Grow up, or don’t show up.

There are people in my life who exhibit unbelievably childish behaviour. One of those people is my two year old son. The other ones, are unfortunately significantly older. Here’s a list of what I feel is just unacceptable behaviour after the age of 6. All of which I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this very week.

Hanging up the phone mid sentence.

Oh, I’m sorry. Do you not like what I’m saying? Have I upset you in some way? You have two options. One of them is to tell me what’s on your mind and let us have a conversation about it. The other is to say “To be honest I don’t think this is going anywhere constructive, can we pick this up again later?” On no planet is it normal to just hang up with no warning, especially when you preface it with “You’re being ridiculous.” The dial tone begs to differ on who the ridiculous one is.

Giving the silent treatment. 

We all need space from time to time, especially after a difference of opinion or an argument. You can even be forgiven for screening calls when you just aren’t ready to talk to someone yet. But please don’t show up at my house if you’re not going to answer a direct question. Similarly, the Muttering Treatment may be even ruder. Especially when I say “Sorry, what was that?” and you revert back to silence. Either the argument is over, (in which case, get over it) or it isn’t (in which case-let’s talk about it).

Walking away mid sentence. 

I’m well versed in this one, as my toddler loves doing it. I’m trying to explain something, or ask him a question and suddenly, “Hey, where’d you go?” It can be quite endearing in a 2 year old. But I would imagine your concentration levels are greater than 4 seconds, so please give me the respect of letting me finish a sentence.

Overreactions, or tantrums in response to absolutely nothing.

We’ve all been there with our kids. a 45 minute screaming fit over the sausages touching the peas on the plate. Or a variety of toys thrown at our heads because they wanted their socks put on before trousers today. Really R? If this is how upset you get now, what will your response be when I’m forbidding you a party on a school night, or making you get a job to help afford a car? Anyway, again-understandable (but no less frustrating)  in a two year old or even a teenager, but please grow out of it by middle age. Thanks.

Calling names

The old adage ‘sticks and stones,’ has never rung particularly true to me. And most adults will agree that while cuts and bruises heal, there is really no way to take back abusive and angry words. Whatever you think of someone, especially if they are family, you might want to refrain from labelling them too harshly (to their face anyway-we all need to vent from time to time). You cant honestly believe you’re going to be angry forever, and however much I may laugh and smile with you when it’s all over, and even though forgive and forget has to be the name of the game in any even semi-functioning family, I can’t un-hear you calling me a selfish spoilt cow.

Genuinely, I’m not sure what to suggest in response to the treatment I’ve had this week. Immature behaviour deserves the same response I would give a child. I can’t exactly put you in the naughty corner for a time-out, and anyway I don’t have the rest of my life free to wait for you to say sorry. I could take access to your favourite things away, and not let you see us, in the same way I might take away R’s Winnie The Pooh at bedtime if he didn’t touch supper, but I’m really not interested in stooping to your own childish level of playing games. I’ve pretty much been trying positive reinforcement ever since our relationship started, and short of actually making you a star chart, I’m not sure I could make you feel a more wanted part of our life than we already do.

So grow up. Because you’re in a privileged position that one of us has decided to be an adult for the time being. But there’s nothing like immaturity to make everyone around you regress themselves. And if I decide to start walking away as well, you might not find it so easy to get me to come back.

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Dear Dad…

I’m so sad tonight. I wish I could pick up the phone and call you up and tell you how I’m feeling and let all my frustrations out. You would probably listen awkwardly because I’m a woman and I’d be crying, and then you would tell me a story that hardly seems related, but somehow makes me feel better anyway. I would put down the phone feeling all cried out in the way you normally can only be when you’re by yourself, but in a good way, instead of this lonely aching feeling that I’m left with right now.

You never met R, so I don’t know how you would deal with his visual impairment or his and our frustration at his speech delays. For all I know, when it comes to his medical history, you would be just as unhelpful as my remaining parent, not knowing what to say or do to help, or how to be supportive in the way we need. But I do know for certain one thing, when it comes to his everyday life, you would be here.

You would take me to appointments when I needed the company, you would be phoning off the hook every day to see how we both are, you would hug me when the terrible two’s were driving me mad, or there wasn’t anything helpful left to say. I can’t imagine a day going by where you wouldn’t want to see us both, to hold your grandson, to sit with your daughter, and just while away the time with us both.

You would probably tell me that it’s her depression and the years of being alone, but you’ll have to excuse me for insisting that it is still not normal for a parent to not want to see their grandchildren. After almost three weeks of no contact, it is not normal for a parent to have to be bullied into spending some time with their daughter and grandchild. And yet that’s what happened today. And I don’t know why I bothered. After an hour and a half of sitting on my couch watching him while I played with him, a large portion of that spent with her eyes closed, she left. My mother hadn’t hugged him, kissed him, read to him, or even touched him. She hadn’t even moved from her spot on the couch to go down to his level and join a game.

