Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Parenting & Compromise

Recently, I've been grappling with the issue of compromise in many aspects of my life.

The aspect that I have found compromise the most tricky is parenting.

Having spent the majority of my eldest daughter's life as a single parent &, though my daughter hardly sees her father, sharing a general view of what is acceptable & what is not for our daughter's upbringing has made me feel confident that I have got it right. She's always been generally well behaved, happy & smart & I have been proud of the job that I have done.

I suited single parent-dom because I was doing exactly what I believed was right by her & had no one interfering. I would say that I was always firm but fair. Or at least I'd hope so.

If she had done something good then she would be rewarded & if she'd done wrong then she would be punished accordingly. Though naturally I don't like to see her upset I had no qualms about withdrawing privileges, sitting her in the naughty corner for as long as necessary or even smacking hands & very rarely bums should it be appropriate. I have to say I hate the bum-smacking but I would only ever do it when absolutely necessary - &, more to the point, it worked. I don't believe that children should be seen & not heard or anything like that but I do believe that they should respect their elders & recognise when they can be playful or cheeky & when they need to do as they are told.

Other rules I had as a single parent were things such as only being allowed chocolate or sweets as a treat & certainly not on a daily basis. No noisy toys was a big rule - partly to do with my sanity, but mainly because I believe that toys that do everything for a child don't actually inspire imagination or creativity, in fact research has proven this. Wooden toys have always been a favourite with us as they are so durable & inspiring to a young mind. We didn't have a TV so she would watch things on iPlayer as a treat from time to time (but she's never been the type to want to sit in front of the TV all day every day anyway) & this did us just fine.
I want the best for her, that goes without saying & I think that children should learn to value what they have so I always bought her good quality & - though we were not on a high income, so I bought things to last - usually fairly expensive clothes & playthings etc. We ate mainly organic food, because this is part of my lifestyle & she would eat what I ate - salad, risotto, curry etc. - & things like beans on toast would be a treat.

Now, things are very different.

I still feel as though I uphold the 'firm but fair' parenting style. I am a little less patient than I used to be & for that I feel guilty but other than that I still think she is on the whole well behaved. But since moving in with my other half & now that we have a daughter together things have got a little more tricky. I have had to compromise on some things, but on the whole I feel that my wishes for the girls get lost.

My partner's family are incredibly generous, kind & loving people. I'm lucky to have such a wonderful set of in-laws but on the whole it seems we are very different. Christmas & birthdays (& generally any other excuse to give something) are occasions where gifts are given in a huge abundance, the likes of which I have never encountered & I feel very overwhelmed by it all. I'm not a huge gift giver - I believe in giving thoughtful & meaningful gifts where possible & would spend more money on something that the recepient wouldn't usually get rather than on a lot of everyday things that aren't really going to last.

Since moving in together my eldest daughter's toy collection has tripled, at least & her clothes collection has never been so far departed from what I would choose for her. What is more, her room is stuffed full of things 18 months ago she would never have known about, let alone would I have allowed her to have. I hate to sound so ungrateful but all this stuff is stuff that frankly I don't want her to have - stuff that I don't believe children need - but what can I do?

It seems like such a huge waste to be giving it away or selling it not to mention just plain rude but I feel as though my ideals are suffocating under a mountain of stuff. How far do I 'compromise' before it actually becomes just giving in?

Not only does this all go against how I believe my daughters should be raised but it goes against what her father & his family believes. Though my partener's family treat my eldest the same as they would our youngest daughter, should they have any hold over how I raise my eldest daughter anyway, as they aren't actually related? & though she doesn't see her father often & he doesn't actually contribute does that mean that he has no say?

The question of my youngest daughter is slightly different, but then there is the question of whether me treating my daughters differently because they have different fathers isjustified by the situation.

It is a minefield, to say the least.

The long & short of it is that, without meaning to sound rude or ungrateful - I certainly am grateful for everything my in-laws have done for us & for them being so kind & helpful & warm towards us (& I'm sure they must think that I could do some things differently or better, though they never say as much) - I am not raising my children the way I want to raise them.

I feel lost & I feel trapped.

I feel as though my opinions don't count.

& that's not fair.. is it?

Or is that compromise?


  1. God, that is so though and a very difficult one to advise on. Personally I think you need to bring both of your daughters up the same and therefore so must the immediate family around you (even those not related through blood). How old are your daughters? For birthday and Christmas' could you not do a birthday list. My mother in law buys them loads, they say they like, mother in law buys. My eldest son wanted a big lego thing this Christmas just gone which was over £100.00 so we asked quite a few people to contribute and explained to him about the expense. Getting this lego has really triggered his creativity and he now has lots of lego, a lego book and he spends hours making models from his lego book so the cost of the lego although stupid is worth it.

    It is incredibly difficult. My boys have far too much and about a year ago after a particular bad week over the holidays were lots of toys were bing broken and not looked after, I literally got a few black bin liners and collected everything up other than 6 things each and put them in the loft and they had to earn things back and show us they could respect their things. It worked no end, it was very hard to do and I did feel cruel but they now respect tings better and about half of the stuff is still up ther forgotten or no longer wanted.

