Modern day expectations around the simple act of parenting have peaked into the red. Social media, digital media, the press, light entertainment news panel shows; never has there been so much ‘advice’ about what you should and shouldn’t be doing as a parent.
But parenting is not meant to be complex. Au contraire, parenting is the ultimate ‘for everyone at all levels’ activity. It has to be, otherwise human beings would die out and some other apex predator would inherit the earth.
What I’m saying is: if your kids are alive and generally happy, you’re doing parenting right.
In case you’re still not convinced, here are seven things I can guarantee you are doing absolutely right as a parent.
1. Letting your kids get dirty
The advice on dirt and germs swings from one end of the spectrum to the other on a daily basis. One minute we’re told it’s good to let kids get dirty because it builds their immunity, the next there’s an alarming story about a flesh-eating bug eating someone’s legs from the inside out.
Personally, I am no clean freak. In fact some might say I am a bit lacking in the hygiene department. For example: I have never made my kids wash their hands before dinner. I KNOW! Reckless! It’s all I can do to get them to actually come to the dinner table, let alone wash their hands en route. My point is: at time of writing, my kids have never had a flesh-eating bug issue, septicaemia, incurable gastro or any other sort of serious germ-based life-threatening infectious emergency.
If your kids are dirty, you’re doing parenting right.
2. Providing some sort of meal every night
The hysteria around dinner and nutrition is currently at fever pitch. And while it’s important that we all remain mindful of what we are feeding our children, don’t lose your mind about the food pyramid and measuring out portions of steak against the palm of your hand. As long as you are providing a half-decent meal, generally from scratch every other night of the week, you are doing things absolutely right. And note that I said ‘as long as you are providing …’ because getting them to eat it is a whole other thing.
Just put it on the table and your job is done.
What more can you do? Set up an IV drip and administer vegetables intravenously?
You prepared it. You put it on the table. Parenting done.
3. Packing a bog standard sandwich for your kid’s lunch
The hysteria around lunch boxes is also having its moment in the sun and you could be forgiven for thinking you need to set up a commercial kitchen with a resident sous chef in order to prepare your kids’ lunches. Then there’s the whole designer bento-box-style lunch box craze that makes the term ‘brown-bagging it’ seem as relevant as giving someone your home address so that they can write you a letter.
When I was a kid, I ate mustard sandwiches on white bread all through first grade. Not because my family were too poor to afford lunch meat, but because I was just vibing with the acidic punch of mustard and wanted to experience it in all its glory without the distraction of pressed meats. Newsflash, I’m still alive, I am not obese, nor do I have diabetes.
I’m not saying, get on board with the mustard sandwiches, but I am saying, cheese and Vegemite sandwich plus an apple in a normal lunch box = your job here is done.
And the whole ‘packing an ice cold drink’ thing? Don’t get me started. Drinking lukewarm water from a plastic drink bottle is the stuff happy school memories are made from.
4. Sending your kids to the local state primary school
Some people like to start planning their kids’ education on conception. As soon as the pregnancy is confirmed they start checking out every school in the vicinity to see which one is best; including out-of-area state schools with the gifted streams and fancy prep schools with funny little caps as part of the uniform. Well, guess what? Most local schools are absolutely fine. Whichever one is closest and easiest to get to is fine. That’s what ‘free education for all’ means: it means, there will be a school near you that will educate your child free of charge. Just avail yourself of the spoils of soft-core socialism.
What I’m saying is: if you just walked out your door, turned left and enrolled your kid at the first state primary school you came across without checking first if they had a gifted and talented program, you’re doing parenting absolutely right.
5. Cleaning up kids’ rooms only when people are coming over
I know a lot of people swear by having clean rooms and beds made before anyone leaves the house every day. But seriously, WHO HAS THE TIME??? If your kids’ bedrooms look like crack dens most of the time, not only are you not alone but you’re doing parenting right.
As long as you do a clean sweep of those bedrooms with the wheelie bin twice a year, or whenever you have company (failing that, just shut the doors when people come round – I do) your parenting is right on track as far as I’m concerned.
6. Having dinner in front of the telly once or twice a week
I know there’s all this stuff about ‘Oh you must sit down and really connect with your kids over dinner and talk about everybody’s day,’ and blah blah blah but have you tried that? Like every night? We do it every other night but to be honest, driving the dinner conversation with my kids can be like pushing a barrow of sh** up a hill.
Did you get any homework?
Okay. Good talk. Pass the salt someone?
And I know there’s all those tricky ways of getting kids to talk – like asking them what they’re most proud of doing that day or what they learned or something profound that will allow you to see inside their soul but OH CAN WE ALL JUST CALM DOWN AND STOP DOING SO MUCH PARENTING? Our kids are exhausted from all of the parenting.
Every other night it’s mandatory to just plonk everyone down in front of Family Feud and shovel food mindlessly into your gobs as a unit. It’s bonding, it’s relaxing and there’s no shame in it.
7. Being too busy to sweat the small stuff
Parenting is the ultimate triage skill. And if daily, you are letting small things go by the wayside, like matching socks, limited screen time and clean faces, you’re doing the triage thing exactly right. After all what’s more important, wiping the jam off Lachlan’s chin and not stultifying the toddler with an iPad or getting everyone to school on time?
You know it, lady. I don’t even need to hear the answer.