I am a mother of two beautiful girls, aged 10 months and two and three quarter years. Every day of my life, since July 2007, has been full of lessons in a role completely new to me - the role of parent, and this blog shares some of those lessons. The greatest lesson I've learnt so far is that there's no right way to parent, no one rule, you'll never know it all, so you just have to keep practicing!

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I took my girls to a 4th birthday party yesterday.  The party was due to start at eleven thirty and an entertainer booked an hour later, so I wanted to get there early, giving my eldest time to acclimatize and therefore be in full swing by the time the entertainer started doing her thing.  Of course,  this didn't eventuate due to my usual inability to leave the house until well after the time we were due to be at the party (in this case, a twenty minute drive away!) and so we arrived at the same time as the entertainer.

This meant that my elder daughter did the "usual thing" she does whenever we meet up with people in a largish group, constantly try and get my attention and physically tries to drag me off in the opposite direction, resulting in both of us missing out on all the party action. Quite tiring, especially when trying to cater for the demands of No. 2 clinging to my hip too.

My elder daughter's been doing this for as long as I can remember. When she was very young, she and I would turn up for Mother's Group once a week, and from the time that all 8 babies in the group began pulling themselves up, my little lady would always try and pull herself up in another direction, and generally with me in tow.  As they progressed and started taking their first steps, her refusal to be "one of the group" continued.  If we met at a playground, I would look out of the corner of my eye with envy at the other mothers who would all be standing around chatting over their coffees, little ones playing nearby, and near each other, while I was being dragged (and I mean dragged in so much as someone less than two feet tall can drag someone well over twice their height) off to our own solitary corner.

Even if friends came round to visit us at home, I felt the need to explain that it might take half an hour or so of me indulging my daughter's antisocial behaviour before we can actually sit down and have a proper conversation.

Now I'm not convinced that my daughter is shy.  I know that from my descriptions above, shyness might well be a conclusion drawn, but from my experience of her,  I don't think this is the case, or certainly not the main reason for her actions.  She doesn't cling to my ankles or take shelter under my skirts.  There's nothing shy about her demeanour (although I'm not saying that this means that she's not feeling it on the inside).  I was extremely shy as a kid, and acutely remember that awful dread of being taken somewhere unfamiliar and or being told to "go off and play" with kids I didn't know.  I can still recall the feeling of complete helplessness and hopelessness.  Of course, my daughter and I are different people, so even though we might experience the same emotions, that doesn't go to say that we'll react to them in the same way.  However, it does make me very conscious to react constructively to her actions (even if they are a little frustrating) and try to understand why she acts in such a way, rather than purely getting annoyed.  

From a very young age, this little person has liked being in control of her own world and, coupled with a "slightly" short fuse, has found it very frustrating when she isn't.  From the age of three weeks, if she wasn't ready for her nappy to be changed, or her clothes to be put on, she would object.  This same behaviour has continued as she's grown up.

I believe that certainly a large part of her, what I find, rather unsociable behaviour when we first arrive in group situations, and in the case of today, parties, is her way of finding her control.  I am the most familiar figure to her at these occasions, and if she can separate me from the rest and feel confident that she has my full attention when needed, then she can start finding her feet ready to start exploring this new situation and what it has to offer. 

In a way this particular subject is more about me than her.  For ages I have regarded her behaviour as rather annoying, excluding me from doing what I want to do, chatting to others, having a nice relaxed time, wishing she could be more like the other children I was observing, off joining in and doing her own thing.   But I'm learning to accept, she's not like that and that's just her.  Also, often we're attending these things for her benefit NOT mine.  If I spend a little more time accepting what she's like and how she might be feeling, I might be able to help out a bit and get us both more of what we want.   I've realised that if I am willing to give her that time and attention when we first arrive somewhere, she will soon find her feet and then give me a bit of time to do my thing.  It is also not her fault that we arrived late.  I know that the earlier we get to places, the sooner she will be comfortable, so arriving on time is going to shoot to the top of my priority list!

I've also realised that it's so easy to look at other kids and think whistfully "look at them playing happily on their own", or joining in or whatever it is.  But I'm not their parent, and it's not my clothes that get pulled when they want attention!  Really I don't want her to be like any other child.  I adore her the way she is and appreciate it all, good and bad.  All these little character elements make up my daughter, and in my eyes, she's the best she could possibly be.  

In the end I had a lovely time yesterday.  I invested lots of time and interest in her when we first arrived, hoping to make her as comfortable as possible.  She soon went off and did her own thing while I managed to catch up with my friends.  Of course there were interruptions, but when I look around, all parents had those in some form or another.  By the end she was running around and the last thing she wanted to do was leave.  She chatted about the party in the car all the way home, and then pretend called her two hosts for hours on her toy mobile phone that evening when she was supposed to be going to sleep.  She had had a great time too, what more could I ask for.

So my lesson here is to remember, she's NOT a party pooper.  When I first arrive at these things I have to remember what things are like at the end, not at the beginning, and at the end of the day, if my daughter needs my help in the beginning to establish a bit of confidence and reassurance, well that's just fine.  I'm her Mum, isn't that what I'm here for?


  1. Well, I think that is a fantastic piece of writing by a very caring mother who will establish a marvellous relationship with her daughter because of her ability to understand how that daughter feels. I look forward to hearing more.

  2. I agree! I often find that it's when I'm tired myself and don't have the energy to really listen to what my little one is saying, that it can feel frustrating/irritating if things don't "go to plan"... its a bit like anything, if you manage to refocus and put a bit of energy into the actual moment, put your own objective to the side for a second (putting the washing machine on can probably wait a few moments!) then the mundane will often become really lovely and special.
    Reading Clare's piece reminded me of when I used to do childrens theatre; I'd perform the same show, day after day, every school would blur into the same one after a while and I;d feel I was just going through the motions. But then I'd try and jolt myself out of it and really focus on the moment, the here and now, and suddenly it would be fresh and wonderful and fun again. That's parenting in a nutshell!

  3. Hi, saw your intro on AMB. Children each have their own distinct personalities. That is part of the joy of being a parent, I think, is discovering who these little people are that we have the honor of accompanying through life. Sometimes I watch my kids and wonder at who they will grow into. I like that you are able to focus on the moment and go with what your daughter is doing. That's a wonderful lesson I'm still learning.