We as a family are currently in what I like to refer as the forgotten years. Experts in parenting often call them the formative years.
The years between 1-5 where a person is made. Their self confidence, values, their intrinsic essence of being. The years where we as parents create the next adults.
Its a sobering thought when you stop to think of the responsibility you hold in those early years. For at least the first 6 months that responsibility is primarily physical. Must keep baby alive! Now it seems wider. I want my child to yes, be alive but also be more… to be a happy, healthy, fully functioning adult one day.
So in the humdrum of life, the nappies, the sticky fingers, giggling fits, grazed knees and tantrums what sticks? What data is being uploaded into tiny brains? What life lessons am I teaching?
Il attest to the fact this is an opinion piece, I am not a child development specialist but when push comes to shove, with my entire lifes experience, this what I could not get away from:
Love is not enough. You also need to engage as a parent.
Honestly it sounds harsh but its not. I see loving parents feeding their 2 year olds red bull in the shopping aisle. I see loving parents squeezing red marks onto chubby ankles and through clenched teeth whispering that if ‘they don’t shut the fuck up I will give you something to cry about’… friends, acquaintances, WE have seen these things.
Love is not enough.
Giving your child what he wants and not what he needs.
Giving a child an older ‘best mate’ and not a parent figure.
Done constantly you are failing that child.
Wake up people these are our children… and we are their PARENTS. It is not enough to love them. We need to guide them, enable them, inspire them, protect them. We need to nourish curiosity. Fuel passion. We need love them yes. We also need to step up and parent them.
Everyone love everyone.
I once saw a quote that said ‘the greatest gift a father can give his child is to love her mother.’
Our whole lives boil down to the relationships we make and in those 4 fatigue filled, body changing, confusing and relationship defining forgotten/formative years we need to show our children a template of functioning love.
Its not the snogs are passionate rows… its the loyalty, the compassion, its patience , its taking turns on the night shift and hugs and being there for each other. Its the happiness all of that creates. THAT shines through.
We are teaching them to love for their selves… and that, applies just as much as for the single parents out there. Love yourself. Love your own mother. Love each other.
Strategy not fixes.
Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he will eat forever.
We need to give our children the means to be successfully independent not give them a quick fix to the problem. Its ok to be part of that solution – kiss that knocked knee, get the pen which is 400miles under the fridge… its called giving a shit but what really matters is that our children try for them selves, they accept success and failure as equals. That they realise that their success lies in their own hands and no one else’s.
Perception is everything.
It is not enough for you to know, you need to show.
We would happily smash our phones into tiny pieces if it meant the health and happiness of our child. But never really being faced with that ultimatum we don’t.
We hold them, check them, ‘Mummys on the phone’ them. We shout at our children if they break them we tear the house apart when we loose them and without a concious effort we can easily prioritise them over our children.
Perception is everything. How a 3 year old will interpret the use of technology at their expense I do not know. What I do know is thinking about it makes me what to cry. Perception people. Perception.
Do your best.
Doing your best is all you can ever do. We are, all of us, imperfect and our toddlers bless them don’t know that. All they know is that they love us. But when they grow up if they can assess ( probably aged 30 and with their own children, as was my case,) that my parents – despite our differences had always done their best by me. That is a powerful lesson. A life affirming lesson. An example for them to parent by.
Lets start to set it.