Few years ago, I visited someone’s parents’ home. I was shocked by how dismissive his mother was of him (and his father). She was a woman in her sixties, who never left her hometown and had a small business in her hometown, does not read much and neither did she travel much. Her son was an educated, well-travelled man in his forties. But this lady overrode him and spoke as if she knew everything in the world. It was a wake-up call for me.
One of the most difficult things for parents is to accept that our teenagers may sometimes be right even when they go against our wishes. Parents are always right, right? Therefore, to stand back and allow them to exercise their beliefs goes against the grain, especially when it comes to things we hold dear.
But the parenting journey is also about learning how to respect others (especially our children!) and that often presents the greatest challenge. Well, I did say that children’s real value to us parents is teaching us to be our better selves – I kind of believe children are chosen to teach us the lessons we need to learn.
Two recent examples:
Over the summer holidays, my 17-year-old daughter received a reminder from the NHS to be vaccinated against meningitis prior to university. We had a big discussion, which she took onboard – the dangers of vaccines, injuries caused by vaccines, the meningitis jab does not cover all strains, availability of immediate medical care in the vicinity of the university, etc etc etc.
“Yeah, it’s a horrible thought, putting pathogens into my body,” she said. “It’s horrible what goes inside vaccines.”
Yet, after doing intensive research, she opted to be vaccinated. I have to respect her choice, because she made those choices in the full light of knowledge (and presented very good counter-arguments), and also (this is crucial), hey, I am not always right.
The second example:
Last week, she had a bad case of food poisoning. BUT she would not stop eating. You have to stop eating to starve the bugs!!! If you eat, you feed the bugs and your diarrhoea will not go away. Simple medical fact.
But she chose to not starve for a few days. “My immune system will fight the bacteria. I need to keep it healthy with the right food,” she said. “And who knows, mum, it could well have been a viral infection.”
“You are nicely padded, it will not harm you to fast for a few days.”
“I am sorry, mum, I heard you, but I will go with what I feel is best for my body,” she said firmly.
Oh, OK. What else could I do but present the facts that I know to be true, and then respect her views? I did just that……and she is now fully recovered from her tummy bug.