Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Pack your bags, we're going on a guilt trip

Pack your bags, we're going on a guilt trip
30 October 2012

My kids just love travelling.  Or perhaps they just love it when I travel?  Because quite often, I find myself saying “pack your bags we’re going on a guilt trip”.  This when they’re bemoaning some or other injustice that’s been done to them.  Usually by me.  “You don’t…….  Why didn’t I…….  I’m always…….”.  They are all pro’s at the parent-guilt-trip.  If only it worked.  And if only I cared.

Because all I can say in response to their whinging is, “quite frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”.  Because, I really and truly don’t.  One of the few perks of parenting, is the right to make unilateral decisions.  I don’t have to ask their permission.  I am the boss.  And if they don’t like my decisions, then my heart pumps lumpy custard for them.  Because once again I just don’t care.  I know this may sound callous and harsh.  They are obviously allowed to have an opinion and give input, should the occasion call for it.  I listen to them, give them their time and if there is merit to what they’re saying it may hold sway.  But the buck stops with me.  I am older than them.  I am wiser than them.  I have more experience than them.  And unlike my children, who often only see short term rewards and not long term gains, I get to make the final call.  I am not autocratic or a dictator, by any means.  I feel that I’m fair and just.  And if they don’t like my decision, they may voice their opinion, but I will hold steady.  If they don’t like it, they’ll have to get over it.  I’ve told all of them that I’m not running a popularity contest.  They don’t have to like me.  It would be marvellous if they did, but not necessary all of the time.  In fact, I would be a highly ineffective parent if wasn’t able to do just that – parent.  A word synonymous with unpopularity at times.

Last week, Amber had her entrepreneurship day at school.  A much anticipated event.  She fondly nurtured visions of money streaming in.  Of being able to buy clothes and magazines and jewellery galore.  I told her that all we could do, was make some awesome goodies.  Make a really nice poster to advertise her wares, have a fair price, do a bit of selling on the day and hope for the best.  I was happy to fork out the initial money to cover her costs – the raw products if you would.  But I ensured that we kept track and a list of our expenses.  I also told her that if I already had any goodies that she required in the house, they would be on me – a freebie if you like.  And in the same vein, I would give her a float, enabling her to have change for her clientele.  But from the get-go I told her, that she would only start showing a profit, after covering all of her costs.  Am I perhaps too harsh?  But the whole point of the entrepreneurship day, after all is as part of an Economic Management and Sciences project.  Yes, she is my lovely little girl, but she had to experience first-hand how these things worked.

On the big day, I went to the school and supported her and various other kids as well.  And my Berry’s sales were not stellar to be truthful.  When I fetched her from school, she was not happy.  She had only made R197.  Until I pointed out that she still had to pay me.  R97, if you don’t mind.  She was so upset with me and said “what type of mother would do this to their own little girl?”.  To which, I replied “me, hand over the dosh”.  We got home and amidst much grumbling at first, she conceded defeat and parted with some of her earnings.  We sat down together and made a little deal.  I would only charge her for the cost of the goodies that were sold and with that in mind, I refunded her R47.  A very fair deal in my opinion, and she was delighted.  The rest of her stock would be used for stocking fillers and the like.  I’m hoping she learnt something from this.  And I’m very proud of the hard way that she worked towards her goal.  She was diligent in making her things and had great joy in doing so.  And even before we had reached our deal, she had seen the light so to speak, handed over her R97 and was delighted with the resulting R100 profit.  The rest was a marvellous bonus.  But I had to justify it and make it legit.  Not a hand-out, as it would have taken away her pleasure in earning it herself.  This way she feels justified and proud of her efforts.  A wonderful outcome and a true win-win.

