Parenting By Hypocrisy: Not Practicing What I Preach
Do you tell your kids what to do, then do the complete opposite yourself? It was only after a mini-lecture on vegetable-eating recently that I realised I’m guilty of parenting by hypocrisy.
1. Eat five a day!
“You need to eat your broccoli – you know, Katy Perry eats all her broccoli,” I found myself saying at dinner the other night. Katy Perry wasn’t the only grey area in terms of truth and honesty (and who knows, maybe she does eat all her vegetables). I was also hiding my own uneaten broccoli under my napkin, hoping my daughter wouldn’t spot it. I was preaching to the kids about five-a-day, but quietly realising that I’d had just one-a-day that day – and only if I counted two slices of pepper that were in my tuna wrap at lunch-time. I am a hypocrite. I spend so much time trying to get my kids to eat vegetables, but have only limited concerns about my own intake.
And I hide broccoli under napkins.
2. Drink more water!
I tell my kids to drink more water. Constantly. Drink more, you’ll get dehydrated, it’s hot outside, water is so good for you, have another drink. They’re so bored of me at this stage – I’m bored of myself. But again, I don’t follow my own advice – I regularly get to tea-time and realise that the only water I’ve had all day has been spiked with generous levels of caffeine.
3. Hang up your clothes!
Every night I walk into my daughters’ bedroom and find their discarded clothes on the floor, and on the bed, and on the dresser, and inexplicably, in the dolls’ house. “Please,” I beg, “all you have to do is check if it’s clean or not, then either hang it up or put it in the laundry basket.” Every night, they nod contritely and promise to do a better job tomorrow. And every night, when I’m going to bed, I hang nothing, absolutely nothing, back in my wardrobe. A chair will do till morning. Or till the weekend. And the kids won’t notice.
4. Go to bed – you’ll be exhausted tomorrow!
This is where my hypocrisy spills over into farce. My three kids, like most children, want to stay up later. They want to have two stories instead of one. They want to read for five more minutes and then for five more. They need a glass of water. They need the light on. They need the light off. They can’t get to sleep.
The other night, my five-year-old called me up to tell me that she couldn’t sleep. I had to point out that as she was scooting around her bedroom on a scooter, it would be difficult to fall asleep.
I try to reason with them. “You need sleep to grow/you will feel better tomorrow/you’ll be so tired if you don’t go to sleep now,” - all the platitudes that pass from generation to generation, and they pay about as much attention as I did as a kid.
Fast forward three hours. It’s late. My husband suggests that we turn off the TV and shut down the laptop. I agree, and continue doing whatever I’m doing. A few minutes later, I tell him we really should go to bed. He agrees, and keeps reading whatever he’s reading. Suddenly, we realise it’s after midnight. “This is ridiculous, we’ll be wrecked tomorrow,” I say. “We really have to start going to bed earlier,” he says. And we both know that nothing will change, and we’ll do it all again tomorrow night.
5. You need to wear sun-cream!
Heading for a picnic on a windy beach recently, I spent forty-five minutes plastering the three kids in factor 50. By the end of it, I had no energy left to do my own - it wasn’t that hot anyway. Four hours later, I knew I was in trouble. The only upside to the pain and embarrassment of getting sunburnt was being able to use it as an example to the kids – this is what happens if you don’t protect your skin. “But why didn’t you wear sun-cream mum?” they asked. Point taken.
6. Stop saying “Oh my god”!
My five-year-old constantly says “Oh my god”. About anything and everything – perfectly normal situations that don’t actually warrant any kind of exclamation. I’m trying to lead by example, saying “Oh my goodness” or “Oh my gosh” but judging by how often she says it, I’m failing. “You know, you’ll need to stop saying that before you start school,” I told her last week, “Your new teacher will say ‘what kind of little girl says ‘oh my god’ all the time’.” “No mum, my new teacher will say ‘what kind of mother does this little girl have’,” she replied with a knowing grin. True.
So yes, I’m a hypocrite, but I think maybe that’s a parent’s prerogative. We spend a lot of time trying to do the right thing; trying to lead by example. So if we slip up every now and then – if we do something we’d rather they didn’t do - it’s not the end of the world. Unless of course they start wearing heels and watching Breaking Bad.