On Mother’s Day, as tradition requires, I received a lovely card from my beautiful 15 year old daughter. It was full of positive affirmations about how great a mum she thinks I am, unfortunately this was not to last long.
The next day I sent her a reminder to attend orchestra rehearsals. What ensued was a ferocious email argument. She told me she took back all she’d said on Mother’s Day, she hated me and that I was the worst mother ‘EVER!!!!! The twenty message tirade ended with her saying ‘F*** you!’ and me responding ‘Whatever’.
As I braced myself for her eventual return, I had no qualms about forcing her to attend something she didn’t want to go to. When I think about it I ‘force’ my children to do a lot of things, from music practice, to housework and homework, to fulfilling commitments they’ve made. I’m not bothered (or not too much anyway) if they are unhappy with me.
As parents we spend a lot a time focusing on making sure our children are happy. We are also thinking about what is in their best interests. The reality is that these aren’t necessarily always the same thing. Many children would be happy with unrestricted screen time, no homework and chocolate for dinner but you wouldn’t find many parents agreeing with that arrangement.
The Family Law Act talks not about parental rights but of parental responsibilities. The Court’ s paramount consideration when making decisions for children is to determine not what makes them ‘happy’ but what is in their best interests in the short AND long term. Certainly as parents our responsibility should be to do the same. Our job isn’t about being their friend but about guiding them in the right direction and as best as possible setting them up for a productive and fulfilling life. Sometimes this may require us to ‘force’ them to do something, sometimes they may be unhappy and sometimes they may hate us.
How did my day end? My daughter came home and was her normal loving self. The argument had already been forgotten and we made school lunches together whilst chatting about the trials of her day. I’m sure she’ll hate me again next week but I’m also confident the lessons I teach her and things I ‘force’ her to do will make her happier in the long run (fingers crossed).