Some thoughts on Parenting.
Tuesday Talks with Lisa Hunt-Wotton
Lately I’ve had a lot of parents asking if I would do some posts on parenting. So here are some of my thoughts and observations.
I am a mother to three children in their 20’s and three step sons also in their 20’s. I also have the delight to be a mother in law to two gorgeous young women and another about to be welcomed into the family. Our 6 children were 5, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15 when I married for the second time after the death of my first husband. So we certainly had our hands full.
Parenting can be an overwhelming business, full of expectation and hope. Also full of doubt and fear. There is a plethora of information, books and advice on parenting. It is also one of the few areas in your life where family and even strangers feel free to give you advice, warnings and anecdotes.
A few years ago I had the delight of spending a few days with Tony and Peggy Campolo. Tony is a well known sociologist, author and social activist. One afternoon I asked him, “Tony, how do you know that you are a good parent”?
Well, he said. You know if you are a good parent if you have done three things.
1: You love your child unconditionally
2: You give them an education
3: Importantly, you know how to let them go.
If you can do these three things then you are a good parent.
When he said this to me a huge load lifted off my shoulders. In fact I hadn’t realised how heavy the load had been. I felt such relief. Wow I thought, I’m a good parent. What a relief to be able to say those words. Sounds simple doesn’t it.
Truly I believe that simplicity is the key to good parenting. We love to complicate things and make them harder than they are. We are also often too hard on ourselves. So in the character of simplicity I will pass on some of my advice.
Six weeks after the birth of my first son, I trotted of to my GP Dr Ramsay to make sure that everything was on track. He said something to me at that appointment that has stayed with me for the rest of my life.
“Lisa, you are the expert of this child. You carried him for 9 months, you know him better than anyone on the whole earth. Trust that”.
1: Parent – you are the expert. You know YOUR child.
There is no such thing as one size, book, technique, fits all.
Each child is fearfully and wonderfully made and is totally unique. That is why I get nervous with parents that spout techniques and things that you ‘should do’. I despair of parenting courses that teach 3 steps on how to getting your child to sleep and the expectation that every child should be sleeping through the night by 4 weeks old – or whatever they declare.
Each of us have different sleeping habits, we all have different personalities, batteries, coping abilities and capacities. It is no different for babies. There are things that can HELP you. But please…….these are guides they are not the bible. YOU know your child. You know your life and your rhythm and your unique family.
None of my kids slept through the night until they were three. I carried a lot of guilt over that. If you knew my kids you would totally get it. They are like ever ready batteries with huge capacities and very low tolerance for boredom. They do not stop.
On the other hand, my three beautiful step sons I’m told slept all the time. They are pretty much like that now. Chilled, laid back, easy going, very calm and nothing bothers them. My eldest crawled at 6 months, walked at 9 months, and never stopped talking. My eldest step son didn’t walk until he was 18 months old.
THEY ARE ALL DIFFERENT.
With this in mind – remember each child has different educational requirements. Again, very rarely does one size fit all. At one stage we had 5 different schools. A lot of that had to do with blending families and that is a different topic all together. However, what we learned out of this is that some kids are academic, some are social, some need face to face, some are artistic, some just want to talk, some love sport. We had all of that.
It’s a waste of money sending a child who is NOT academic to a private school. There are brilliant public schools out there.
It’s a tradgegy sending an artistic child to a school that is highly academic and science driven. I have so many parents asking me advice on which school is good and which is not. I ask: What is your child like? Are they a creative who struggles with rules and numbers and needs to be taught visually? Then look for a school will cater to that.
Four of our children went to a private school and two went to public.
Honestly now I look back and think that three of the six should have gone public, one did well at a lower end private school and the two mental gymnasts, they needed one on one face time, they needed smaller class sizes in a smaller private school.
My point is, know your child, find the school that fits. The topic of Christian schools makes no difference to this picture, but again, another topic. In saying all of that, you may have pretty easy going, normal, no fuss kids. They will thrive anywhere. How easy for you. Enjoy.
I see so many hover parents, OCD parents and helicopter parents. They get worried about the smallest things.
Your children will not remember how clean the house was, how many after school activities they missed out on or if the laundry was done. They will remember the walks in the rain, the books curled up with mum or dad on the couch, the swims at the beach. Kids want YOU. They want to play with YOU. They would prefer to swim with you, walk with you, read with you. They want your TIME.
We had a huge backyard and our kids spent A LOT of time outside coming up with some pretty creative endeavours. One event which still makes me laugh was when it was hard rubbish pick up in our area. The kids spent weeks and weeks walking around the neighbourhood bringing back to our house, couches, junk, prams, bikes, tables you name it. I’ll never forget seeing the six of them trailing home like a line of ants from school one day, each kid carrying something in their arms and the three eldest juggling a three seater couch.
I nearly went mad with all the junk. Then one weekend, they made hilarious posters advertising a GARAGE SALE, and sold all the junk back to the neighbourhood. It was hilarious and they made over $400.00 which was divvied up between them. They worked together to arrange a price for each of the goods, each kid had their special area, they had to organise a float for change and bargain with the buyers. What a great lesson along with weeks of exercise and fresh air.
Anyway a small example of outdoor fun where mum and dad stood back and let the kids go for it.