There is no such thing as a ‘Perfect Parent’ and we all make mistakes when dealing with our kids. While rifling through my photos the other day, I found a photo that reminded me of a time I’d got it very wrong indeed. Part of me wanted to hit the delete button to see if would erase any residual guilt but I knew that wasn’t the answer.
No, I decided, the Right Thing to do is to put my story out there so others can read it, and perhaps learn from my mistake. So here we go…
Every summer we grow sunflowers. The kids usually plant a couple of seeds each in a pot in late spring, we will probably start this year’s ones off this weekend actually. These live on the kitchen window sill until they start to obscure the view and then they are moved outside and planted. Last year they went in the posh-sounding ‘kitchen garden’- it’s just the garden closest to the kitchen, really. The snails ate one, The Lurcher trampled another and that just left one, which grew and grew and GREW. It was the tallest sunflower we had ever grown.
I was really looking forward to seeing it open to become a huge yellow flower and attracting all manner of insects to its golden face. The kids humoured me in my excitement; DD2 made the suggestion I should get a life because ‘lets face it mummy, it’s only a flower’.
And then one fine morning I came downstairs to sunshine, and children playing nicely outside. I was in a fabulous mood until I glanced out at ‘my’ sunflower and saw the head had been snapped right off the stalk about half a foot from the top. It was still attached by the thinnest of strips but was already beginning to wilt. There was nothing that could be done to save it and I felt my good mood evaporate as I brooded about who the culprit might be.
I took one look at my happy children running around in our garden and instantly decided that it MUST have been one of them.They must have been throwing things around and done it accidentally, or maybe one of them had even done it on purpose. Only no one had come and confessed. Furious, I called the girls inside, one by one, pointed out the damage and asked them what they knew. None of them knew anything and they all seemed really shocked when I pointed out the damage. Even when I asked them what they thought *might* have happened, not one of them could come up with anything, no matter how much I yelled, pleaded, threatened or cajoled.
I even played the Purple Tongue hand, which hasn’t worked on the older two for at least a year. DD3 still falls for it though; basically I ask to see their tongues after having told them there will be purple spots on it if they are lying. When they are little and are lying,they simply refuse to show me their tongues but are eager to do so if they are telling the truth. Somewhere between 6 and 7 they brazen it out for the first time, then shortly after that I lose the advantage. DD3 showed me her tongue quite happily, while the others rolled their eyes at the shite I was sprouting.
The really weird thing was that no one even tried to blame the others.
In the end, I pulled out the stops and told them I had a film of what had happened and once I looked at it, I’d know who was to blame. If someone did know something about it, they should tell me right then and there, and although I’d still be cross, I’d also be pleased that they told the truth. However, if the perpetrator did NOT own up, there would be Trouble ( note the capital ‘T’).
Of course no one owned up and the girls pestered me for days to tell them what ‘the film’ showed. I couldn’t bring myself to dig up what remained of the sunflower, and every time I looked out into the garden I was confronted by a sad stalk, with a dangling head that would never amount to anything.
I felt very angry and frustrated by not knowing if the girls were telling me the truth. They’d lied to me before but I’d always been able to tell in the past. What worried me was not so much if they were lying, but how well they were lying. I decided I wanted to believe they were probably telling the truth.
But if they didn’t break the plant, then who did? For a while my suspicions lay with The Lurcher , as I caught her standing on her hind legs to get to at leaves further up the plant. She’d already eaten the lower ones. But I couldn’t see how she’d break the flower off at the top, 8 feet above the ground.
It really was a mystery.
Until one day, about a week later, I heard our sun-activated awning extending. It had been raining for the last week so the poor thing had spent a lot of time curled up in it’s casing, so I looked up to check it was unfurling okay. A neighbouring creeper has a habit of smothering the awning when it doesn’t get out for a bit and it can get stuck halfway out. There seemed to be no problem with the vine but as it unrolled I noticed something else.
It’s a sunflower that’s grown a little bit too tall to fit under the awning that extends over it when the sun comes out. A sunflower that can only bend so far, until it breaks. My sunflower.
Once I had seen this, and taken a photo(!), I called the girls in, showed them what had happened and apologised profusely for blaming them for the damage.
I’d love to be able to say my kids shrugged it off and forgave me instantly. The fact is, that 8 months on they still refer to it; ’Mummy, remember the time you didn’t believe us about the sunflower’, they ask each time I query their answers about how much homework or music practice they have.
My answer to this is always the same, Yes, I do remember sunflower-gate. Yes, I’m sorry I blamed them. (I’m even more sorry they remember me blaming them). But I STILL want to see their homework/music practice books.
So be warned. Be sure of your facts before even hinting you suspect your darling offspring of something, unless you have concrete evidence. Because if the signs point to them telling the truth and it turns out they were, it’s you that’s going to have to eat humble pie for long after you are sick of the taste of it.
And it really doesn’t taste very nice at all.