Shit Parenting

Give or take a month or two, I have been single parenting now for 7 years.

That’s seven years of holding stuff together. Juggling and dropping and picking up the pieces day after day; but overall just about doing OK. I’ll be more precise. By “doing OK’ I actually mean – just a little bit worse than OK. On the parenting scale from 1 to 10, I’d score myself a 3.5. Not terrible, not brilliant, a definite candidate for the “could do much better” school of parenting reports.

But last Sunday, that score slipped, or should I say, nose-dived, down to a 1 out of 10. It was a day of shit parenting.

I somehow feel that I have been heading for this moment for some time…but before I get to that, I had better offer a synopsis of the day:

It was one of those “wake up grumpy” days; brought about partly by lots of real-life worries resulting in a bad night’s sleep and certainly not helped by a 6.30am call from my 10 y/o wanting me to get up and sort her out some breakfast. By 10.00am (shortly after 14 y/o arrived downstairs and, without as much as a good morning had logged herself into Facebook) I had turned into shouty Dad.

It went from “girls, you are going to tidy your rooms today”, and “P I am limiting you to one hour on FB today so take your pick when you use it” right through to me threatening to change their schools, suggesting other children in the village were “better than them” through to God knows what. And all being shouted, to the point that any neighbours wanting a lie-in that morning would have been spared the privilege!

By 2.00pm I had been barking consistently. We had had tears, anger, cheek, rudeness and rebellion. When both girls eventually decided they were going to go out for a bit, there was a tangible sense of relief. For all of us I guess.

The rest of the day was strange! When the girls had gone I did nothing. Can you “do nothing”? Well sometimes you can. There are those occasions (like when my two girls go to Grandma’s for a few days) that I will actively and consciously do nothing. But this was different. Perhaps a better way of describing the rest of the afternoon and early evening would be to say that nothing happened.

I say that – I do remember tweeting at about three in the afternoon that there was a strange atmosphere in the house, but that was about all.

For those of you who have tried, it is really hard to write about nothing happening. So much so, that I won’t even try! Instead, I’ll offer you a list of the things left undone:

• Washing
• Tidying
• Dinner preparation
• School uniform finding
• Shopping for packed-lunch things
• Fun day out with the children – not a chance!

This resulted in a bed time routine that consisted of 10 y/o eating a bowl of coco pops in bed and a bit later me dashing down to the nearest pretend KFC to get 14 y/o chicken and chips with extra grease. Which she too ate in bed. From the leaking box it came in.

It was a god-awful day.

A week on and I have had time to reflect. What I am not doing is putting it down to a “bad day”. I know it was and is so much more than that. Not least because 14 y/o gave me a real wake-up call a couple of days later.

I feel I am getting three huge things wrong:

1. Discipline – I am (and always have been) too lax. It would be easy to say that I am just trying to make up for them not having mum around all the time. That would not be true though. I am not sure what it is – sometimes I think laziness; whatever, the result is my girls have enjoyed (or probably not enjoyed) a degree of freedom which has probably not done well by them.

2.  Patience – I just don’t have enough of it. I rarely give them enough positive attention. If they try and show me their homework for instance, I know I get bored quickly. They know I get bored too. It’s rubbish!

3. Basic Parenting Skills – I lack them in abundance. There is stuff going on with 14 y/o at the moment that I simply don’t know how to deal with. It’s complex, multi-layered, and in all honesty I just don’t know where to turn.

In my heart I want to give my girls the best start in life possible. If I had one wish it would be to see them fly this nest and live their life fulfilling all their undoubted potential. I’m not the sort of parent who wants them to be lawyers or doctors when they grow up – I really don’t care what job they do – I’d much rather see two confident women doing whatever it is they end up doing with enthusiasm, pride and smiles.

But whether I am giving the right platform for this however is a very real question. If you were to look me in the eye at the moment, I’d probably tell you I’m not.

If parenting is the “hardest job in the world”, single parenting, for some of us at least, can be a bloody nightmare for all concerned.

