We all want what is best for our babies. Food, education, entertainment, we decide according to our background and knowledge and try our best, the closest to perfect we think we can do – even against the flow sometimes.
When my son’s grandparents tell me I should put salt in my one-year-old food or it will be tasteless, I ignore them. Easy. There is loads of research and advice on the subject.
Sometimes it’s not so easy though. And I doubt. Could they be right? Are we wrong in what we think is right for him? How are we supposed to know? If the truth of the pudding is in the eating, as some say, we might know when he’s 18 or 25. But in the meantime…
We try our best, to the best of our knowledge. Limit TV, lots of wooden games, no refined sugars, or only rarely, no chemicals, no salt, we’ll teach him to be polite, and we’ll try to get him into a great school. Because competition is hard and it’s important for his future to have a good start. True. We want what is best for him, our son, our baby.
But then how are we supposed to deal with all the things that will not be the way we would want them to be? When we will lapse, because we just can’t manage or hold onto the promises we made ourselves, or because we won’t be there or the pressure from others will be too strong? When what is perfect may not be the best? I am not perfect and we cannot be, as hard as we try. And maybe it is not so bad – who knows it might even be a bit more fun…
Food is a tough subject amongst parents, and culturally orientated. Bread, no bread. Sandwiches or warm meals. Finger foods. Eating healthily, carbs, meat/proteins, veggies, and fruits is important to us. But I also like chocolate, and crisps, and sweets. When can he try them? Should he? But he will, I know, with some moderation, because you cannot control and be there all the time, and because I eat those, and I like them, so I wouldn’t want him to miss out.
Same for TV. I like it, in certain dosage, and to me a good movie is like a good piece of chocolate. So, while we’ll make sure that he spends time outside and doesn’t watch too much TV, I know he’ll watch some, because there is so much to see and experience from it, and because I wouldn’t want him to never see an episode of Doctor Who, The Lion King (“Hakuna Matata…”), or the trilogy of The Lord of the Rings…
Politeness and manners are important in France. Please and thank you. Hi and good bye. Kiss people on the cheek, or shake hands. Smile. Do not talk or play too loud. Do not make messes. Wait and ask before getting up from the table. Help to ready the table and to clean up. Try to precede others’ needs when you’re at someone else’s house. It is something parents are told that they must teach their children to do. In French is is called being well-raised (i.e. well-mannered, I think, in English). It clearly makes life a bit easier at home and outside, in restaurants, hotels, or at friends, when you don’t have to run after your boy when it is time to eat... But I also wouldn’t want my son to be only that, polite, nice, and careful. I want him to be able to be polite, but I also want him to not care too much, to be able to let go. One of my favourite pictures of him is one where he pulls his tongue out and grins… I might not be that pleased if he were to do it in front of his great-grandparents (though I do hope that I wouldn’t care and that they’d understand that he means it as a joke), but I also want him to have fun (this short poem is also about that)!
Now take education. I went to a small village primary school, THE school of the village we lived in in France. Then I went to the connected middle school, in the suburbs, with teen pregnancies and violence. I learnt to swear, to skip classes, to makes notes with my father’s signature to avoid gym, to not look too interested in the classes as it lead to bullying on the playground. It didn’t make things easier in high school after we’d moved and I went to a higher level high school. However, it didn’t stop me from going to university and getting a master’s degree – but, to be fair, I had my parents behind me to make sure I somehow stayed in line, not everyone had that and not everyone I knew went to high school. Still, in this middle school I also learnt a lot about cultural diversity and that good grades aren’t everything.
There is really bad and there is picture perfect. There must be a balance to find between the two. Our son might not go to the best school in the country, because we cannot afford to live where you have to to get in. But we will do our best for him to get into a good school, and we will be there to help.