Life’s Little Things

Rather like a sling shot, it seems children must go backwards before they can catapult forward

Over the years it has become painfully apparent to me that parenting involves taking one step forward with my children, but invariably it is always two steps back. By this reckoning my children are developmentally at the stage more suited to half their chronological age yet I feel twice as old as I am. The nonsensical shovelling of snow while it is still snowing is a reasonably accurate analogy of the struggle of parenting in the blizzard that is the modern world. 

Massive surge

As my children grow and develop I have noticed that just before a massive surge forward in development my boys can seem to regress in their behaviour. Sometimes this manifests as very clingy behaviour, or acting out in very childish ways. Rather like a sling shot, it seems they must go backwards before they can catapult forward. Sometimes the rubber band breaks and they donít make the transition but more often than not in the blink of an eye they are not where I left them, but are in fact 20 paces ahead, talking, walking and acting more grown up. There are periods of calm when our children consolidate what they know and then hibernate before the next surge ahead. Unfortunately there are nowhere near enough of these oases.


Waiting to take the next leap forward in development can be very trying for all the unfortunates forced to live under the same roof as the growing child – tall tales, barefaced lying, temper tantrums, sulking and stamping are downright exhausting. Once they have taken a step forward by mastering some new skill, growing a little taller or learning a new lesson the transition is successful and all reverts to calm as they consolidate prior to the next jump forward.

I am reliably told that this doesnít stop. My colleague tells me that her son regularly rings from Australia to tell her he is feeling unwell or is having a bad day. He doesnít in fact need medicinal or job advice he just wants a friendly ear as these calls often precede a promotion interview or college deadline. I have seen precisely the same with my own sons. Sometimes it is enough to listen and empathise and allow them to find their own solution. As a mother holding back with well-intentioned albeit accurate assessment can be excruciatingly difficult to do.


However hard it is we must allow them to discover the answers for themselves. Too often we cajole and drag our children through life when most of us would be much happier walking alongside our children guiding and encouraging. I see my husband standing at the side of football pitches shouting encouragement and instructions that he canít be certain they can hear, let alone agree with. He admits that as their footballing prowess grows he is no longer certain that his ideas of what should be done on the pitch are any more valid than theirs. That is true of all of life.

It is hard to sit back and watch our children fling themselves with gusto into all aspects of their lives. It is even harder to admit that parenting sometimes requires nothing more than waiting to see if what we have already taught and modelled will work. There may be times when a delicate post-mortem is required to discover a better way to get to where they want to go, not just where we want to send them. Recognising that our children will increasingly have a greater role in driving their own lives forward and that they possess a unique perspective on how this can be achieved is good place to start.