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Being house trained by osmosis

My children might not get it right or even seem to want to get it right for now, writes Maria Tedeschi. But once they leave the safe haven of the family home, I need to believe that those skills that I tried so hard to instil in them will surface.

It’s my mantra: I must have faith in my parenting skills.

I must have faith in my parenting skills. Even though it might sometimes seem that the essential life skills and values that I am trying to instil in my children are falling on deaf ears, I must have faith in my parenting skills.

I need to reassure myself that my words of wisdom are permeating those little eardrums. That through a process not unlike osmosis, they are learning and they will one day behave accordingly.

I take a moment to look back to when I was young. I think about my relationship with my mother and I remember how she often tried to teach me something or other. Even though 16 years ago I pretty much dismissed everything she had to say, I now find myself behaving just like her – in more ways than one. Not only do I sound like my mother, but I am also finally doing the very things that she asked of me all those years ago.

There were, of course, many situations in which my mother and I butted heads: “That skirt is too short, that music is too loud and that boy is too old”. But curiously, there was one scenario where my mother never took issue with me. Looking back on it now, it’s as if she had the foresight just to let it play out.

My mother would ask me every night to help out by putting the dishes away before I went to bed. But I never did. Why? Well, let’s be honest: I was simply too lazy. And I knew that when morning came, my mother would do it herself. But here I am today, in charge of my own household and I find myself always putting the dishes away at night – just so that I won’t have to do it in the morning. It is only now that I fully understand and appreciate the enormous daily task my mother undertook to raise her family and run the household. If only I had understood back then.

But although I now feel guilty for my indifference towards helping my mother, I also realise that I will soon face those same trials and tribulations with my own children.

I often daydream about my future household and about what it will be like when I have certain expectations of my teenage children, who will of course have differing views.

It is important that I remember how I felt during the various stages of my own adolescence. Putting dishes away and having a clean house just wasn’t important to me back then. After all, it wasn’t my house and it is difficult to take pride in something that isn’t yours. But what my mother might not have known is that I had also grown accustomed to living in the house and home that she had shaped. And so when I hit the big, bad world, I suddenly found myself setting those same standards for myself.

Parenting is about teaching our children about life. And although life extends beyond the realms of the household, the household is the ultimate training ground. My children might not get it right or even seem to want to get it right for now, but once they leave the safe haven of the family home, I need to believe that those skills that I tried so hard to instil in them will surface.

My mother should take heart. She may not be the one benefiting from my new-found diligence, but her legacy will live on long after she is gone.

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