I remember once I got over the early newborn days of wondering, ‘what next?’ I had up until this point only considered how to keep the baby alive, my next big step was to consider how I actually wanted to….PARENT?
Growing up, I remember looking around me at all sorts of parents. I thought parenting looked stressful and hard work. Parents seemed constantly disappointed and worried about their children. There were arguments over food and not being smart enough. There was cajoling of kids to be braver, quicker and faster than they might actually be. There was disappointed looks, emotional black-mail and physical reprimands. I did not consider myself cut out for this. Now I’m a parent I totally understand all of these parents and their struggles, but I needed some sort of road map for how I would tackle these challenges.
Having always been the shortest in my class and the youngest person in my family I grew up with very little sense of my own authority. When I started work I was continuously mistaken for being five years younger than I actually was. I was always ID’d for booze and at the age of 34 with two kids I was asked for ID whilst buying some wine just the other day!
The advent of this motherhood stuff was going to be a fast learning curve to developing my own ‘voice of authority’.
So, as my daughter grew up, she moved from accidentally being annoying (because she was newborn and had no sense of cause or effect or what ‘naughty’ even consisted of), to sometimes actually being annoying and naughty. I needed some framework in which I was going to tackle this. Was I the sort of mother to smack? Was I going to ignore bad behaviour? Was I going to bribe? Oh God, I had no idea. I guessed the best was to work through the list and see what worked.
So I tried smacking her hand one day when she peed on our bed and laughed in my face. I smacked her soft little toddler hand and we both stopped and stared at each other in shock. Immediately we cried. It was an utter failure of parenting.
I ignored bad behaviour and found my house in ruins with satsumas squished into the sofa and poo on the carpet.
I bribed endlessly with chocolate and sugar-free snacks. She always ate them way too quickly and I never had enough and eventually she became a stubborn mule refusing to go anywhere without the metaphorical carrot of Organix snack bars.
And then one day whilst I was once again wondering the impact of my parenting style on this innocent little creature I realised I needed to find someone to emulate. Someone who whenever I was in a parenting crisis I would call upon for answers and guidance. I guess some people have parenting gurus like they see on TV, or parents or aunts. I knew immediately who I wanted as my role model. I wanted Oprah. This might be a strange choice. She’s never done a parenting programme or written a book on parenting – and that’s because she’s never raised any children! But she was perfect partly because I had never met her and she hadn’t been involved in my upbringing and so she could be the ‘perfect’ image of parenting that i was looking for. I could imagine that she would know exactly how to deal with any situation and she would do so with an air of authority that I was otherwise lacking. It was perfect. I could layer upon Oprah everything that I thought were ‘ideal’ parenting traits…
Oprah wouldn’t live a life of constant battles, of being disillusion and disappointed on a loop. She’d take control of the situation and build of family of love and direction.
Oprah wouldn’t take any shit. She’s be damn assertive. She’d have high standards and high morals. But at the same time she’d be loving, generous and kind.
Oprah would raise confident, resilient and articulate children.
Oprah would work with a child’s abilities, never asking more of them than they could give but asking them to be ‘their best self’. THAT’S what I wanted for my family.
Honestly, from the moment I realised I wanted to parent like Oprah I haven’t had to question how to parent. I just channel my thoughts to my inner Oprah and make a decision based on how this kind and non-judgemental human would behave. I know that sounds mad; a white, British, middle class Mum from Surrey channelling her inner black American, billion-dollar talk show host. But it works. It still works. I’m mad and I’m happier for it.
I still have some days where parenting is hard but that’s because I have to be a million places at once and sacrifice quite a bit. But in terms of disciplining my kids and raising happy and confident children, I have a compass; Oprah.
Do you have a role model you try to emulate? Is it a mixture of a few people? I’d be so interested to hear if anyone else channels an inner diva in order to parent more effectively.