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Be Proud, Not Smug: My parenting lesson of the last decade.


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#1 Kylie Orr

Posted 10 December 2014 - 01:09 PM

I’m into my eleventh year of parenting and although far from an authority, I’ve experienced a smorgasbord of childhood behaviours, parenting styles, predicaments and quandaries.

I’ve survived too many sleepless nights, tackled terrifying tantrums, harboured health horrors, and overreacted - or underreacted - to a carousel of concerns. I’ve felt the highs, the lows, the boredom and the brilliance of parenting. Yet what I keep telling myself (and any new parent who’ll listen) is: don’t get smug.

We’ve all had a smug parent cross our footpaths, probably pushing the world’s best pram because they found it before it became super popular and got it on mega sale. They are the parent who thinks their child’s early first tooth / brilliant new milestone / stunning hair colour / above average academic result / perfect behaviour is a direct result of their own fabulous parenting.

There was a moment in time when I thought the same thing, although I didn’t have a fancy pram. The thought lasted exactly a nanosecond and then my otherwise happy two-year-old turned three and threw a string of tantrums that had me signing up to any and every parenting course on the market, and putting my name down at a mental health clinic, just as a back up. Then I went on to have three more children who all proved to me that karma doesn’t just bite but stings.

I had to question: if I lay claim to my children’s angelic nuances as my own doing, did I also have to own their demonic tendencies?

Children go through a million and one phases. Childhood, and in fact life, is essentially the passing of phases: infancy, babyhood, toddler years, pre-schoolers, primary kids, tweens, teens, adults. Single, married, divorced, pregnant, healthy, sick, successful, depressed, delirious, happy, jaded.

Phases. A billion trillion of them.

Some last longer than others, some are much more enjoyable than others. We have control over many and just as little power of plenty.

When it comes to parenting, we can guide and steer, we can teach and suggest but ultimately we are not the makers of our children. They have their own personalities. It doesn’t mean if they are misbehaving we shrug and say “well, she’s her own little person, what can I do?”  But it certainly doesn’t mean that if they are passing through a wonderful phase, we can take full credit.

By all means, enjoy those positive phases, breathe them in and smell all their glorious aromas, but don’t get high on your own importance because it will crush your nasal passages quicker than LaToya Jackson’s cosmetic surgeon.

Above all else, being smug is not the way to win friends and influence people. It just makes you look like a donkey’s behind. Proud is great. Smug reeks of superiority and condescension. The arrogance of being a parent who thinks their child is above the behaviours, attitudes, skill levels or likability of their peers is extremely alienating. And stupid. No phase - good or bad - lasts forever.

My pre-schooler is currently prancing through a dress-up phase. She asked me to make her some fairy wings (being a former all-boy house, everything fairy and pink was strikingly absent). I am the antithesis of Martha Stewart so as all non-smug, modern parents do I searched the net for “homemade wings”, avoided any pretty looking photo on Pinterest knowing I would never be able to replicate it, and came across a site that stepped me through making some easy (not quite fairy) ladybug wings. Aside from the simplicity of her instruction, something she said stood out:

My goal is to support but not direct, to act as a scaffold not a blueprint.

She was talking about children’s creativity but the quote tickled my parenting bone. For if we see parenting as a support mechanism, and view our parenting selves as guides and mentors, then there is nothing to be smug about.

Go forth and be proud. If you get smug, check your shoulder for Karma – she’ll be waiting there to upside the back of your head.

What’s your strongest parenting lesson?

Kylie

#2 seayork2002

Posted 10 December 2014 - 01:12 PM

But what is 'smugness'? maybe the people that are 'positive' about a specific thing are just that maybe it is just the person on the receiving end that calls it 'smugness'

All of us have good things and bad things happen, and unless we live alone on island, at some stage will relay this information to another - if it is something positive what is the parenting rule on how to relay this to not appear what is being called 'smug'?

#3 Kylie Orr

Posted 10 December 2014 - 01:23 PM

Good question, seayork2002.

I guess to me, being smug has an air of superiority about it - for example actions that if annotated would say .. "not only is my child achieving something great but that makes them better than your child and me a better parent than you".  

Smugness is excessive in it's nature. You can be proud without being excessive.

That's how I look at it.

#4 seayork2002

Posted 10 December 2014 - 01:31 PM

View PostKylie Orr, on 10 December 2014 - 01:23 PM, said:

Good question, seayork2002.

I guess to me, being smug has an air of superiority about it - for example actions that if annotated would say .. "not only is my child achieving something great but that makes them better than your child and me a better parent than you".  

Smugness is excessive in it's nature. You can be proud without being excessive.

That's how I look at it.

I do get your point but IRL I have not come across smug people I guess, however when on EB (and other forums) when I have stated certain things about my son (he slept through from 8 weeks, I did not TT as such etc.) I have been accused of being smug? I don't tend to type long flowery things about topics I just state the facts so I have no idea how it comes across as 'smugness'

#5 ~Kestrel~

Posted 10 December 2014 - 01:38 PM

View Postseayork2002, on 10 December 2014 - 01:31 PM, said:



I do get your point but IRL I have not come across smug people I guess, however when on EB (and other forums) when I have stated certain things about my son (he slept through from 8 weeks, I did not TT as such etc.) I have been accused of being smug? I don't tend to type long flowery things about topics I just state the facts so I have no idea how it comes across as 'smugness'
I haven't come across it either, I think it must be highly subjective.

#6 Kylie Orr

Posted 10 December 2014 - 01:47 PM

I think the written word is more difficult to convey your thoughts. The spoken word comes with body language and nuance. A written contribution to a forum topic by an anonymous user can be easily warped into something it is not.

