Thursday, November 14, 2013

You are good enough

A couple of years ago I was introduced to a concept that has transformed me from an anxious, over-critical parent (of myself) to one that is far more comfortable in both decision-making and in my general everyday relationships with the kids.

Actually 'concept' is not really the right description, it's more that someone pointed out the obvious. However, you know how these things are, someone pointing out the obvious can be just as transformative as the formation and communication of a new concept. Ask any adman, no idea is a new idea, they've all been rehashed a million times.

I was reminded of this 'concept' a couple of days ago on watching the frankly ridiculous exchange between Katie Hopkins and Peaches Geldof on This Morning. The two were arguing about the concept of attachment parenting (Peaches/hugging/sleeping/
being close to baby) as opposed to what I suppose you might call detachment parenting (Katie/do as I say/leave them to cry etc etc). If you really want to see the argument, it's played out below, it doesn't actually add to what I'm about to say, but it's mildly entertaining, if you define entertaining as being really irritating. At the very least it was the catalyst for this post.

The debate got me to thinking about how we've somehow, over a period of maybe 4 decades, managed to completely fuck with the minds of new parents, so badly, that the first years of a child's life and in some cases more, are often tinged with the underlying anxiety and worry of the parents. Anxiety and worry about pretty much any aspect of 'parenting' you can think of. The mere fact we now call it 'parenting' tells us something about the nature of labelling. Everything in child-rearing (sorry parenting) is a theory and until this clip I'd forgotten what it was like to be a new parent. I'm now 10 years in and most of that theory stuff happened in the early few years, that was until I was suddenly thrown back to it by the Peaches/Hopkins off. The funny thing about this labelling thing is that even if you don't read all the baby books and just get on with it, you're still forced into the 'parenting' discussion by calling yourself an 'instinctive parent' or some such rubbish.

So what changed for me? Well first, was having a third child and having less time to worry so much. The second and probably more important reason was the fact that someone pointed out to Nic and I that the anxiety we had built up especially around Eben (it's always the eldest) might be more to do with us, than him. It was obvious, it wasn't the complete answer, but it was instructive as to how we might change our approach.

However, while that helped, it was what he gave us to attack that with that was transformational. He said and I paraphrase, 'you seem like pretty good, pretty diligent, pretty caring, pretty hard-working parents. Why don't you think that's good enough?' For me and for Nic (maybe slightly less so) it was utterly life-changing.

The idea of being 'good enough' is an extraordinarily liberating one. It doesn't mean you try any less, or you put in any less effort, or you change your value set, or that your ambitions for your family are altered. However, it means you stop judging everything as either a success or more importantly a failure. Good enough means you tried bloody hard and the fact it didn't work out is just one of those things. It's not going to see your children in the gutter in 20 years time. It means you can get things 'wrong' several times in a row and you're still a diligent parent, you're still good enough.

Frankly the good enough concept can be applied to pretty much any aspect of your life and just as effectively by people without children. The only reason I've written about this in that context is because of the way it was introduced to me. We all live more complex, busier and fragmented existences than people in the past. We're attempting to achieve alot, inevitably that means we're not going to be brilliant at some of it. In fact some of it we'll be absolutely crap at. But, if you're good enough and you let yourself believe you're good enough, then I can guarantee you'll feel less stressed out

So I'm passing it on in case you're still chasing perfection (which is impossible, which we all already know and for some reason, most of us keep ignoring). You can call it a new concept if you like. Or, you can carry on with your ridiculously busy life and pass it on to someone else who might find it helpful.

Oh and here's a picture of my happy kids. I've got loads of them (pictures that is, just the 3 kids) and some of them aren't posed like this and they've still got smiles on their faces. I'm probably good enough.