raise them, I never want to get too obsessed about it. My husband and I have both talked to each other about this (a lot!) and know that we don’t want to fall into the trap of trying to mould them into the sort of people that we want them to be. The truth is all I really want is for them to be themselves, whoever that may be. I also realise that as a parent nobody is perfect and I am bound to get it wrong at times – I just hope for their sakes that I can keep the damage to a minimum!
Have you any memories from childhood that had a similar impact on you? Anything you have vowed to be different for your own children?