My own experiments on my child monster began the day I found out she existed.
Like a scientist, I began methodically studying the available body of evidence. I made calculated decisions to help me get closer to the elusive goal of ‘perfect parent’ of ‘perfect child’.
I spent days reading endless articles and blog posts. Bolting together the latest nutrition concepts, with a carefully planned (but very loosely adhered to) exercise schedule, and throwing in some classical music played to my baby bump for good measure.
Once she was born, the experiments got more intense. I began trial and error with breastfeeding positions. Investigations into the benefits of vitamin D supplements. The constant researching of infant sleep, trying moses baskets, cots, co-sleeping, night time drives and more classical music took over my life!
As she’s grown, the experiments evolved into ways to make mornings easier – letting her choose her own clothes and breakfast. How I could make tooth brushing a pleasure rather than a chore. Coaxing a reluctant toddler to have a bath.
I hypothesise about how to build my daughter’s self esteem and how to help her become a kind and resilient person, and test those hypotheses daily.
My child monster is growing up, a patchwork of my ideas and ideals. I’ll probably only know if my experiments have been successful when the lightning bolt of adulthood strikes and she is set free. Or maybe I’ll never know if they’ve worked as her experiments on herself begin and start crossing over with mine.
But I shall always marvel at my amazing creation.
There’s no right way to raise a child monster
There’s no right way to parent, that’s pretty clear. So all we do is perform lots of trial and error and experimentation.
What works for one child might not work for another. What works when you’ve had enough sleep and don’t have to get to work on time might not work when you’re overtired and rushed. And what works for one family might not work for another either.
We do what we can with the resources and knowledge we have available.
Our experiments are paying off…
It’s occurred to me a few times that each generation experiments with new ways to bring up their children. We instil the new, modern views of our generation, the ones that sit right with us anyway, confident that we’ve finally got it right this time. But do we anticipate the results of that or does it come as a surprise when we realise that our children are different to us?
Maybe they don’t have the same ingrained prejudices that we’ve had to battle. Or perhaps they have a much healthier attitude to taking care of their minds and bodies.
My teenage sister in law came home last year saying she’d got a girlfriend, completely matter-of-factly. At 15, I would have been embarrassed to tell my parents that but, for her, it was just a simple statement.
She also talks so eloquently about mental health. I admit I was surprised when she said that the boys at her school willingly discuss it too. It seems like the stigma doesn’t really exist in her cohort. Our fierce cries of “it’s ok to talk” really don’t apply to them because, of course it’s ok to discuss mental health, duh!
…but there’s still work to do
A recent report by Benenden Health described the latest generation of workers (Generation Z) as “a very health aware generation”. But they also explained that “body image is important for both genders and they are often insecure about their appearance as social media dictates how people should look.”
So it looks like our experiments are paying off, but we’ve still got work to do. As our world evolves, bringing new challenges, our experiments evolve to face them.
And as our children grow up, we still have a responsibility to future generations. We must pass on the knowledge we’ve accrued and hope that they might be the ones to crack it. Maybe in the distant future there really will be a parenting guide book.
The experiments may end one day, but until then, hand me my test tube!
What have you noticed is different for children these days compared to when you were young? Do you ever feel like a mad scientist raising a monstrous (but wonderful!) creation?!