But alas, Amber is not my only child who excels in the field of parental guilt tripping.  With Luke in tow, it’s a case of continually having my bags packed.  If things depended on him alone, I’d permanently be off on some or other guilt trip.  So, at the moment, quite unsurprising, I’m in the dog box so to speak, yet again.  And the cause of my latest foray into travel?  Well, I am sure that in his opinion I am being very mean spirited.  I won’t let him change a subject for next year.  But not just any subject either – Design.  I have a talented boy.  No, wait – let me rephrase that – a very talented boy.  A child with a knack for art.  But he would like to forfeit his chance to pursue this field.  Pray tell why?  Well, that’s an easy question to answer.  Design is very, very, very hard work.  Entailing difficult projects -  stretching your imagination, boundaries and concept of what you’re capable of.  His teacher this year, also happens to be the head of the department – a known perfectionist and hard task master.  A virtual slave driver if Luke is to be believed.  And, actually I do believe Luke.  However I also believe that this is a good experience for Luke.  That it is bringing forth remarkable work from him.  And I will not bow down to a whim of his and let him switch to an easier cop-out subject just so that he can get a free ride so to speak and high marks on an insignificant and virtually worthless subject that would teach him nothing.

I dutifully listened to Luke’s reasoning.  He would not be following a career path in design, because he reckons that at the ripe old age of fourteen he has his life and career all mapped out ahead of him.  We approached the topic of switching subjects from all different angles and the truth eventually came out.  He liked the work he was delivering.  He enjoyed the final product of his labours.  He even enjoyed the process of seeing his project grow.  However, the hours required and amount of work needed left him very unimpressed.  It severely impeded on his free time.  And he was sure that if he perhaps had a different design teacher things would be better, as it would be easier for him.  So he made a fatal flaw in his reasoning, by admitting that he really enjoyed it.  And let’s not forget my motherly conviction that he is good.

Still I promised him that I would give the subject some thought.  I even phoned the school and the Design teacher phoned me back.  We had a long conversation and I told him my dilemma.  That I was a biased mother, who believed her child had talent.  That I felt he would deeply regret his decision if he gave up the subject.  That I firmly believed he had ability, but that I realised that I was not impartial.  I told him that I didn’t want to waste his time and that I wouldn’t want him to waste mine either.  If he felt Luke was a hopeless case, we could call it quits.  No harm done.  Surely nothing would frustrate him more than having a child lacking in vision and skill as a pupil.  I wouldn’t want to push Luke in a direction if he was a hopeless case.  Yet, I knew he wasn’t.  And Mr Visser assured me the same.  That Luke had bucket loads of talent and showed lots of promise.  However, I am not a fool.  And realise that he could easily just say this in any rate, so as to not lose face with a parent and admit defeat.  Whatever the truth, Luke will be continuing with Design.  Sorry for him.

Saying he’s annoyed with me, is putting it mildly.  I have however explained my position to him a few times already.  I am his mom.  I get to make the final decision.  My job is not to give him his every heart’s desire.  But rather to guide him along this journey.  Assisting him in making informed, unbiased and correct decisions, not based on emotion alone.  So whether he likes it or not, Design it shall be.  I eagerly look forward to more masterpieces.  Yes, it’s lots of hard work.  Requiring many, many hours.  But the satisfaction and pride in a final piece, outweighs the effort and hard work in getting there every time. 

And given a few days, I am sure that this will blow over and will only be raised again with every consecutive Design project in the future.  But in the short term, there will be some or other new reason to get me to pack my bags and send me off on a guilt trip.  Yet again – if only it worked and if only I cared.  Just as well I never unpack my bag.

2nd Term project - name with a mirror image of it, just below, filled with colourful geometric patterns
3rd Term project - drawing of crushed tins


  1. To quote my sister Bettie:
    "You're strict!"

    I agree completely!
    Parenting is not for sissies!

  2. I love Lukes drawings of the crushed tins!! Got the artistic genes!

  3. Helene I so do admire you for sticking to your guns, I was very strict but
    my children never listned to me, still don't!!!! And I have always said
    that before I die, I have to have at least one person shiver and shake in
    their boots when I speak to them, just one person in the world that
    would be terrified of me xxxxx
    love Mandy

  4. Brilliant! I have to take lessons from you. Blerrie children, they can't help it, but then again...neither can we! Honey insists she's going to get a new mummy from Tesco. Another good saying 'sorry for you'! Your parenting skills and tactics have always been a excellent example to me. xxxx ps. Can't get over Luke's tin drawings. Amazing!

  5. Brilliant Helene, and I admire you so much for sticking to your guns. It's not easy. As my sister said the other day when someone told me how lucky I am with my kids, it's NOT luck, it's damn hard work! They will thank you for it some day. And Mandy, sorry my dear - you are far too nice, gentle & kind for anyone to ever be scared of you! Love, Zelda. xxx