Someone asked me if I worried about my children, and when I said, no, never, I don't think they really understood what I meant at first. I love my children absolutely, utterly and completely. I think - or I hope - they know this. But I don't worry. Of course I am deeply concerned when they are hurting, or ill or upset, and I do what I can to help them. I am not talking about emergencies when I say I don't worry. I would do anything for them. I am not an unfeeling monster in any way shape or form.
But here's the thing. I raised them to believe in themselves. To have self confidence. If I started being overly protective or concerned about their lives right now, I would be negating 35 years of being a Mum my way. I never worried about my oldest son working in a garage alone as a teenager. He was strong and capable and he did just fine. When my daughter set off around the world when she was 18, I didn't worry about her. I KNEW she could look after herself. She was resourceful and capable and we knew people in the countries she was off exploring, so in dire emergencies, I also knew help would be quick to reach her. Long before I could get there. And her trip started spectacularly when she was upgraded to business class for the first leg of her global trot. It augured well for her travels. She had a ball, by the way.
I have been talking to David today, my youngest son. The one who is looking for a job after graduating and being away from home for 3 years. He is not thrilled to be home, of course. He would far rather be out there, building his life. And he will do just that soon, I am convinced. He has dreams and plans and back-up plans too. He is looking at this as a learning curve, and experience of real life. And he is building on those experiences. He will find his niche and excel. I just know.
I am a mother.
I know everything.
You see, I am really concerned about how much modern parents baby their children, over-protect them, and keep them from tackling responsibilities and consequences. Every child, from toddler age upwards can contribute to family life. I watched my daughter-in-law hand her baby (Missy, the light of my life) a wash cloth every time she finished her meal, and she cleaned her high chair. She LOVED helping. And she bakes. She washes up. She is not 3 yet. Ann has got it right. Missy is a part of a unit. A family. She has a role to play, and revels in it. She is not just there for decoration, gorgeous though she may be. She contributes. (I remember my toddlers absolutely loving the Dustbuster - when I asked them to clean their rooms!)
Loving does not mean babying. Loving means encouraging, and being in the background, ready to pick up the pieces now and then. but also ready to lead the cheering section when they triumph. Without a parent who believes that they can dare to dream and who believes that they can touch stars, they would never leave home. They would be stunted by MY need to have them here, and my failure to teach them that life out there was exciting and full of possibilities. .
It is not about me. It is all about raising them to fly, and then standing back and watching them soar. I remember Diana at one, crawling to the jungle gym when my back was turned and climbing to the top. Did I rush and grab her? No. I rushed, all right, but I stood at the base of the jungle gym and told her how clever she was and that now she could climb down, and I guided her feet to the right places. She was up and down that jungle gym like a monkey every day after that. Did she fall? No.
If my kids fell and scraped their knees, I picked them up, brushed them off, kissed them better and sent them on their way, telling them that they were all better now. It worked. I never ever babied them. Cuddled them, yes. Loved them? Yes. Babied? No. I expected a lot of them, and they rose to the occasion. Expect little, and you will get little.
I did not have piles of books to read about parenting back then. It was a "seat of the pants" version, as I have spoken of before. But it evolved into MY way of being a mum. A single parent most of the time, but then, you see, the last thing Geoff needed was to come home to whiny clingy kids. He also believed in raising strong, capable independent men and women, and that was how we decided to parent our 3.
Childhood, just 2 generations ago (my grandfather's generation), used to end at about 12. Why on earth have we extended it to the early 20s? What possessed us? We want out children to have a good life. Good childhood. Good teens. Good college. Good twenties. Plenty of fun. ......when does it end?
We need to stop babying our kids, and let them fly. I cannot overstate this. Let them learn. Embrace every added year as a blessing and a chance to teach them more about life. They all adore being given responsibility. Just don't doubt their ability to rise to the challenge, and if they falter, grin and tell them you believe in them. You are NOT a bad Mum just because you let your children grow up, you know.
Who knows what they will achieve one day.....
This is how I see my role as a Mum. Love, teach, encourage and stand back. Have confidence in them, teach them confidence in themselves, and let them abandon babyhood. I could go on, of course. But then, I usually do, don't I.....
I am off the hobby horse. I need coffee and something calorific. Spouting forth does that to me.