While watching Brave with the kids the other day, I looked forward to my favourite bit where Merida rips her dress and fires the arrows directly into the bullseye of all three targets, kicking the loser boys into touch and completely disobeying her mother. I feel inspired and proud of Merida’s defiance and independence.
Then I realised that I now play the role of the infuriated parent, wrestling everyday with the parenting paradox of trying to allow the children to think independently, to be self confident and to choose what they want to do, while at the same time wanting them to listen and obey everything I say…immediately!
My kids are 4 (“and three quarters”) and 2 (“and dee duarters”), so part of this conflict is obviously due to the fact that they aren’t independent and need help with, well, pretty much everything. Mixed with a few of the usual antics of young kids like lolling all over the floor as soon as the words “bath time” are mentioned, protesting that they are too tired to move, yet moments before they were diving off the arm of the sofa and requesting a disco in the front room. “Do we have to go through this every night”, I ask them, naively hoping for some hint of a rational response. “Sorry daddy, you’re right, I do this too much. I’ll get in the bath as I soon as I’ve tidied the toys away.”
I want them to do the things they enjoy doing and allow them to make their own decisions. I feel happy on those occasions when they do something I suggest. It gives me that small moment of feeling in tune. Harmonious. And then there’s all the times that they decide they’d like to ride their bikes, when you thought it would be easiest to walk, or when they decide they want to walk after you’ve spent half an hour loading the bikes onto the car.
But will this conflict ever change? Does the very thread of trying to create independent children inherently conflict with parenting being easy? If Merida was doing it, I’d probably feel proud and inspired. But when it’s my kids I feel the same infuriation of the Queen in the film. I want my kids to be Brave and, for that, maybe I have to accept the frustrations. I need to stop hoping that things will get easier around the corner. That when they hit a certain age, or start school, or reach some other milestone, we’ll all be best buddies and do exactly what we ask of each other (well, they do what I ask!).
Here’s to the continuous challenge for years to come. It’s ok, if I step back and pretend I’m watching Brave, I’ll be proud and inspired.