We are fed the above mantra from childhood, indeed there are times when it seems to ring true. We are constantly given the message to strive, to not settle for second best, to persevere, that all good things come to those who wait. It seems logical enough then to take this approach to parenthood. However, ten years down the line I am starting to believe that effort has a time and a place and that all too frequently one doesn’t reap the benefits of ones efforts shall we say.
Like many new parents I started off in a relatively conscientious manner when it came to food. I made a lot of older boys’ baby food and I followed a baby led weaning approach for second boy. Both boys were given a wide variety of different foods which were for the most part “healthy”, although by the time second boy had got to the baby led weaning stage my standards had slipped somewhat. They have continued to slip and there are days when I would go as far as to say that I am right at the bottom of the slippery slope on my bottom. Older boy has just taken himself off to McDonalds for his tea. Attempts at home cookery are largely thwarted and simple meals almost always work best. Basically its just not worth putting the effort in, cause any headway with food you feel you have made during the baby stage quickly gets unpicked once the baby becomes a toddler. Furthermore, time and money become significantly scarcer the older the boys get.
Celebrations, notably birthdays and Christmas take on a new significance once there are children on the scene. although I admit that during the early years a lot of this was about personal gratification. After all, who doesn’t want to dress their baby up as a reindeer and big up their first birthday. I had all these ideas about special things I would do for Christmas and when the boys were 3 and 6, I got round to doing stockings. I delighted in wrapping up bits of tat, to include juggling balls, oversized pencils and miniature books. Christmas morning arrived and I waited in joyful anticipation as the boys tore through their stocking presents. It took me a couple of minutes to twig that older boy was putting each present on one side and announcing that he didn’t like it. Needless to say I felt like a deflated balloon and rather than create a scene mentally promised myself that there would be no more stockings. Following on from this, I decided to buy each boy a Christmas morning annual instead which has been better. Sometimes less really is more.
In the pre-school and early school years, days out featured highly. If I’m being really honest, I couldn’t tolerate staying in the house for long periods, so would always be on the look out for things to do, usually up in London as I was and still am passionate about London. Coupled with a nice trip to a cafe, our excursions generally worked well. A couple of Summers ago, having proudly found a deal on Little Bird, I decided that we should visit the Roald Dahl museum. I put the plan to the boys in an enthusiastic manner and was told by older boy that he would rather get killed. Whilst this appeared to be a bit extreme, he never did admit to enjoying the day.
Somewhere along the line a lesson has been learnt, what I want to do or think we should be doing or think other people think we should be doing is not the point. To a large extent (without being totally kidcentric), I need to be led by what the kids want to do, obviously taking health and safety into account. I did draw the line at older boy wanting to make a fire in the garden to cook fish, but I did embrace his wish to cook fish and will strive to embrace his plans to start fishing. In a nutshell my new mantra is make minimal effort even when it goes against your instincts and save your efforts for when they are really needed or for when they are going to pay off.