Savouring the moments and doing the best for your growing children
Mid-term break has come and gone, but how I love it. I ignore the grumps complaining that the children are only just back to school, so how can they be on holiday so soon? I know all about the logistics of childcare, disrupted schedules, long days of rain and boredom and issues of what to do with a house full of exhausted and sugar overloaded children, but I don’t care.
Every year for Halloween, we take the children to the home of an old friend. She covers her house in fake cobwebs, orange balloons, candles and pumpkins and we stomp the dark laneways gathering enough candy to fill a football stadium.
My children adore this event. Ever since they have been old enough to stuff them into a pumpkin sleep-suit and a pair of wellies, we have donned the obligatory black plastic bin liner, an oversized witch’s hat and embraced Halloween.
This year it was standard trick-or-treat fare with dodge the cow pats, ogle the fireworks and give thanks for a kind neighbour who took pity on my exhausted five-year-old, loaded us up in his car to head home for hot chocolate and a spooky movie.
They are such lovely memories and cherished particularly this year as my children are getting older and I find myself wondering how many more of these evenings we will share together as a family.
At what age does Halloween become ‘uncool’ and at what stage does being seen with their parents become mortifying? How in fact, does one parent a teenager when most of what we remember about our own teenage years we have deliberately repressed?
Most parenting talks leave me with an urge to dash home lock the doors and never again let my children participate in the world, but I thought it prudent to get a head start and attended a ‘how to parent a teenager’ evening in our local school. Although well intentioned, these talks can disempower parents leaving a sense of foreboding of the trials yet to come or, worse still, a feeling that we may have already failed as parents.
This particular talk was quite different and I left somewhat buoyed. Parents, anxious for help in dealing with the challenges of parenting teenagers discussed feeling ill equipped to deal with cyber-bullying, a powerful media and teenage depression.
There was a palpable sense of a room full of adults fixing their resolve and grimly settling in for the long haul.
Happily, we were all reminded of what we should really be asking: is my child healthy and happy? If they are both of these things then you are already blessed. The rest is groundwork, lay it well and continually reinforce it.
Read to your children, provide opportunities to be active together, to eat together and to listen to them. Stop pushing, pulling and cajoling. A little negotiation, a lot of consideration and a healthy dose of compromise will get the job done with self-respect intact.
Of course there will be challenges, but respect, patience, love and understanding are the key to dealing with all of them. The message was a positive, life-affirming one: life is not an endless slog to bring your child to adulthood, it is a collaborative journey towards a mutually-agreed end.
At times, it must be endured but it can always be savoured. I imagine I will always have trouble savouring the delight of cold winter mornings, damp school bags and the lingering odour of wet soccer boots, but that’s okay; today we are happy and healthy and laying a solid foundation for tomorrow.