Foie-gras parenting...

posted on: Wednesday, 16 October 2013

With the highs, must come the lows - although not deep, trough-like lows; more like a dip in the algorithm of life. Once, someone accused me of requiring life to run on one smooth single line, never deviating up nor down. When in reality, life should shift and change, your daily mood can (in fact should?) go from up to down and that's OK. I tend to panic when it's down as I love the ups so much more. This week has been characterised by parenting challenges. I am finding this territory new and unlike the baby/toddler stage, I can't reach for a parenting manual to see what to do!

via the glow
In the genius selection of essays by Nora Ephron in 'I Feel Bad about my Neck' (which, may I just say is one of the most well-observed pieces of writing I have ever read; I go back to it time after time) she says:

'Parenting was not simply about raising a child, it was about transforming a child, force-feeding it like a foie gras goose, altering, modifying, modulating, manipulating, smoothing out, improving.'

I read this and dare I admit - recognise myself, my parenting actions - see my instincts to make everything the best version of itself. But there is also a strong part of me that wants to let it be, see what happens, be less instrumental in my children's upbringing. It's the ancient nature/nurture concept and it has well and truly reared its head this week. The issue is around sport and how much of it a child should do. But it could equivalently be academics or drama or music. When do you know whether they do it because they like it, or because they feel they should? Is participation in sport all about the 'taking part' or really do we all want our children to be superstar players and be selected for the best teams? Is our parenting on this point triggered and informed by our own sporting experiences? The middle-aged version of making good when we were the last to be picked for the netball team circa 1987? I don't know the answers to these questions but they are wholly relevant to me right now.

via the glow
My friends and I often mull this over and conclude (as with everything in the arena of parenting) that it is a personal choice and each family will forge its own way. Yet we stand by and observe each other, feeling on occasion secretly incredulous over decisions made or routes taken with our children. Each to their own.

This is the everyday; the quiet thoughts as I go about my day. At the end of the week, my son breaks up for half term, which feels like it has come just in time as this term has been punishing. I just want to spend some time with him, to listen to the inane but often very insightful eight year old chatter that he spouts and for there to be no demands on his little brain. That and get his haircut - his blonde curls rather are unruly now... ;-)


  1. Being a parent is NEVER easy, it can bring you highs that warm your soul, conversely it can fill your day with worries and questions. I understand the sport thing. Like me, my daughter wasn't overly competitive, but wanted to do her best for herself. Oh it is hard, but somehow it does all work out and they find the way that is right for them. If it is right for them, it will be right for you. Good luck and enjoy the half term. Xxx

  2. Parenting is the toughest job.

    Here's my penny's worth! Not everyone is sporty or interested in sport, and they'll find their 'thing' whatever it may be. However, I do think all children should be taking part in sports at school, for the pure health and fitness aspect. When it comes to Sports Day, which I think should be competitive, you should be in it to win it, not just because they were made to take part.

    My experience now here in the US seems a far cry from my growing up in the UK. Having a 'sport' you work at and are committed to, is a huge thing. Trying out lots of different sports from an early age, finding your thing, and then practice practice practice. Being proud, working hard and trying to be the best are encouraged. Aim of The Team. Maybe they'll get a college scholarship even. Facilities are more than impressive and the big high school games of football and soccer are televised! Kids and their sports can take over a family's whole life it seems.

    My son is nearly 11 and plays rugby and trains in Judo - both minority sports here in the US. I'm hoping he doesn't get a taste for American Football and the 4 nights a week training and Saturday games!!! Just thinking about it is exhausting!

    Enjoy your half-term RnR with your children the time together.

  3. First of all, I love the new look! Elegant and simple. I wish I had the tech skills to give my own a whitewash, but I haven't figured out how to do it just yet. Hmm...

    I totally understand wanting life to be that straight line, the consistent moods. But then of course, we need the downs to recognize the ups. At least that's what I tell myself when I'm down.

    And are definitely several years ahead of me, but I already get this dilemma. I think Victoria's observations are correct about how big sports can be here. I also agree that of course our own experiences are going to shape our approaches.

    For me, I didn't participate in sports in early childhood, and I wish that I had. I got to the 8th or 9th grade and really wanted to be involved in something, but it already felt too late. I tried volleyball, got most improved player that year, and then didn't continue because I was at least six inches shorter than everyone else. I tried cheerleading for a few years, and I found what I was looking for there for a few years, and then I quit my senior year because of the gossipy/cliquey nature of cheerleaders. (Most people who know me are shocked I was ever a cheerleader. It's funny for me to think about now.) I also ran track in high school, simply for the discipline and exercise of it. I wasn't any good. But I wish I had played soccer, or ultimate frisbee, or softball, or something.

    For my boys, I do want them to participate in a sport, but I will follow their lead. Aaron has fallen head over heels for baseball, and he has no interest in soccer whatsoever, so there you go. He's playing baseball. Easy. (For now anyway, and fingers crossed it continues.) We'll see what Nathan likes. I'm not going to push either of them to play multiple sports or to continue in something they don't like, although again...I will probably insist that they do one sport each year. And we'll see how they do. Again, I will follow their lead.

    Oh, but I know it's never easy. It seems the parenting thing, while it gets more and more fun, also gets more and more challenging as they get older.

  4. Your website is beautiful. I love the space. I think the beauty of parenting is that there is no manual but through insight into our deepest selves we learn how to create an environment for our precious being to transform.

    I read your issue to be in conflict 3 fold, your history, your surroundings and seeing/identifying your son’s passion for something he loves. Passion whether it is in academia, drama, music or sport is a natural pull; it is where he will transform. Your insight will come from letting go of your experiences and where you will transform,( if you need or want to). We can be drawn into our surroundings of society’s pressure of having a superstar player – but watch the child that has passion and how he achieves vs the child that is pleasing his parent on the sideline. Which child transforms more in that game to learn about team dynamics, what works, how to play to your strengths, what they need to work on for next time vs. the child living in constant fear of the watchful eye of criticism and how it depletes a child’s positive power with being criticised at the end of the game, the silence on the way home, the shame of not achieving, the fear of achieving this time, but will I be good enough next time. I wish you a splendid half term.