Guest Writer: Kate Shelby
Let me introduce myself. I’m Kate Shelby and I’m a 30+ writer, hair stylist, basic parent and a basic human being. Basic parent? Why? Because I refuse to be anything else. I’ll always be basic no matter how much I earn, no matter how attractive or old and wrinkly I become. Just like you my basic needs are the same – we are equal.
I believe far too often the reason we succumb to depression and feeling lost is because we ignore our basic human instincts and needs. We over complicate things to the point where the basic needs of a project, friendship, relationships or our own soul are not met.
We are currently living in an era where social media is depended upon for fulfilment of the same voids in our soul that social media created.
There was once a time where I came across major problems with my son who has a post cancer brain injury and a pervasive developmental disorder. I am not going to say things are perfect today but we’re reflecting on a time, if I’m going to be brutally honest, I was not even sure if I could cope with him. I was troubled at night by thoughts that I would have to give him up. At the time, everything felt so overwhelming and the possibility of me not being able to parent my son seemed like a real possibility. Looking back now, I know that I would have never have acted on my thoughts.
Now, as I look back, I feel like I went above and beyond. I put my son on a pedestal. I took him to amazing places and I constantly made sure he had toys to play with, new movies to watch and exhausted myself keeping up with feeding him some grandeur lifestyle on a tiny budget.
But things became worse and I didn’t understand. I was doing everything. He can’t be bored?! We lived a fast paced life and I provided 54 activities a day…I’m falling apart because this child was running rings around me. It felt like I averaged 50 specialist appointments a month on top of being super-mum of the century as well.
Wasn’t I providing my son’s basic needs? So why was I so exhausted?
Is it possible that in all the activities I was providing for my son, some basic needs were overlooked?
- (Abraham Maslows Hierarchy Of Human Needs)
I think it’s safe to say if you’re reading this you’re taking care of your child’s physiological needs and safety. I question myself on the love and belonging though. I love my child and he belongs in my home, but in an effort to keep him happy and entertained, is it possible I may have been alienating him? In today’s world where we work and raise kids, how often have you looked over your phone or laptop at your child and thought “Gee…..I wish little johnny would just be happy with his DVD I bought him and let me finish [this].”
Let’s be honest with ourselves. We, as parents, try hard to overcompensate in our children’s lives. The trips everywhere and the constant feeling of keeping them entertained become your parental quest- goodness forbid our kids have to face boredom and treat it accordingly.
Trips to theme parks, the beach, the playground – I did this everyday out of desperation and the whole time I had been running from what was important.
- (Snapshot Of The Fast Life)
We are living in an age where we seem to promote feeding each other and ourselves confidence via selfies. We use filters and snap pictures of what we eat and places we go. We Instagram them to feel a shred of importance when really none of this is organic.
It’s a false sense of esteem that is short-lived. What of this are we passing onto our children? With no self-esteem, how can we achieve self-actualization? How can we recognize our full potential? I needed to start sitting down with my son and giving him my full and intimate attention.
I spent a good couple of years trying to avoid the BASIC fundamental lessons that a parent passes onto their child by OVER parenting and OVER providing a lifestyle that effectively caused confusion and chaos in a child that already was struggling with his own self.
Now there are some deeper reasons for how I was raising my son, but I won’t complicate my point.
I did what was necessary. I changed my life. I went back to basics, even down to simplistic living. We don’t have hundreds of toys any more. We don’t go on trips every weekend that fill long days with endless activities. Here is a glimpse of what our life looks like now:
- We hand make most of our play items such as play dough and collage. This ensures that we sit down and spend real-time together.
- For 6 months of each year I remove the television from our main living area and we engage in discussions about all sorts of wonderful and magical things.
- We play board games, card games and perform little skits which we THEN upload to social media to inspire people to engage with their kids.
- We dress up our dolls and role-play them, take pictures and THEN upload them with funny little quotes.
- We build Lego and chat while we build and sometimes I send these videos to my friends because it is REAL organic time spent together.
- We do magic tricks, juggling and have Star Wars battles.
- We do gardening and watch movies together with social media turned OFF.
Basic, every day things.
Five years ago I would dump the Lego on the floor and sit in the lounge on Facebook thinking that I was doing a great job providing my child with 54 activities a day. No. I wasn’t. I wasn’t engaging in his potential nor leading him the way to his potential by simply watching him play. It’s not like I NEVER spent time with him but in hindsight it wasn’t QUALITY time. Kids are not stupid – they know when your available and what your priorities are.
I know as a parent we are all entitled to occasionally tune out – its part of the job. But we need to make sure we are being a basic parent and providing those basic human needs.
If we skip every child’s basic needs, we just create a complexity that is so hard to reverse: A self entitled child always fulfilled with false praise and items of monetary value.
It has been a very long road for me realising that keeping parenting cut and dry isn’t actually as easy as it sounds. The answers to complicated obstacles may not always come easy to me but I am trying to change my way of thinking and reacting. I’m not saying it’s always going to be basic answers but,for me, most of it has been.
It takes a lot to own up to your faults as a parent and where you went wrong, but the end result is a far better understanding of yourself and your family. The end product is showing your child you’re prepared to change for them: For a better future and a better quality of life.
I called this post Basic Parent because there’s no shame in being the low-key stay at home mum with the basic lifestyle. It’s healthy and it’s grounded. This is not to say you can’t be a jetsetter or a go getter with your kids – because you can still provide those basic need and intimate moments in your travels. We must not get so wrapped up in the projected lifestyle that we, as parents, forget the basics.
Meet the Author:
I hope that even if you can’t relate to this that you derived something from my story. I write about my journey as a parent and the highs and lows of my life so far. My son was given a second chance after his cancer treatment ended in 2008 and I often talk about what its like to raise a child on the spectrum. I welcome you to my blog to continue my journey with me.