Sussex columnist: 'Mum guilt is real, but I had a parenting win this week' – and gin and baking in Brighton!

Parenting isn’t easy, and there are times when I feel like I’m massively failing in all areas.
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Not managing to do enough homework, feeling like you’re never quite ‘present’ enough, using too many threats and bribes...

It can leave you feeling pretty guilty a lot of the time (mum guilt is real!).

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But then, there are those times when you get things right, and all is good in the world again.

Katherine and her mum at their bread-making classKatherine and her mum at their bread-making class
Katherine and her mum at their bread-making class

For my son’s birthday this year, we bought him his first proper bike. The first time he went out on it, he thought it was the best thing ever.

Keen to foster that enthusiasm, we took him out on his bike again the next day. We hadn’t got to the end of the road before he decided it was ‘too scary’ because he tipped slightly to the side at one point, and the bike sat gathering dust in the garage for the next six months.

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Repeated suggestions he try riding it again were met with a resounding ‘no’, until this weekend.

The gin to my tonic show in BrightonThe gin to my tonic show in Brighton
The gin to my tonic show in Brighton
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Out-of-the-blue he decided he wanted to try again, so I wanted to capitalise on it straight away.

It might have been early evening on Friday, when I had football boots to clean, washing to hang and dinner to cook, but I figured we needed to go for it.

I gave him my best words of encouragement before we left, bigged up how fun it would be in the semi-dark and did my best sing-song happy voice. And it worked!

He absolutely loved it. So much so that we went out the following two days for two more rides.

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I’d felt so bad that we’d got him a bike, and we hadn’t been using it. Worried that he was going to miss out on the ability to cycle. Just generally felt like we’d done a disappointing job of making his birthday present fun enough that he wanted to use it. It was so nice to feel like I’d got it right this time.

And this wasn’t the only parenting ‘win’ of late.

My daughter had to move up a swimming group at Splashpoint a few weeks ago, meaning she would now have to swim out of her depth.

She’s a great swimmer, and is more than capable of doing it, but she didn’t believe she could.

Distracted by my son after his swimming lesson, and not really being in tune enough with quite how nervous she was, I waved her into her lesson and just figured she’d be fine.

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What actually happened was she completely panicked, looked like she was going to go under the water and the teacher jumped in to save her, just in case. I felt so guilty, because I’d dropped the proverbial parenting ball by not being attentive enough.

It went against every maternal instinct not to wrap her up, take her home and tell her she never had to do swimming again. But I knew she couldn’t leave the lesson like that, so I persuaded her to do the last ten minutes.

It was hard, and I think we both felt quite traumatised afterwards.

So, the next week, I was determined to make up for not being as much of a parent cheerleader as I could have been the week before.

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There was a pep talk, repeated promises that doing her very best was enough and lots of telling her I believed in her.

She was nervous, but she got in and she did it. I waved at her constantly, blew her kisses and made heart shapes with my hands. My eyes were constantly watering with how proud I was of her, and I couldn’t stop smiling when I saw how proud she was of herself. She told me afterwards she did it because she knew I believed in her. It was such a nice feeling and such a positive experience after the wobbly week before.

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Of course, that’s the way parenting should always be, but sometimes life gets in the way. Things will go wrong again, I’m sure, but it’s always good to remember these little wins to spur you on when things are a bit tougher.

I know there’s always much excitement about my social engagements (Hi, Mrs Woodman!). Two of the highlights this week were the ‘Gin to my Tonic’ festival at the Metropole in Brighton with my bestie (FYI, navy-strength gin is not for me!) and a bread-making class at Brighton Cookery School with my mum. Definitely could have done with some of what I made at the latter to help with soaking up some of what was drunk at the former – if only the timings had worked out better!

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