I am really interested to hear what others do when they get in a parenting rut…

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About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded www.onlydads.org in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
This entry was posted in Bob blogs, Putting children first. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Shit Parenting

  1. @ABeautifulMind1 says:

    Hi. Doing nothing: the sitting and staring into space nothing when you feel stunned as if hit by a truck and can’t move, paralysed almost. Is that what you mean? I’ve been single parenting for 12 years 3 months (am I counting lol). As the years accumulate, it is a totally different kettle of fish to doing it short-term before sharing it with a new partner. Hard is not the word! Exhausted? Tough. Ill? Tough. Depleted? Tough. You just have to carry on, don’t you? And it takes every ounce of you: well, it did of me! I’m nearly through now and may be able to help you. In fact, I’m sure I can! 🙂 call me. I really mean that.

    • onlydads says:

      “as if hit by a truck” is a most accurate description!

      And thank you for your offers of support. Very much appreciated 🙂

      Bob

  2. CoffeeCurls says:

    I bet there are a lot of us ‘shit parents’ out there Bob! I defy anyone to read this and not relate to it a bit, or a lot. Sometimes they seem to outweigh the other days, but one thing is for sure Bob, your love for those girls shines through like a beacon. Don’t doubt yourself unnecessarily. Lisa xxx

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you CC. You always seem to find the right words of reasurrance for me…well, apart from the “hiding to nothing” conversation, but even that brings a big smile.

      You are a star 🙂

  3. Take out your four letter word, Bob and you have got exactly what you are doing… parenting. Kids learn a lot from the negative stuff as well as the positive stuff. And it all helps them in their grown up years.

    Your doing just fine Bob. Truly 🙂

    Teenage years? I’m not sure if any parents come out sane after those 😉 I’ve done the boy *and* girl teenage years with our two.

    (Holler if you think I can help in any way)x

    • onlydads says:

      Your comment made me think Evie…

      …of course kids do learn from negative as well as positive experiences, and you make the point very well.

      Thank you for reading and commenting

      Bob x

  4. I don’t know if you ever did that thing with 3 bean-bags where you were stunned and proud as hell if you achieved what most folks know as ‘juggling’ even for one round. I could do it, if I focussed really hard and didn’t let my concentration drop for a single second. As soon as someone tried to add another element to my trick, or I allowed myself to be distracted even slightly, whatever I was chucking about came tumbling down around my ears. Where am I going with this? Tricky .. but I think what I’m saying is, we don’t have the priviledge any more, as working single parents, to be that single-minded. The love we have for our kids means we HAVE to elaborate on our tricks, spreading our attention thinner and across a wider area, continuously add new elements to the mix. Whether we are capable of performing said tricks with the style and showmanship of the Moscow Circus is totally irrelevant … we have no choice but just keep the wretched balls in the air and circling somehow … anyhow.
    I’ve seen you in action Mr Greig and could never say in a million years that you are anything other than a devoted father, who has his children at the forefront of his mind in every decision he makes. Children, by nature, are takers -it’s their predominant instinct I think, but your girls are astute, sensitive and clever. I’m sure, in time, they will learn to really appreciate all that you have done, sacrificed and put on the line for them. You are, without a shadow of a doubt, an amazing father – even on the bad days.
    MJM xx

    • onlydads says:

      Well I’ve been wondering how to reply to this for a couple of days now. It’s one of those where “thank you” doesn’t quite do it!

      I particulary like the juggling anaology because it does feel sometimes that life can chuck you extra bean-bags sometimes. I think the last few weeks have seen me catching bean-bags thrown at acute angles, some high, some low. Some I’ve had to catch feeling they have been thrown with my head as the target.

      To stretch the analogy a bit further….I caught them all (being very good at catching), now I need to start the circus juggling act!

      Watch this space MJM…the next couple of years at least will provide spills and laughs and maybe a little ranting in equal measure.

      Your final paragraph is very kind. My “thank you” for that comes from the heart.

      Thank you MJM XX

  5. Neil says:

    So I come from the “perfect family” right? Two kids, two parents, two houses blah blah blah….but the scene you portray resonates with me. That said, I cannot imagine the situation as a lone parent, because I haven’t experienced that.

    Chin up, we can be our own biggest critics. If there is s a perfect parent out there, let them show their hand. And by return let me poke them in the eye…….hard.

