We’re at a soft play centre on a Sunday morning. It’s probably not a wise choice given the chaos that surrounds me but Ozzy’s at rugby practice and it’s threatening rain, so Violet needs somewhere to expend energy.
I’m watching her from afar and I see her befriending a toddler of a similar age, ushering her over, tilting her head and patting the top of the slide saying: “Are you OK, darlin’?” It’s a bit Bet Lynch but my heart expands with the sentiment. These little moments of kindness (even amidst a sequence of tantrums) can really stay with us.
When we become parents there are a million and one thoughts rushing round our heads. Some are the day-to-day ones: “How do I clean a baby who has pooed all the way up his/her back?” “Why does this baby not appear to sleep?” or “Will I ever be able to go to the loo solo again?”. Other less banal ones like “What does the phrase ‘good parent’ actually mean?” or “How will I ever cope with this weight of responsibility?” can linger.
As a parent, I often think about what I most want to teach my children. I’ve blogged before about how much they teach me about life, but what about what I want to pass on to them?
Kahlil Gibran’s poetry reminds us that our children don’t ‘belong’ to us – rather, they come ‘through us’. So as parents we are ultimately their guides to steer them along the course, support them and enable them to thrive. Anyone who follows me on FB will know I have two ‘forces of nature’. While they have their own unique qualities, they are strong and full of purpose and spirit. It’s a good thing (I tell myself relentlessly when I’m pushed to my own perceived limits).
There is so much I want to tell them about how they might avoid pain and suffering. I’d like to navigate them safely round pitfalls but that isn’t up to me. Their lives will take them on their own adventures.
My son is highly strung, pithy and has moments of startling insight. He’s also dreadfully competitive and a perfectionist in the making. I see familiar tendencies and I know his vivid imagination has a flip-side when he shouts me to come to his room at bedtime, insisting: “Mummy, I keep seeing dragons when I close my eyes. I tell myself not to think about it and it comes straight back into my head.” I sit with him and reassure him that it’s just a thought and the more you try and shut it out, the stronger the thought will push back. Just let it be.
As a parent who has struggled quite a bit with anxiety and low mood, I want more than anything for my children to be informed and to feel able to talk about things that might be getting them down. As a generation, we have a responsibility to our children to make mental and emotional wellbeing an everyday conversation and that can only happen if we stop brushing it under the carpet.
The other day I caught Ozzy making his own video (having ‘borrowed’ dad’s mobile) and he came in to film me in my little office saying “Mummy’s working on her Smile stuff. Just so you know, I helped to make that happen…” with a cheeky aside. It’s a story he’s familiar with and one I’m proud to share.
We all want the best for our children. We can’t control what the future holds for them, but we can help them to see that if they bring kindness and understanding into whatever they choose to do, then the rest will naturally unfold.
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