If you’re the perfect parent, please stand up.

Six days ago, a really, really weird thing happened.  It appears that the entire Australian population turned into Carol and Mike Brady.

We went to bed on Tuesday night as normal and woke up as our favourite perfect TV parents.

Don’t be coy – you know I’m right. Think about it. In the past week none of our kids watched more than 30 minutes of C-classification TV a day.  We didn’t utter a single swear word in front of them. Haven’t argued or bickered with our partner in their presence.  And we most certainly didn’t flip the bird at that taxi driver who cut us off in the traffic.

At all times we have been attentive to our kids needs. Never speaking to them in harsh tones. And joyfully playing ‘shops’ with our toddler even though their shop is a rip-off and charges us $50 for a single apple. We don’t mind. We suck it up with joy. JOY.

And did I mention that our kids have eaten nutritious food the entire time this week?  Fish fingers? Pah.  It’s been home cooked meals and snacks all week. And don’t get me started on the volunteering they did on Sunday afternoon.

Yep. That’s what the last week has been like.

At least I assume it has.

Because what other reason could there be for the mind-boggling amount of venom that has been directed at Chrissie Swan and her parenting skills since last Wednesday when photos of Chrissie and her kids appeared in the Australian Women’s Weekly (you can read about that here)?

The entire country – including a twentyone-year-old Neighbours actress – has felt the need to tell Chrissie that she’s a shit mum because her three-year-old son Leo is over-weight.

How very, very helpful of us. No really. Hi-fives all round!

I have watched in horror over the past few days as people have written the most insulting and cruel things about Chrissie and her beautiful sons Leo and Kit.

Chrissie is a friend of mine.  A dear friend.  And aside from the fact that she’s hilarious and warm and compassionate and whip-smart, she’s also a terrific mum.  The type of mum whose face lights up when her boys enter the room.  The type of mum who bombards her Facebook feed with photos of them (sorry Chrissie but you do … seriously, you’re like the paparazzi to your own kids). The type of mum who is raising her sons to be compassionate, gentle, generous, hilarious, kind, curious kids.

But none of that matters apparently. Because Leo is over-weight.

Writing in the newspaper yesterday, Chrissie was painfully honest in talking about her denial over Leo’s weight and the role she has played:

I was put on my first diet at the age of 11. This involved turning up to group meetings with grown women in a church hall, slipping off my shoes and being publicly weighed. I was counting kilojoules and whipping skim milk into fluff, as a snack, before I had left primary school. I didn’t want anything like this for my son. But in my desire to avoid the demonisation of food and the low self-esteem it inevitably creates, I had unwittingly set my beautiful son on a rocky path.

It wasn’t until I took him to his first day of creche that I saw how different he was. The other kids seemed so small compared to my little sweetheart, whose shoes and pants were at least two sizes bigger. Mild panic set in. What happens if someone is mean to him? What happens when, after three years of being told he is magnificent, someone tells him otherwise, based on his weight? I could barely breathe.

Now not that it’s ANY of our business but is Chrissie doing something about Leo’s weight?  Of course.  The article goes on to say that Chrissie has since taken her little boy to a paediatric dietician and that the issue wasn’t that Leo was eating garbage food but that he was eating far too much healthy food (so, for example, Chrissie has had to learn portion sizes for fruit and that four bananas a day isn’t healthy.) Leo is now on the path to more appropriate meal sizes and healthy eating.

The end.  No really – THE END. Except it’s not because now strangers are piling on to abuse Chrissie and her son Leo. Who is three-years-old. How much do you think Chrissie and her partner are beating themselves up about this? A lot.

None of us are perfect parents.  We stuff up. We make bad judgement calls.  We think we’re doing the right thing by our kids and yet despite the best of intentions, we veer off course.  We sometimes influence them in the worst ways rather than the best.

It’s called parenting.  And we’re all just in it together trying our best.

Me included. Last week I realised that I could turn ABC for Kids on at any time of the day and my three-year-old Ava could immediately name the show AND the main characters.  Yes, even Rastamouse.  How did that happen?  I let things slip, that’s how.  So we’re back to strictly limiting her TV viewing time.  And Rastafarian mice are no longer on the viewing schedule.

I’m not perfect. But, like Chrissie, I love my children and I’ll make sure I keep reassessing things along the way so that when we inevitably fall off track, we hop back on.

As for Mike and Carol Brady, well I’ll remind you that not even they got it right all the time.  Greg stole a goat.  Peter routinely told lies. Cindy was a total snitch.   And Jan had such low self-esteem she started wearing a black curly wig just so she’d stand out.

Talk about bad parenting …


(This post first appeared on Mamamia)


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About Bec

Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.

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