The Lego Movie, whose primary aim appeared to be to plant the eternal ear-worm song ‘everything is awesome‘ in my brain from here to eternity, also offers some important parenting lessons. I left the film feeling inspired – which is more than can be said for my daughter, who said she ‘never, ever, ever wants to see that again’ … despite being a ‘U’ classification I don’t think she really appreciated all the fighting and shooting and general scariness despite insisting on seeing this over Tinkerbell. Bad choice Joni. Whilst some of the main lessons of the Movie – ‘everything is better when you’re part of a team’ for example – are brilliant, these are the five that spoke to me about being a parent:
1. ‘Trust Your Instincts (unless your instincts are terrible)’
Parenting is about trusting your instincts. I’m brought back time and time again to the truth that my instincts as my children’s mother is the thing to trust. Sometimes though – instincts are terrible. There are things that I have got wholly wrong when I truly believed I was right. My instinct-ometer has malfunctioned on numerous occasions. I really thought when my son resisted switching from breastfeeding to bottle feeding at 6 months that he, like his sister, would slowly go off breastfeeding and transition to bottle feeding. My instinct was utterly wrong and a little too optimistic. We forced him, incredibly reluctantly off breastfeeding at 14 months and he’s still pretty cross about it. Instinct 0, Child 1. More often than not though you really can trust your instincts.
2. ‘Don’t worry about what others are doing, embrace what is special about you’
This is something that I have to remind myself of every day and is in fact one of the things I try to tell my friends as much as is possible. FORGET about the children who can walk at 6 months, are fluent in two languages at 2 years old or can read before they start school. Also forget about those parents who seem to have it all together. They don’t. They can’t. They may well be absolutely brilliant at the things you are not good at but they do not have it all sewn up. No one does. Forget about them and focus on you. Something that worked for their children is likely to not work in the same way for your children. Celebrate your achievements and embrace what is special about the type of parent you are. You are doing a good job – believe it and enjoy and don’t worry about what others are doing.
3. ‘Build things only you could build’
I have found that in order to stay sane I have had to admit that I can’t be good at everything. It seems obvious but I think as parents we want the very best for our children – so we try to be the best. Which is great – but for me its complete unsustainable. I can admit that i’m really good at some things and really not good at others. For example, I have very little skill or patience when it comes to anything crafty. I don’t think my children are missing out – there are other people in their ‘village’ who are incredibly talented and far better suited to doing this kind of thing with them. I can do things for them that no one else can and I can do them well. Being aware of what I am good and and
bad less good at is becoming more and more important to me – I can build the things in their life that only I can build and I can trust other people with the other things.
4. ‘You still can change everything’
This was one of the most important lessons of the whole movie to me. Mistakes are not the end. You can still change – everything. As a parent I found it so liberating when I realised that forgiving myself for the things I was doing wrong was something I could do. Something I should do to be a better parent – forget the stuff that makes me feel guilty. Acknowledging mistakes and doing our best to change for the better is such an important part of being human. Someone commented to me recently that she felt that she was damaging her children by being angry and short tempered with them, my desire to tell her that it was ok to make mistakes and you can still change everything was overwhelming. Forgive yourself, accept it, deal with it and move on. I’m constantly picking myself up, dusting myself down and starting again. The alternative – beating myself up about it, storing up a list of wrongs and feeling guilty – is just not an option. Believing you can still change everything suddenly open the curtains and lets the light flood in to otherwise dark and grey circumstances.
5. ‘You are the most talented, extraordinary person in the universe. You are special. We all are.’
Believing I am a good parent – believing I am the best parent for my children – makes me a good parent. Having the confidence to say I am good at something does not mean that I think I am better than anyone else. Everyone can be equally as good as me – I don’t care – as long as I am the best parent I can be for my children. We should tell ourselves every day that we are talented and extraordinary people. Imagine if we told our children every day that they were the most talented, extraordinary people in the universe, that they were special and that everyone else was as important as them. This, when I thought about it properly, is so far away from traditional teaching about everyone being equal – the teaching is based on the idea that no-one is special, we are all equal. I can remember so many times at school when I was told and heard others being told that they weren’t special and everyone was equal. In fact, no one is equal. Everyone is too special and important to be created with the same characteristics, talents, skills and faults. We could radically change how we view the world if we all believed that we – as well as everyone else – are special, extraordinary and talented.
So thank you Lego Movie, or Hawksmash as my daughter now calls you, for teaching me all these things about being a parent. Whilst we will probably never, ever, ever watch you again we are very grateful.