It’s true- I might imagine you being here through the tragically rose coloured glasses of knowing you never will be again. But it’s not the fact that you’re gone that tells me you would hardly let R go if you had the chance, it’s just fact. Because somehow, with one parent who told me she had to ‘learn’ to hug me when I needed it, I still grew up affectionate and loving to my friends and family. Even though I’ve been told that I’m loved the least out of her children, I’ve somehow got a sense of self-worth and belief. And I didn’t give myself those things, you did.

So I know, with the certainty of really knowing a person, the way I’m coming to believe I never will know my own mother, that you would be cuddling and playing and singing with my little boy every chance you could get your hands on. You would call, probably too much, to find out how we are and to tell us you care. It wouldn’t be a chore, or something you needed to be reminded to do or argued into.

I don’t worry about R, the way I sometimes worry about myself. He has two parents that know how to make him feel loved and special. Thank God, he doesn’t need you in his life to make him feel supported and worth something.

Sadly however, I sometimes think that I still do.

Parental Control(s)

We live in an amazing time. We have never had a world so small, or access to as much of it as we do in this generation. Unlike our great-grandparents, our children have equal opportunities and a chance to be children for longer. Unlike our grandparents, we will be blessed with countless photos and videos of our children for posterity and reminiscing. Unlike our parents, we have access to a wealth of information and support from around the globe.

But what is this doing to family values?

Fifty years ago, our parents and grandparents had questions about raising their newborn or toddler. Of course they did, we all do. For all parents, there are parts of parenthood which are like foreign countries, needing to be navigated cautiously and with plenty of advice. Generations before us had one simple line of enquiry; their own parents. Who better to ask about raising a child, than the people who raised you? As long as you didn’t have any huge culture or life-choice differences, they were bound to have an easy answer to your query. This helped mothers and daughters bond, helped grandparents feel like they were being included with their grandchildren, and made for a happy family dynamic.

But now, we have been given the super-tool which is the World Wide Web. And suddenly our own parents cant compete with the hundreds of online doctors, the thousands of baby forums, the millions of other mothers with their own two cents to throw in the pot. And to make things worse, for most of us, our parents arent anywhere near as adept at using this technological encyclopedia.

I know this doesnt count for everyone, but for a large part of the older generation, we are lucky if they can send a few emails here and there, or look up the odd opening time of a favourite shopping centre. Research and socialising are pretty far from our parents minds a lot of the time.

So while we know that cot death has halved since parents started putting babies to sleep on their backs, we still have to listen to great aunt Sophie maintaining loudly that all seventeen of her offspring slept on their tummies for 18 years and it never did them any harm. Although we are listening to medical studies which suggest we offer certain foods later than others to avoid allergies, it’s not so easy to ignore the grandparent who offers peanut m&ms as a ‘treat.’

There is a divide. And in a way which the world hasnt ever really faced before. We know with certainty that our parents are wrong, or badly informed, and yet there isnt really a polite or easy way to say so. To make things even weirder, our generation is really the only one which will be faced with this problem. When my son goes online in 2032 and tells me that the latest word from the doctors is that babies should be hanging upside down by their ankles, I will say “Ooh how interesting”, google it, and probably share it on whatever social media platform I’m using. Not that he wont have other advances which I am not adept with, (Like what on earth is foursquare?) but information will still be as accessible to me as it is now.

I know that I am being somewhat unfair to people over 50 who are computer-whizzes and have usernames for every chatroom in a appropriate time-zone, so let me be clearer. It isnt that our parents cant understand the idea of finding out facts and answers on the internet. It’s that nowadays, especially when faced with the realities of being a stay at home or part time working mother, the internet is more than just information. It’s a community, and for many- a lifeline. The friends that mums make online, the readers of their blogs, the people they share advice with from across the globe; they become family. And not that they can take the place of our parents, because of course they cant, but they are family who are going through the exact thing that we are, at the same time, and who we can interact with in a matter of seconds. The generation before us cant really understand that, because they were never young parents going through it themselves.

And so I see time and time again, questions in chatrooms which start with “My mum thinks I should….” and end with “what should I tell her?” and I think it’s pretty sad. To some extent, there isn tthat much we can do about it. But like most things, it can definitely be helped by communication. All your parents want is to be helpful and involved. If they are a reasonable person, print out an article or two and let them know you found it interesting and it had a lot of info you didn’t know, so perhaps they didn’t either. Agree with them on a few points that don’t really matter long term. If all else fails, smile and nod and then do whatever you wanted to do in the first place.

Of course, if they are not a reasonable person, you pretty much have to live with it. I tell you what, add me on Twitter (@LiterallyAdvice) and we can have a chat about it.