If I had an 8 week old who slept through the night, I'd be screaming joy from the rooftops. I might even break my own rules about being smug! That being said, I guess much of parenting is luck - you may have got a contented baby by luck, and if people portray themselves as being the master of their child's brilliance, then that counts as smug to me (I'm in no way inferring that is you seayork).

#7 clockcar

Posted 10 December 2014 - 01:58 PM

I enjoy being smug to people I dont  much like :-) I had PND and my only child had a very rough start (HIE) in NICU and then I spent 6 months in a shelter raising her alone when it seemed Id never get through it.

Shes 27 months old now, she sleeps from 7pm to 8am, shes happy, energetic, confident, went through physio and speech therapy and now speaks quite well after a late start, people exclaim that shes adorable and im proud as punch.

I love buying her expensive clothes, I love havin her and im not shy about expressing it.

#8 seayork2002

Posted 10 December 2014 - 02:04 PM

View PostKylie Orr, on 10 December 2014 - 01:47 PM, said:

I think the written word is more difficult to convey your thoughts. The spoken word comes with body language and nuance. A written contribution to a forum topic by an anonymous user can be easily warped into something it is not.

If I had an 8 week old who slept through the night, I'd be screaming joy from the rooftops. I might even break my own rules about being smug! That being said, I guess much of parenting is luck - you may have got a contented baby by luck, and if people portray themselves as being the master of their child's brilliance, then that counts as smug to me (I'm in no way inferring that is you seayork).

I get your point (except he was no way contended just slept through - he was still a little runt :)) -  I guess that I too think most of parenting is luck which is why I don't get smugness and to me (in a real case of smugness not a perceived one) I would be thinking in my head "ok so your child is doing X but unless they are doing Y & Z as well as A-W then not sure what your going on about"

I guess my point is -

Topic - my child still wakes up at 6 months old what did your child do at that age

Me - my son slept through

Another poster - there is no need to be smug about it

To me there is no point in smugness and I don't know what it proves (well I do know but that is about the parent not the child and I pretend to be a lady so I won't say it out loud :))

#9 clockcar

Posted 10 December 2014 - 02:13 PM

I think, ive only been a mum for 2 years and 3 months (not counting pregnancy) and it was a learnt behaviour, seriously! The competitiveness of parenting just breeds smugness. Anyone who has an older or more children than me. Also I had people be competitive over their child being in nicu for longer or not needing assistance. Like anything, anything that people take interest in, theres competition, and it causes smugness.

#10 ~Kestrel~

Posted 10 December 2014 - 02:51 PM

.

Edited by SycamoreGap, 30 December 2014 - 01:25 PM.


#11 Kylie Orr

Posted 10 December 2014 - 08:19 PM

That's hard, SycamoreGap. You should be able to talk openly - or at the very least answer people's questions - about your children without being accused of smugness.

Your DS sounds like a gem, and you should be proud. I think when parents who recognise their kids' achievements but don't take credit for them, that is absolutely fine.

I think if it rolls into boasting or loud-mouthing, that's when others get all wrinkled in the nose.  Doesn't sound like you are that person at all.

I have been known to tell whoever will listen that my sons' sporting prowesses come directly from my very skilful netball days and happily dust off those sad trophies for a bit of a laugh. On EB, that'd be deemed smug. In real life, it's me taking the mickey out of myself (or at least that's what I'm intending to do!).

#12 uniquelyme

Posted 10 December 2014 - 08:37 PM

I have the same issue as SycamoreGap, I love my son, adore him, but despite being gifted and probably because of it, he was incredibly challenging. I couldn't ever discuss what he did at certain ages as I got 'the look'. I just shut my mouth and shared his successes and failures with those closest to me, such as my parents.
I do totally understand what clockcar is saying too, I had the same experiences with other parents, everything is a competition, it's exhausting :)

#13 Cat Burglar

Posted 13 December 2014 - 07:05 PM

View Postseayork2002, on 10 December 2014 - 01:12 PM, said:

But what is 'smugness'? maybe the people that are 'positive' about a specific thing are just that maybe it is just the person on the receiving end that calls it 'smugness'


To me its "but I've got 5 kids and I never wear old clothes around the house, I always wear good clothes, why do other people wear daggy clothes?"  (actual example Ive heard) - claiming that because you managed to do thing x, its easy for everyone else. Some find pregnancy hard, some labour, some breastfeeding, others lack of sleep, others toilet training, and so on... its different for everyone.

I find a lot of anti-pain relief comments very  smug - "i birthed an x pounder naturally so everyone can".  it doesnt follow at all that your birth hurt x amount so other peoples do as well. All births are different - I'm sure of that having had 3!

Edited by Cat Burglar, 13 December 2014 - 07:29 PM.


#14 Cat Burglar

Posted 13 December 2014 - 07:06 PM

View PostSycamoreGap, on 10 December 2014 - 02:51 PM, said:

DS met milestones relatively early and is doing very well at school (he is gifted) and I find it difficult to talk about his achievements out of fear of what other parents may think. For example when a friends 9 month old was not crawling and asked me when DS crawled and I had to say he crawled at 5 months. Or when I  had a parent tell me their child had told them DS was in the 3-4 'smart' class and that their child would never be in the 'smart' class, and I had absolutely no idea how to respond.

I'm not sure why I feel this way as when other parents talk about their child's achievements it only ever comes across as proud to me. I see what seayork is talking about, accusations of smugness on here, when the poster is just telling their own experiences.

Best way to respond is to point out something good about their child - OK so your 9 month old is not crawling, but she is great at copying actions to songs. Your child may not in the smart class, but they are good at drawing or music....

ETA I do sympathise though - DD2 is very intelligent, maybe not gifted but it has made people with similar aged children worry so I tend to play it down

Edited by Cat Burglar, 13 December 2014 - 07:08 PM.





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