ORLA BREEZE – parenting advisor, Hong Kong expat, writer, and mother of three – brings her well-loved Rated PG column to Expat Living. Expect real-life parenting stories, a little advice and a lot of laughs.
I’m starting the New Year off with a big fat NO! Too long have I said yes to things I really shouldn’t have. And I don’t mean the little things like ice cream or wine or online shopping or wine. Or wine. I mean the bigger picture things. The ones that trip you up at any and every given opportunity. This latest one has been brewing for a long time – too long.
But before I admit responsibility for this monster I’ve created, allow me to take you back to the first time I said a proper no and stuck with it. It was way back when I had only two of my brood and both were just bigger than babies. I’d fallen into a habit that I wasn’t happy about. That thing you promise never to do when you become a parent but is the first thing you do when they hit the toddler years? Yeah, the shouting thing. Let’s just say I was prone to a little loudness of communication and was finding it tricky to stop. Despite my early morning promises not to raise my voice, I had usually toppled off the wagon by 9am.
One particular day, I happened to be in my friend’s home. Truth be told, I was often in her home because she too had a couple of littlies and like me was having volume issues. And she also had the best drinks cabinet ever. But I digress. That day, one of her toddlers was pushing her buttons – repeatedly – when she pushed a little too far and momma roared. And here’s where it got interesting. Instead of the expected outcome – toddler freaks out, cries, has meltdown – her daughter just stood there and carried on as if nothing had happened. Which is when it hit me. She saw her mother’s shouting as normal. She’d heard it so many times, it had no effect whatsoever.
Which is when I kicked the habit for good because the exact same thing was happening in my own home. The kids had me down as a nice enough woman who tended to communicate through the medium of shouting. It was a sobering moment. But then I had some more wine. So not too sobering.
Which brings me to this other No – the one I’m starting 2016 with. It’s a tad embarrassing to admit but I know I can trust you not to spread this any further. We’re all friends here.
Turns out, I’ve been spending the last 12 years repeating the habit of repeating. I’ll repeat that. I’ve been repeating myself on a daily basis in conversations with the kids. And just like its ol’ friend Shouting, it has no effect whatsoever. It’s taken me nearly all of my parenting life to acknowledge that one of my most used parenting methods has been almost completely useless. And here’s why. When you bring your kids up on a diet of repetition, they don’t bother to listen the first, second or third times because they know you’re very likely to repeat the request a fourth, fifth and in my case, sixth time. So I can’t really blame them for all the times I blamed them for not listening. I wouldn’t listen either if someone went on and on and on about the same thing over and over and over again. Still listening? Good.
So I’m saying no to repetition this New Year. But yes to wine.