    I had a hard time over electronic things - Little Man now has a PSP and Mini Man an old DS Lite. I was very against this but poeer pressure form school friends has contributed, I also didnt want them to feel left out or behind the others. However they are very restricted in their use of them. They build up play time during the week for good behaviour (1 hour max on a saturday and sunday), lose 10 minutes at a time for bad behaviour and only play at weekends. it seems to work.

    Could you have a word with your husband and try and get him to understand, and then ask him to have a sutle word with his parents?

    1. My daughters are 4 years & nearly 6 months. It is so bloody difficult, I don't want to offend anyone but at the same time I'm at a loss! As you say, kids say they like & mother in law buys. This birthday I showed her what she'd pointed out & she bought something else because she though it was better but I'm too polite to say no. It seems as though you have a good system going on there. We do similar. Eldest has a leap pad but to be honest she has no interest on playing on it much. Just seems a waste & if it were down to me she would never have got one.
      My other half understands & we've talked about it before but he thinks it would hurt his mums feeling if he said anything. I did the black bin bag thing because all the cheap crap was just getting broken within days after Xmas & her birthday. She barely even noticed it was gone & I gave some stuff to charity too. I think I may try making her earn her toys too, because she doesn't understand at the moment how to tidy up after herself etc., all though she used to be very good at it.

      She was also given make up which I was quite upset over. For one thing I think nail varnish now & again is fine but make up for a four year old seems awful & then there's the whole question of animal testing, but that's something I daren't even broach!

      I suppose it boils down to me feeling as though I have no control over it all & I sometimes feel a little like nobody has any respect for what I want for the girls, but at the same time I don't really demand that respect because I'm too scared of hurting anyones feelings!

      Thank you for your comment, it's nice to know that you have similar experiences of this! I certainly need to get her to respect her possessions more if this is going to continue!

  2. I agree make up for a 4 year old is not right, I didn't get make up until I was at least 14 possibly even older. One thing I do with the boys, if they get presents I disapprove of, I quickly remove them from their view and if I can I have been known to take them back and swop them for something else but this does tend to be from people we don't often see, so it wouldnt be missed if they came round as it isn't often. The boys soon forget they even had it. If one of them asks where it is, I sometimes say I don't know or other times I am honest.

    My eldest has aspergers and is very singular in what he likes so if I know something will never be touched I would prefer to swop it for something he will use then I feel as if that person's money has gone to some good.

    I do control what the boys play with to some extent and the toys I disapprove of I tend to only get out when necessary i.e. someone visiting! However this is going to get harder as they get older :)

  3. This is a tricky situation, and I really feel for you. I don't think there's an easy answer. First and foremost, if I were in your situation, I think I would want both my daughters to be treated the same. Imagine how your eldest daughter would feel if her sibling was getting mountain loads of presents, and she were getting nothing or a small token gift? It would be difficult. I think it's wonderful that your husband's family have obviously embraced her into the family too, and for that alone, I personally wouldn't risk rocking the boat by offending anyone.

    The sheer amount of 'stuff' and presents is a different dilemma. We've encountered this. Pip is the only grandchild on both sides and I find birthday's and Christmas incredibly stressful due to the sheer overindulgence. Two Christmas' ago one grandmother turned up with (I jest not) 20 presents. I was so cross. I ended up not even letting him unwrap some of the bits I'd got him and putting them away, because it was all just too much. More annoyingly too, some of it was what I'd call 'plastic toot' and rubbish from the £ shop. Quite unnecessary and not stuff he needed. This year, I was much more firm at Christmas and made it VERY clear that they were only to buy 2 presents max. I think it worked out at 4 in the end, but that was at least a big improvement on the previous year.

    I think as a parent, it's perfectly acceptable pre Christmas / birthday to say 1 present only, and also state if there are toys they shouldn't have. (I agree re make up too.) I was slightly upset this year that a Sword emerged, but as it came as part of a Pirate outfit I couldn't really complain as I'd suggested it.

    A very interesting post, and a real dilemma, I hope you find a way through it. I can understand how you might feel you are compromising your ideals, but sometimes for peace and harmony I think it's perhaps better to just make some small changes and take the pain on the other stuff.

    Good luck. x

    1. I'm so glad I'm not alone. This year my eldest daughter got about 5 presents from her Dad's side & literally a boot of a renault scenic full from my partner's side. I know I'll never get it down to 2 but I think I wil suggest two presents this year.

      I should say that I agree I shouldn't treat my daughters differeently, as it's likely to breed resentmeent & is unfair, but I added that bit into the blog as it is part of the dilemma.

      I think that I just need to be clear & polite & try not to get so upset about it.

      Plastic toot (though I have a different word for it haha) is exactly what we get & I despise it! If I had boys I wouldn't be too happy with swords & guns either. I'll keep you posted on how we go. I am not looking forward to our youngest's 1st birthday, though it's not until November. DREADING it nevertheless!

      I think what would upset me is if I laid down my rules & nobody paid all that much attention. We shall see how it goes though! Got plenty of time to assert myself!!


I may often be pants at replying, but I always love your comments! You've just made my day!