How Do You Solve A Problem Like Parental Failure?

Can you channel Maria in real life?

The Sound of Music

It was the bit where Maria comes back from the convent and the children, who had till then been dolefully singing and one by one breaking off in silent tears, hearing her cheerful voice joining with theirs, run ecstatically to greet her.

“Would you like a nice lady to look after you?” I asked my eight-year-old son, who was sitting next to me.

There was a pause.

I’d like to think he was struggling with the finer points of his conscience. But since no answer came the swift reply, I realised he was just ignoring me because a TV was on.

Still, despite realising I was shamelessly fishing for scraps here, I persisted: “Well, would you?”

“I s’pose,” he said. And then, “We’ve got you.”

There was no intonation there. At least he didn’t say, “BUT we’ve got you”, thus ruling me out of the running entirely. But neither did he say, “You ARE a nice lady, mummy.”


Of course, I’m used to this. He hasn’t let me kiss him for a year now, although I still manage to sneak them in. (They are immediately wiped off with more force than is strictly necessary, but I try not to be offended.) You don’t get much positive feedback from some kids, and that’s just how it is. I know it’s not all of them because my other sons are still quite affectionate: they say, “Mummy? You smell,” at least five times a day, but served with a winning grin, I’m chalking that up as a compliment.

Maybe it’s eight-year-olds?

Anyhow, I am left with the familiar feeling that once more I have failed as a parent. I am not fun or nice like Maria, and certainly don’t have her teeny tiny waist. This is quite hard to take at the end of a Christmas holiday where I have been niceness and fun-ness personified, as far as I’m concerned. They’ve been allowed to totally trash the house, bounce on my nice sofa, use all the bedding in the house for “stair-slides” – the game with no winners. I’ve played Monopoly. Several times!

And never mind all the presents!

During the usual mealtime altercation, where I am vilified for asking my son to eat his tea within a time frame of less than one day, he tells me I’ve ruined Christmas. I am so wounded I grasp at straws.

“What about all those nice presents I bought you?”

He shrugs, and continues to non-eat his food.

I know he didn’t mean I’d ruined Christmas. But to be channelling Maria and giving off Scrooge was a bit of a blow.

Since The Sound of Music incident, I’ve been focusing on my Maria-like qualities – smiling kindly with twinkly eyes, breaking into song, properly playing with the children, making their clothes out of curtains…(spot the odd one out). It’s easier to be like that in the holidays, but now they’re back at school. They can’t stay up late or stay in their drapes till noon. How did Maria make them do their homework?

I fear I will forever be caught in the von Trapp of parenting: whatever you do, you feel like you’ve failed. You just have to hold onto those golden moments when one of them tells you you smell of poo.



  • Oh yes, you’ve definitely made it if you’re told you smell like poo! I love Maria, but I’m fairly certain I’m nothing like her (despite making clothes out of curtains, of course). Sounds like you did a good job channelling her, and if she can;t get compliments, then no-one can!
    The Reading Residence recently posted…Bring Back Paper in 2016My Profile

  • Parenting really is a drop of golden sun, isn’t it?
    It’s definitely easier to be super-nice and Maria-like during the school holidays without the pressures of school, work and extra-curricular activities, but do kids actually appreciate it? Of course they don’t!
    My 12yo stopped allowing me to kiss him at the age of 7, but over the last year or so I’ve been allowed to hug and kiss him again! He even actively comes to me for a hug. It’s lovely 🙂
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted…Body clocksMy Profile

  • Tim says:

    It must be something about 8-year-olds. Isaac turned 8 recently and these last few months have definitely seen a shift in his behaviour towards us. He’s still affectionate but increasingly self-conscious about it. He doesn’t automatically do as he’s told now, as he thinks he knows better. There are more of those sniggering playground rhymes that all boys seem to suddenly learn the moment they hit Year 3.

    Still, at least he doesn’t tell us we smell of poo. He saves that for his siblings. Small mercies and all that, eh?
    Tim recently posted…No New Year resolutions, but a man with a planMy Profile

  • My little boy is only just over 3 so I still get hugs on demand. I shall try to treasure them until we hit the dry spell from age 8!

    Very much enjoyed this read – and it’s so true. Feeling like a failure so much as a parent is one of the toughest parts.

  • Haha. I have the nine year old that takes a day to eat a meal he doesn’t like. I tried to be Maria in the holidays too – but really they were happier with the xbox and smarties. x
    Complicated Gorgeousness recently posted…Things my children argued about this holidayMy Profile

  • Suzanne says:

    Ha ha I regularly get told ‘your breath smells like poo’ – is there a more crushing blow to the self esteem?! Love this. I’m no Maria either but to be honest, I would be grateful if any of my children responded in the way your boy did. I think mine would rather have ANYONE than me!
    Suzanne recently posted…Escapism, Exams and Exciting Opportunities {Take 5 Friday}My Profile

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