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you Neil…one of the things OnlyDads does is say “chin up” to some of the dads who contact us. It’s a simple thing and a kind thing to say…so thank you 🙂

      Bob

  6. I like the previous responses you got. Mine isn’t far off, but I’ll be adding a different food for thought. First, to reiterate slightly what was said before. You’re just a normal parent… and human. I admire that you can write it so frankly. We all have down days and a day in which the accumulated frustrations just *hit*. Not everybody can admit their downfalls – or humanity, depending on how you look at it. That puts you ahead of many. The fact that you can see that you had a bad day and try continuously to be the best single parent is the best you can do for your children. Perfection is not an option, because it doesn’t exist. I say that I don’t try to be perfect; I just try to be better.

    Now, I’ll add an extra tidbit. My 2nd reaction was the comparison to a step parent. I can’t help it, because that’s where I was and have never been a bio parent. If this day happened to a step parent (SM or SD), there would’ve been less understanding and forgiveness from everybody – both bio parents, whether custodial or noncustodial, but particularly ex-spouses; kids; relatives; and misc others. Parenting is difficult for every parent, but step parenting is the most thankless job. IMO, your post just lends to the reason why more bio parents need to cut more slack for the step parent in their children’s life.

    Obviously, this last comment doesn’t refer to you personally. It doesn’t apply to every stepfamily either (just the majority of them that have these types of issues). I don’t know if you’ll enter into another long-term relationship in the future. But, for that time, and other readers, I hope you take this comment in the spirit it’s written.
    Warmest,
    Judy

    • onlydads says:

      Can I say straight away that your comment has been received warmly. And all that you say is true….!

      Thank you for taking the trouble to read and post your comments. I am afraid it might have led to me asking a bit of a favour though!!!

      …if you get a moment, can I ask you to email me and I will spell out what I have in mind.

      Bob x

  7. Oli says:

    Bob, in the time I have ‘known’ you (so to speak we haven’t met yet. I have taken 1 thing from you and your work – “being there.”

    Doing nothing and being there is good, shouting and being there is how it happens sometimes, being there with food, being there with hugs, being there with a lecture, being there with advice. It all accounts as long as your there. And you clearly are for you girls and you are for many a men like me.

    In the world of ‘single’ parenting I am an away parent, my quota of good times versus bad/difficult times are far out weighed by the former. The ‘home’ parent like yourself has a lot more to contend with. I know my ex resents the time I spend with my daughter because it is inevitably fun, we do a hit of homework and learning but all in all it is mostly fun. It is also possible that because mine is only 6 – neither me or the ex have much ‘shit’ to deal with. Ionia it will come.

    The point I am trying to get to is, you are there you have to be there and deep down your girls will know that. My only suggestion is when the shit is firmly in the fan and stopping it from turning- make a change. Do something different, something fun, needn’t be expensive, but something where there are no expectations, just the enjoyment of each others company.

    As I don’t have a teenager I maybe way over reaching there but that is my answer- change is key even if it’s only small.

    Chin up old boy, but please keep writing- the sharingof your experience is invaluable to the rest of us.

    • onlydads says:

      Kind words and thoughtful words Oli…thank you.

      I took strength from your “being there” message and have (and I mean this) been looking to make little achievable changes. Nothing dramatic, but some changes have to happen.

      All good stuff from such a young man!

      Thank you Oli 🙂

      Bob

  8. Oli Moore says:

    hmm, just re-read my comment and apologies for the distinct lack of English language it was written on an iphone!

    And, just re-read MJMs comment – I think what was said there was superbly written and clearly true.

    Hope the Easters holidays have started well for you.

  9. Pippy says:

    hello sweetie, You know I think parenting is one of the the hardest jobs in the world.
    I’ll try and be concise and make sense (I know, concise & sense making for me).

    Basic Parenting Skills – the only basic parenting skill I can think of is making the child, (if one’s not too demanding or adventurous). After that it all becomes way more than basic. Each parent & child situation is unique, two unique individuals, sometimes other group dynamics too, in continually changing scenarios. Yesterday’s child and yesterday’s parent will be one day older today and what worked yesterday may not today.

    Maslow’s hierarch of needs came to mind as you were scoring yourself as a parent. (on my count you did very well). If you’re going to score yourself is your scoring system tangible and measurable and realistic?

    Sometimes there are things we can’t change, put this away. Instead work out where you can make changes and how you are going to implement them, and when you’re going to. How is Discipline going for example? Do you know what Basic Parent Skills actually means to you? Then make a conscious effort to have a, Stop, Think, Act, Review moment and give yourself a pat on the back and note what is working well. Its easier to see where the niggles are then. and act to make small changes.

