While I suppose many aspects of my lifestyle are a bit unconventional, on the subject of bringing up children I think my views are quite conservative. I had quite a strict upbringing. There were rules of behaviour within our home which I was obliged to keep to. I remember there being limits on how much TV I could watch and what time I should go to bed. There were places I was allowed to play and places I wasn’t. I had to eat my meals at set times and at least try to eat everything on the plate. More importantly I was supposed to behave correctly and politely at school and at home especially when we had guests. My parents never hit me or slapped me; they didn’t need to. Their word was law. If I got into trouble at school I was mortified because I knew my parents would be disappointed in me (and that was punishment in itself). I can honestly say it never occurred to me to be rude to teachers or to guests at home.
I was not a “goodie-goodie” child. I used to get into trouble for talking to much, for being messy and sometimes lazy, for being late, for forgetting my homework, and occasionally for doing things which were just silly or outright dangerous. But on the whole, I was well behaved.
When I did something wrong, the most serious actual punishment I can remember was being sent to my room or loosing privileges such as pocket money, sweets or cake. Mostly though, my parents just had authority which I didn’t question, backed up with rewards when I did something particularly good.
As a result of this upbringing I generally did well at school and was well liked by the people around me; this won me privileges and respect. I seemed to mature a little faster than some of my peers and because I was generally well behaved and sensible, my parents trusted me in my teenage years and I was actually allowed a lot more freedom and independence at that stage than most of my friends.
These days, while I may be a bit unconventional, I am a confident, happy and, I believe, quite successful person. I attribute all of this to my fairly strict upbringing.
As teacher I am occasionally appalled by the behaviour of some of the students I have to teach. I generally don’t blame them, but I do wonder what their parents have been playing at. I think most of my students would describe me as a fun teacher despite the fact that I also tend to be very strict about the standard of work and behaviour I expect (and sometimes demand) from them. I do think children need and respect boundaries; and once those have been firmly established lessons can be very relaxed and a lot of fun.
I dislike being around badly behaved children…. Children screaming and causing a fuss in supermarkets while their parents do nothing to stop them. Children shouting and swearing in the street even if their parents are beside them… Children misbehaving in restaurants, on planes and trains and in other public places while their parents ignore them and carry on as if nothing was wrong… So in fact it is not really the children that I object to but the lack of control and perhaps “care” demonstrated by their parents.
Of course as a teacher and fairly experienced adult I know that some children have behavioural problems which are not the fault of their parents. Some children are predisposed to be naughty and disobedient and others have more profound psychological problems. But still, I don’t think all the bad behaviour I see every day can be the result of ADHD or other such disorders. I think there is an awful lot of bad parenting going on.
However I am not a parent, and I recognise (with some degree of sadness) that there are many aspects of parenthood that I am not really qualified to comment on or judge. But my situation is changing…
My girlfriend has a nine year old daughter, and while she will never be my daughter she certainly has become part of my family and my maternal instincts are very much engaged. For somebody as inexperienced as me at taking care of my own children, Tina is a gift! She is so well behaved that on the rare occasion that I have to even slightly chastise her, I feel much more uncomfortable about it than she does. The key is that she has already been very well brought up. Sophie is as strict with her as my parents were with me and so she is a very polite, respectful and intelligent girl. More importantly, because bad behaviour is never an issue we can go to places and do lots of fun things as a family that otherwise would not be possible. I am sure that Tina will mature early (she already is doing) and become a happy, confident and independent young women. As a test for my parenting instincts she is almost too easy!
When I first met Sophie and realised that my life was going to go in a very unexpected direction, my broodiness stopped for a while and I gave up all ambitions to have a child of my own. Having spent a lot of time with Tina recently however, I realised that my broodiness was just on hold and I am very much in the “Mother” phase of life. Rather than write a long essay on the subject I will just say that I feel like a very different person now than I did even a couple of years ago and I am happy to feel more like a mother than a teenager. But the body clock has started ticking loudly again.
Sophie and I have discussed all this at length and I have come to the conclusion that just because I am in a lesbian relationship does not mean it is impossible to have a child of my own. There are all sorts of ways and means, and we are starting to actively look into them… And I am excited.
I would love to have the privilege of binging up my own child according to my own values. And I am sure if it happens my more strident views on good parenting will be challenged!
But anyway… That’s the plan.
Oh and just in case some very pretty young Swiss eyes should happen to read this post at some point… Even if I have my own son or daughter one day; Tina will always be an incredibly special part of my family… a little bit like a daughter and a lot like a friend. And I love her as much as I love her Mummy. xx