Written by Jude Peppis for the collaborative blogizine, Kiki Blah Blah.
PUSHY PARENTING… I KNEW IT WOULD HAPPEN. I HAVE HIGH EXPECTATIONS FROM EVERYONE IN MY LIFE AND TJ IS NO EXCEPTION (SORRY BUDDY!) SO NOW I’M FACED WITH THE DILEMMA – WHEN IS IT OK TO START ENCOURAGING CERTAIN INTERESTS IN OUR CHILDREN AND HOW DO WE AVOID CROSSING OVER INTO BEING A DOMINEERING, CONTROLLING, HAND-IN-THE-SMALL-OF-THEIR-BACK PUSHY PARENT?
Because of situation-separation and the rubbishness that comes with singlehandedly trying to secure a roof over my head, TJ (my two-year old toddler) and I have been living with my parents who live in the countryside. Lots of fields, completely out of range for Deliveroo, with animals for neighbours. All of the animals. Whilst I’ve been getting my 34 year-old act together, it didn’t take long for TJ to become obsessed with our animal neighbours; demanding each time we left the house, regardless the destination, that we see them, which TJ indicated by mouth clicks, baas and moos.
This where my thoughts of pushy parenting started to kick in!
Horsing around – After some time it became obvious that horses were a firm favourite with TJ. He was too young to get on horseback himself, or so I thought, so I ended up taking him on a couple of trips to random stable yards to meet their current residents. The staff were amazingly accommodating and didn’t seem to judge me for what, on the surface, appeared to be pushy parenting at its finest. Then, a quick Google search by my sister (thanks) found a riding school nearby which did 30-minute rides for those over two years old for the handsome sum of £20. It would have been heartless – borderline neglectful – would it not if I hadn’t immediately booked him in?
Last Wednesday, TJ went for his first horse ride, and the boy is a natural. He didn’t need support to secure and maintain perfect posture and balance, he held onto the reins, he happily wore the hat and, for the most part, he kept his feet in the stirrups. It was 30 minutes of pure bliss for both of us as we walked through the autumnal woods to the soundtrack of TJ’s clicking tongue. Never was his enjoyment of the last half an hour more evident than when the ride ended and my little man burst into real tears of sadness streaming down his anguished face when he realised that horses weren’t going to be his only mode of transportation for the rest of his life. I only got him off Mousey the pony by promising to take him back for another lesson sometime – something which he reminded me of on several occasions throughout the rest of the week.
As I reflect on the joy of proudly watching my son on a horse, envisioning him winning the Grand National, I’m also wondering if I’m pushing him into this hobby. Where is the line between letting him indulge in something which he clearly loves and seeing potential for career success? But, if I was pushing him, there are cheaper hobbies to consider. Like singing. Another skill I think TJ possesses. I’ll explain…
Anyone who has read my blog before (thanks!) knows that most of my daily ways to entertain TJ go hand in hand with Mickey Mouse and his gang. In a moment of what I can only look back on as utter stupidity, I bought TJ ‘Now That’s What I Call Disney’ to listen to in the car. Thinking it would be a nice complement to my own choices of Taylor Swift and 90’s R’n’B, and broaden his musical horizons as we travelled from soft play centres to play dates at the park. I am an idiot.
Now all car journeys must involve Hakuna Matata… on repeat.
But, something is breaking up the monotony of that wonderful phrase – TJ has started to sing along. In the tradition of toddler mimicking, that kid knows how to duet to Beauty and the Beast. Pre-baby, I was in a choir and I was no stranger to busting out the odd show tune whenever the occasion arose… and, I’ll admit sometimes without appropriate occasion. So it could be nature helping TJ find his musical voice or it could be nurture as he tries to compete with me in the singing stakes.
But what’s it going to be? Maybe I’m destined to stand outside an X Factor audition room with Dermot O’Leary in 15 years’ time. Which is more likely than TJ thundering over the finishing line at the Grand National, especially if he continues to grow at his current rate – a Jockey he is not. Do I buy a thousand lottery tickets and let him explore both activities? Or should I just chill out, play it by ear and let my two-year old decide what he likes? Answers on a postcard accompanied with a small donation to TJ’s riding fund please.