    Mind you, I’m currently Mrs Angry Pants here (we have pants angry people have to wear on their head) . Anger can be good, the energy can be used in a positive way too. Next time maybe consider storing the energy to give power on a day when you can be clear. Time out sometimes is important too.

    Juggling – it takes 3 months for the neurone pathways in the brain to change and develop if practised everyday. This is the same for most new habits. And if you fancy juggling I have a recipe for sacs made from pearl barley, plastic bags and balloons, all easy to get hold of things. Let me know. Oh I also have instructions on how to juggle – I could send those to you too.

    Px

    • onlydads says:

      PF – thank you for these comments. I have re-read them many times.

      I know that your “Stop, Think, Act, Review” moment makes a lot of sense…

      …now I need to start putting that into action 🙂

      YOU are the STAR by the way

      Bob X

  10. Blimey – what an awesome post.

    I’m a single parent too.. although the boys go to their dad’s at weekends..

    I dunno – I think it is just tough being alone because if you have a day when you just need someone else to take over.. that someone else is never there.

    • onlydads says:

      Lesley – thank you for taking to trouble to read and to comment.

      It was one of those days when someone else should have taken over!

      Of that I have no doubts

      Bob

  11. Seems to me like your intentions are the best-best-best.
    Single parenting is very, very hard… but maybe all parenting is hard?
    mx

  12. Andy Giles says:

    Hi Bob,

    Firstly it is refreshing to see such honesty in a blog especially when it involves parenting.

    You will have bad days when nothing goes right, children need these days as no life is prefect and life will bring those types of days with rubbish bosses, boyfriends etc.

    Secondly it sounds like you arecor were totally full up, not sure if you have heard of Solihull approach but it sounds like you need ‘containing’ you are full up with issues and there isno room to think, rationalised and manage situations. You need time to stop and reflect, just walk awa, go for a walk, go to your room, just chill to make space in your head so you done be all shouty all day. As one dad once said to me when I did this parenting program with him he said ‘I realised I needed to take time to make time’ if you stop, take your time you will be better with patience, discipline and parenting.

    Don’t be so harden yourself, you sound like a great dad and are doin the best that you can do, any parent that thinks their perfect is wrong and if you never had any regrets it shows ou haven’t reflected on your parenting.

    If you want to chat let me know and if I can give any professional or personal advice I will, go I do go on lol!

    Good luck and keep your chin up!

    Andy

    • onlydads says:

      Thanks for the comments.

      I haven’t heard of the Solihull approach – but it sounds interesting!

      I feel a phone call coming on…

      Bob

  13. Lexie says:

    All I can say is that someone once told me that the fact that you write comments/blogs/updates of this kind is proof enough that you are a GREAT parent. The fact that you are concerned about it enough to write it down shows that you care so much about your children, not something that can be said for all parents. We all have things we’re rubbish at when parenting, I’ve got a list too… But we care enough to worry and that’s worth a million supernannies with their perfect parenting theories.

  14. Liz says:

    Hi Bob,
    Sorry if I’m a bit late in commenting. I love reading your blogs and that includes this one. Firstly, let me say you are not alone in the experience you have had, and this does not make you a shit parent. But when you’ve been grumpy, ill, having a bad day and you shout, moan, scream at the kids it makes you feel like a shit parent, there’s a difference. If you were a bad parent you wouldn’t be feeling so crap about it because you wouldn’t care and obviously you do.

    I’m not currently a single parent and I’m lucky to have a supportive partner, but I have been a single parent and I know how exhausting it can be especially when you feel as though you’ve a million and one things to worry about. I have a 14 y/o daughter nearly 15 and it feels like there is nothing that she hasn’t put us through and I’m not sure she’s done yet 🙂 We love her to bits and she’s amazing, but by God we’ve had some worries with her (understatement). I don’t claim to have the answer to perfect parenting, there is no such thing anyway. We do all have our collective experience though I suppose. I’ve had many moments with D where I’ve been left feeling emotionally and mentally stunned, I know the feeling well. I’ve had those moments where I’ve completely lost it with her, moments when I’ve been overwhelmed and I know I’m being grumpy and cross. I’m not advocating shouting at your kids, that is never a good way to teach them that this is how adults communicate, but like someone said above we are human, not saints and we don’t always have an endless supply of energy, patience and wisdom.

