Zipping it with your besties
Parenting can be a great divider. Nothing has the potential to ram a wedge between a friendship more than the discovery that the friend you thought you knew inside out is not raising her children like you are.
Maybe she’s more protective, more lenient, more pushy. Rest assured, whenever there’s a little bit more or less of the style of parenting you’re happily dishing out, it’s time to bite your tongue. And bite it until it bleeds, just as she probably does when you parent outside her boundaries.
This is particularly excruciating when your friend is the same one you’ve counselled, encouraged and argued with for decades, the one you’ve never held back on before. The one you could tell that her man of the moment was a jerk, her breath stank like possum pooh after a night out, or her bum really did look big in those pants.
Then, all of a sudden children arrive, and the dynamics change. An invisible barrier is erected overnight, and it’s one you learn quickly not to cross. Friends who had shared their innermost secrets and dramas and sought your counsel for years, don’t want unsolicited advice when it comes to their children.
It’s time to step back and zip it.
Naturally, I was the best parent in the world … until I became one.
Most of my friends had their children a decade before I had my daughter, and while they were showing off their new babies I was desperate to show off my endless source of knowledge about how to care for them. I couldn’t understand why some were finding the job so difficult _ parenting was just loads of common sense and consistency wasnt it? But, I had to zip it, and sure enough once I became a parent, I became the target of silent disapproval.
When I announced in my prenatal class in England that my baby would be sleeping in her own room and not in ours, my new besties were appalled. But, being very English, they zipped it. Eyebrows were raised again when we took her out to dinner with us on the way home from the hospital, and the eyebrows disappeared into the hairlines completely when we were in Dubai at three weeks old, and Australia and New Zealand at ten weeks. I think they justified my behaviour as “she’s Australian’‘.
However when I returned to live in Australia as a divorced mum and put my three-year-old on a planem with my ex’s sister to visit her dad back in England the silent disapproval from my oldest friends was deafening. One of them, however, didn’t hold back.
“What if the plane crashes and you’re not there with her to hold her hand when it goes down!’’ she barked.
Needless to say, my child’s trip away was was the longest three weeks of my life, and during that time I made every excuse to avoid seeing my friend. I couldn’t stand the disapproval. She hadn’t zipped it and the wedge had been inserted.
Now that the tween is 11 there’s a different sort of scenario brewing. Naturally the children compare notes about their parents and naturally their grass is always greener on the other side. While I promote gap years after school, another friend bristles that they’re a waste of time, while I’m still restricting mobile use to family, one of my daughter’s besties is showing off the dozens of texts from her `boyfriend’.
Lets face it, as parents we’re not always going to get it right, and unlike the boyfriends we acquired and dumped, the kids are there for life _ just as I hope my friends are, sniffingly disapproving or not.
We just have to learn to zip it and remember mother knows best.
It just depends on which mum you talk to.
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