I laugh about my children being wild, its an ongoing joke. But in reality I am surrounded by children who spend their days playing, and not caring if they get muddy. Children who don’t have to worry about keeping a uniform clean or shoes dry and mud free to wear the following day. Every now and again I find myself out with the children during the weekend, surrounded by other children who aren’t as free as those I am usually with and it just jolts me. I hear a snippet and think “oh, that’s odd” and then I look around and ponder, perhaps I am the odd one!? Cue, parenting guilt!
My children are the ones climbing trees, rolling in leaves, splashing in puddles, dancing in the rain, getting covered in mud, rolling down hills, soaking wet and sometimes it gets to 9pm and we suddenly remember we should have some dinner! Other children might be tucked up in bed, mine might be out looking out for bats and other wildlife! Mum guilt.
Back in the summer time it was my experience at Chessington, we thought our visit would be quiet, not realising that local schools were closed for polling and there turned out to be a number of children there. At one point the 3 yr old was playing and splashing in the fountains and under jets of water, he was having a brilliant time, absolutely soaking wet (water is definitely his happy element) when we heard a lady shout to her child “don’t get your shoes wet”… and it led me to think “why bring your child to the fountains in Chessington if you don’t want shoes to get wet?” When I took to social media with this question I was ridiculed myself and my question answered by a whole number of mums justifying why someone would take a child to Chessington world of adventures in shoes that weren’t to get wet. It was suggested that perhaps that parent was looking at my child running with wild abandon under the fountains, giggling and shrieking in delight and thinking “poor child will be cold and wet”. Would someone feel sorry for that wild child? mind momentarily blown by the anonymous mummies of the internet.
Last week it was my children, in clothes and pants swimming, not just paddling, actual swimming, in the sea on St Osyths beach in Essex as the sun went down.
During the week we were on a visit in London, and when walking through St James Park my 3 yr old and my nearly 13 yr old began to hand feed the squirrels. A popular past time of people visiting St James park given how tame the squirrels are there, they will come and take food from your hand. My children were shocked and quite saddened to see a small group of children chasing the squirrels across the grass, clearly scaring them. Parents stood on and watched this with no apparent concerns that their children were scaring the animals despite signs around the park asking for wildlife to be respected etc… There was also a number of random passers by who were happy to shoot us disapproving looks as the three year old joyfully sat still and quiet allowing the squirrels to approach him. One was even overheard informing her daughter that they were dirty animals and they would bite when the daughter excitedly asked if she could also have a turn feeding them.
Today, my parenting “guilt” moment occurred in Hampton Court Magic Garden. My wild child ran in, spotted the sand and the water streams and off with his shoes and socks in he went. And in he fell. Oh how wet he got! The smile on his face was amazing, his laughter infectious. Yet still I hear another parent tell their child “no you mustn’t, it is far too cold to take your shoes and socks off” while glaring at me and my child, their child staring longingly at the water. I look around and sure enough it is only my children with bare feet. The sky is full of dark clouds, threatening a downpour (which did hit as we left) but the joy on their faces spoke volumes to me. It told me that it was right for them.
I get that we all parent differently. I also understand that most of us parent inevitably experience that mum guilt at some point. But what really hits me is what these incidences have in common. They stand out to me because my guilt is triggered by the apparent disapproval of random other mamas. My children are laughing, happy, giggling and experiencing the real feel of their environment. Other children are under strict control and are definitely not giggling merrily as they stare on, staying dry, keeping clean. I wonder if their comments are said to mask their own feelings of mum guilt? Are they feeling it or are they genuinely judging my parenting negatively when they see my happy, smiley children? And why does that mum guilt hit me albeit short lived, when in front of me are some of the most awesome, happy people that I know?
Mum guilt can jog on!