    Hmm, trust yourself, you have raised those kids on your own for a long time. You know them better than anyone here and each child is an individual and each of them will respond differently. My own experience with my teen is the more I shouted at her and punished her the more she dug her heels in and completely did the opposite of the result that I wanted to see. I personally have recognised that I had (have) a real problem letting go of my ‘little girl’ and letting her grow up, my previous fear leads me to wanting to control her and stop her doing that. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have safe boundaries, you most definitely should. However getting the balance right isn’t always easy, and as I said with each child it will be different. Sometimes teens will ignore your advice, care, concern and boundaries. It seems they are hard wired to do this, challenge everything and take risks. In that case all you can do is keep those boundaries in place whether they choose to ignore them or not, tell them the reason for them and the likely consequences if they disobey them. Letting them take reasonable risks and letting them learn their own boundaries is part of growing into an adult. And I have found since talking to her like an adult her whole attitude has changed towards me. Allowing her to think for herself, with my guidance usually works. Yes, I remember being cross and making threats of punishment (that I would never see through and were often totally ridiculous anyway) leaving me with nothing in my armoury and making me feel like a god damn awful parent. I have learned to ‘pick my battles’ and concentrate on the things that really matter. And if things really go wrong and she makes a big mistake, I’m there to help her back on her feet, I don’t need to punish her as she is probably already doing that herself.

    Oh and I never say ‘told you so’. Learning empathy and that mistakes are not the end of the world and recognising your own limitations, in my opinion (and it is only my opinion) is part of growing into a healthy adult. Being a good parent is helping this young adult navigate through this confusing, scary, exciting part of their life. And the reward is, you get to see that scowling, sometimes rude, uncommunicative teen give you a glimpse of the mature, wonderful, caring adult that she will become one day. Trust is also important, this goes both ways, hard to imagine that our little darlings would ever lie to us, but they do, for lots of reasons, fear, limitation, wanting freedom, not knowing the correct way to handle something, not knowing how you will react to something they have done or not done. Encouraging trust and open communication is important ( not always easy) but you need to trust them too, even if they have made previous mistakes (also not easy). If I’ve made a mistake like shout unreasonably at my kids, I will always apologise and I will always explain why I may have gone off the handle (as long as it’s appropriate of course) e.g. I had a bad night’s sleep and I’m not feeling too well and I’d really appreciate you helping me today or being a little quieter or I’d love a hug. Voicing emotions is a skill, like: D I’ve said hello 3 times and it feels like you’re ignoring me and it doesn’t feel very nice are you ignoring me or are you just engrossed in something? Laugh with them about the things they have done that are silly and harmless and hold them close and tell them you love them when they make more serious mistakes. When I say this, I don’t mean being soft and saying oh well it doesn’t matter, some tough love, an open discussion is just as important. Talking with them, rather than at them. Teens are not children, neither are they fully formed adults, so striking that balance is the key along with a packet of hair dye to cover up all those grey hairs from the stress and worry!! 🙂 I’m about due mine are showing again!!

    It does feel hard, no, it feels totally crap when you’re in that ‘rut’ but be assured you’ll be out of it again soon enough. And remember, you have been and are doing a great job, plenty more great parenting days than shit ones I bet. Keep perspective. But one more thing, look after yourself and make sure in some way your needs are being met too. You are the glue that holds the family together (even when you don’t want to be – tough luck eh:) ) being a lone parent is a selfless and often thankless task, but it’s definitely o.k to look after yourself too. Then you will have a clearer head, more energy and more patience.

    Finally, if you ever want a confidential unbiased and most definitely non-judgemental chat about 14 year old girls just le t me know. That feeling of not knowing which way to turn, feeling sick to your stomach etc etc all I know is there is a way and things can and do get better. My way may not be your way but either way you need never feel unsupported. x

  15. Liz says:

    P.S. Stop scoring your ability as a parent, it’s not healthy :p 🙂 And who cares if they get to eat a KFC or a bowl of coco pops for tea in their bedroom once in a while?? 🙂

    • onlydads says:

      Liz – I am blown away by your comments!

      Everything you say resonates – one of the many joys of this blog is the quality of the comments. They are always worth more than the articles themselves.

      The fact that your comments will continue to be read by many others is a wonderful thing, and I want to offer you a huge “thank you” for taking the time and trouble to respond.

      Bob x

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