We all want to be the best parent we can be, don't we? Well, most of the time, anyway. I admit that on days when my kids are being obnoxious, I think they should just be grateful I still allow them to live under my roof.
I don't know what on earth possessed me, but it occurred to me that in my quest to be the best mum I can be, perhaps I should go straight to the source and ask my three children what they think about my parenting. What's the one thing I could do to be a better mum?
I was nervous going in. I mean, nobody wants to hear the things they're doing wrong, do they? It's uncomfortable at best, and at worst could hold a mirror up to all the doubts you have about yourself as a parent.
But on the flipside, maybe I'd learn something useful. Maybe I'd find out something simple I could do to make my kids happier, healthier, more fabulous human beings. All because I was brave enough to ask the question.
I started with my middle child, my only boy. He's seven, and he's probably the child that receives the least attention in our family. He's just so capable and self-contained that sometimes I forget how much he still needs me.
"What do you think I could do to be a better mum to you?" I asked him one day after school.
He looked baffled at first, then paused and scratched his head thoughtfully. Then his face lit up.
"You could let me have more chocolate," he grinned.
Sigh. Okay, but seriously.
"I dunno. Nothing."
Okay, no help there. When his five-year-old sister entered the room I tried my luck with her.
"What do you think I could do to be a better mum to you?" I asked my youngest.
"Nothing," she replied. "You're already the best mum in the whole world, and universe, and solar system and all the planets."
Well, that's nice. But I decided to force her hand a little.
"Isn't there anything I could do to be better?"
Miss Five paused, then said, "You could give us more chocolate."
Hmmmm, I don't think these kids are taking my bid all that seriously. (Although they do really love chocolate.)
Later on, I took my question to my 13-year-old daughter. To be honest, she was the one I was most scared of asking. We're close and we have a loving relationship, but she's a teenager. I expected a laundry list of ways she'd like me to lift my game.
"What would you like me to do to be a better mum to you?" I asked.
Miss 13 was taken aback. "I've never really thought about you like that before," she said.
But she took the question seriously, thought for a few moments and then said, "I'd love it if we could spend more one-on-one time together. I feel like life is so busy sometimes and the little kids need a lot of your time and attention, and we don't get to spend enough time together."
"I'd love it if we could hang out more, just you and me."
I feel conflicted about this request. I'm relieved that finally one of my kids is taking my quest to be a great mum seriously, but I'm confused by my teen's feedback. Of all my kids, she's the one who gets the most one-on-one time. We have one or two nights a week together while her siblings are at their dad's place. We hang out, cook, watch TV and talk. Sometimes we go out to catch a movie or get dinner.
And there are other opportunities when I'm available during the week when she has her face in her iPad or phone, and she would barely notice if I was on fire.
But if that's the one thing my daughter would like from me, it's definitely something I can deliver. I'll seek out opportunities for us to spend down time together, just the two of us. And perhaps I'll limit her screen time a bit more to ensure she comes to the party. I'm incredibly grateful to have a teenager who actually wants to spend time with me. I know it won't last forever.
And as for the other two, they'll thank me for limiting their chocolate intake later.