I had an unthrilling moment on Amazon earlier this week, while searching for a gift for a 10-year-old girl. I entered ‘gifts teenage girls’ into the search bar and found the results clichéd and lacking inspiration, to say the least. Books on how to do your hair and your make-up, texts advising on beauty regimes, and so on, and so on, most definitely ad nauseam. Now the young girl I was buying for loves to draw and do craft, to be outdoors, and to play sport, and yet this is the stuff she was supposed to be wanting. Hmmm. I didn’t want to spend my cash on this stuff. I didn’t think she’d want any of it either. But the whole thing reminded me of a couple of studies I read when researching an article recently. In 2010 a Unicef report into the quality of childhood experience in twenty developed nations put the UK bottom of the list, and focussed in our nation’s misplaced need to buy our kids stuff they don’t need, to over-commercialise them. Another study in Scotland found alarming rates an anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other body image issues among young teenage girls, and put much of the blame on the media and commerce-driven world they were growing up in. These girls were preoccupied with the barrage of un-live-up-to-able images of women in the media, but in other ways were intelligent and successful. Critically though, they didn’t feel their successes, only what they lacked.
So where does this leave those of us facing the prospect of attempting to steer a girl from Charlie and Lola right through to the latest X-Factor-discovered mediocrity who gets a Christmas No.1? I’m not sure. My own parenting seems to be 2 parts parenting manual, 3 parts reflection on my chats with other mums, all mixed up with a hefty dose of ‘winging it’ and mulling it over with my hubby. I don’t suppose I am much different to anyone else in this regard. Will this mix of wisdom and feeling my way be enough when I get to those years of helping a young girl become an adult, a woman, and her own person?
Unusually, for me, I am stuck for words at this point.
I’m not a Daily Mail Fan, thou my hubby sometimes buys it, ‘for the puzzle pages’, he says. This week the pages of this publication contained a pretty lightweight piece reporting the top twenty lifetime regrets of the British. Top of the list, ‘not travelling more and seeing more of the world’. The list continues in a similar vein, ‘not exercising enough’, ‘drinking too much alcohol’, ‘choosing the wrong subject at university’. Only no.12 on the list, ‘not spending enough time with family or friends’ made any reference to kids. I wasn’t sure what I thought about this. Were the participants in the research (for the British Heart Foundation) being honest? I have a strong suspicion that given the intensity of the parent – child relationship, and the almost unfathomable complexity of trying to get your son or daughter to adulthood unscathed, that most people have a few regrets about their failures as a parent. But perhaps we generally only admit those to ourselves, whilst taking comfort from the fact that you don’t have to be a perfect parent, just a ‘good enough’ one. I think a little humility with our kids goes a long, long way.
Oh, and top of the list for the unfulfilled ambitions of the same cohort? Winning the Lottery. I’m not sure these lovely folk were taking the questions very seriously….
I’ve come rather late to the blogging party. That much I know. Thus my struggle to gain a readership will always take place against a backdrop of a million other more eloquently expressed perspectives, clamouring for the same eyes, the same nods of recognition. Despite this, I have somehow notched up an average of 100 reads or so a week (and no, it isn’t just me reading my own blog on a hundred different laptops). I even have a handful of followers, brave souls who have found me sufficiently interesting (for that read ‘capable of constructing a grammatically correct sentence’) that they are inclined to let me invade their inbox on a twice or thrice-weekly basis. Bless you, bless you all. I am enjoying the twisty-turny sensations that come with the pressure to produce something engaging, the highs and lows of blog-stat-watching, the chuffed-ness of an unexpected compliment from someone I cross paths with now and then, who tells me they took the trouble to look in here.
And I’d love more comments, more feedback, more “I really do/don’t agree with you Leoarna because…”. So please feel free to tap out your thoughts on it all here too. There’s plenty of room.