Tuesday, 21 January 2014

"Watch that stick!"

I've recently realised that I'm guilty of a bit of "over-parenting". Basically for me this means interfering/intervening in my twins' play when it's not necessary, hovering over them and "advising" them when they are eating, telling them how to play with something and charging in to diffuse any potentially hostile situation. I've been spending far too much energy and getting uptight about things that, to be honest, are none of my business and it needs to stop.

As a mum I've always felt that it's my duty to control whatever is happening regarding my children. If one was about to hit the other I'd step in, if a cup was about to drop off the table I'd catch it, if they weren't playing with a toy "correctly" I'd "help" them. Urgh! What a pain in the bottom! No wonder my son would tell me to go away! Now that they are 3 years old I have made a conscious effort to take a step back, let them discover things for themselves and constantly ask myself "what's the worst that could happen?" 

Well, nothing too terrible so far. If my daughter decides that she wants to eat all her potatoes, then her carrots, and then her chicken, who cares? She doesn't need my helpful advice on mixing mouthfuls so that they taste yummy. It's her dinner and she should be able to eat it however she likes. My son is massively into jigsaws at the moment, and can complete one in record time, but he always does them upside down. Does this matter? No. Does it take every fibre of my being not to intervene and demonstrate how much easier it would be the right way up? Yes! When it comes to their disputes I've realised that I can't intervene at the first whimper or whine. It's the hardest thing not to jump in when you hear playful laughter switch to a wail or an indignant "hey!", but I've forced myself on a number of occasions recently to take a step back and not charge in on my white horse to try to resolve the situation. Not least because I often have no idea what has occurred and we all know that taking a toddler's word for it is dodgy ground. I'm hoping that letting them resolve their own disputes will mean that they are more independent and capable of compromise, as well as understanding the importance of taking responsibility and saying sorry. Big dreams, I know! 

As I've noticed this tendency towards over-parenting in myself I have also noticed that it really is all around. On holiday I witnessed a Dad coaching his 7-year-old around a climbing frame, barking instructions from the ground about the importance of having "3 points of contact" on a ladder at all times. It really made me giggle (maybe he was a health and safety inspector or something) and I wondered how this child was ever going to function in the big, bad world if he couldn't be trusted on a climbing frame? (By the way, the child was very cautious, obedient and didn't look like he was going to do anything terribly adventurous, ever.) I was quite proud of my twins who were running around, swinging off things, falling over and getting in a pickle as Mr R and myself sat on a nearby picnic table with a glass of wine. "Benevolent neglect" I call this particular style of parenting! 

I've also seen a 4-year-old on reins, grandparents doing the "follow the child around the playground" thing, packets of crisps being opened the "correct" way for children who must surely be school-age, a panic-stricken mother screaming at her child to be careful of a stick that was lying on the ground and couldn't have presented any sort of danger unless the child suddenly decided to pick it up and poke himself in the eye.

Of course we have to look after our children and keep them safe, but we also need to leave them alone and give them some space. With the arrival of baby number 3 only about 4 weeks away, my twins aren't going to have much choice!


  1. Hey Mrs R! I wanted to let you know you definitely have an avid follower in me. I check in from time to time for your latest post: my non ID girls are about 1 year younger than your two and, as the world's most clueless mum, I will always default to research, research, research partly to maintain the charade that I am in total control at all times (ha ha!) but mostly to just help me make sense of my life with twins! The best voices are those who have already 'got the t-shirt' and so are in the best position to share their experiences to us newbies out there. You certainly prove a great barometer for me (I'll be commencing on potty training in the not too distant future) so I'm really grateful to read your insights.

    On over parenting, I definitely know what you mean but then when there are two beakers of juice to save and two toddlers to prevent rolling around in the mess I think we can forgive ourselves that little flaw. I think at the heart of my incident-avoidance is an almost unconscious but continuous and stealthy calculation of the cost (time, energy, extra washing, stress) that avoidance action (interfering) can save me. I also tell myself that there will be a time when I feel comfortable to allow abject mess and arguments to unfold before me while I sail over it all, blissful, calm, in control. It just seems to take me sooooo much longer to gain any degree of perspective of my life with the girls before I actually move (lurch) onto the next stage.

    In other moments of my life a chide myself for my lack of intervention when compared to mums of one: sometimes you just cannot be in two places at once (today, one fell off the trampoline at the exact moment the other slipped out and under the ride along car she was in; both incidents were under the spotlight for all to see at the toddler group we were at. Other times I find I just have nothing left in the tank to dive in where a mum of one might. As long as I know I am giving my all when I can, I try not to be too hard on myself.

    And then there is the Nanny: a few years younger than me, she breezes in with her 1 year old strapped to her chest (oh, so easy with one) two days a week to whisk my girls off for magical treats of delight; they eat heartily when they are with her and walk calmly and obediently next to her with or without a pram (!!!???). Sound familiar? I don't know how she does it but, given that she used to be cabin crew for British Airways, I tell myself there is nothing she cannot cope with. Thankfully my sense of total inadequacy when I inevitably compare her 'performance' with my own is tempered by the love affair which has developed between my girls and her son; that and the total trust and affection I have for someone who helps me maintain my sanity with such aplomb.

    On the subject of sanity, I never see any other twins at the toddler groups we go to. Does that mean I'm doing okay? Or did i actually slip into insanity and not notice months ago? Are the truly sane mums of twin toddlers safely locked in doors watching Cbeebies and treading play doh into the Ikea rug? Someone let me know.

    Anyway, to reiterate, I love reading your posts as I am sure many other mums of multiples do too. I look forward to reading your next ramblings soon-ish. In the meantime I wish you a smooth and joyous birth for your new baby.

  2. Hello

    As a twin mum and blogger - I wondered if you would be interested in reviewing one of our products. We are The Twins Gift Company and we specialise in gifts for twins, multiples and their families. Can we send you a plaque and a card for your perusal and then ask that you mention your thoughts on our products in your blog. I look forward to hearing from you. Kind regards Karen

  3. Hi Frances
    So lovely to know there's someone reading this drivel! I always liked knowing someone whose twins were a few steps ahead of mine. Like I've said many times in this blog; it's not about saying "this is how you do it", but simply "this is how I did it". I think as multiple mums we need to give ourselves a break and realise that as we struggle from one seeming disaster to another, all the other mums think that we are total superheroes just getting out of bed in the morning.

    Anyway, I don't know you but I reckon you're doing great!