My youngest returned from his teacher/student/parent interview very solemn and upset. Yes, tears were shed. The teacher had been very frank and we had not defended our boy. The boy knew he had been working ok, but there was room for more. Yes, there had been big changes, but he was capable of more.
I was torn. On the one hand I knew we needed to be tougher, but on the other, this is my gorgeous baby (at 8 years old, he keeps reminding me he is not a baby) and the world was being tough. I don’t want to scar him and push him too far. I need to be gentle and understanding and positive and kind and yes there are some great things he has been doing, like leading the SRC meeting ..the list goes on. But here we are lifting the bar, telling him it could be better, more focus, more responsibility, less whinging…the list goes on.
Oh, the pain and balance of parenting. I know that I should have been better at getting the reader read. I should have made more of an effort to hear the Chapel speech. But then, he should have asked for help, he is old enough to say “I need to do my reader”.
All this was buzzing around my head as I prepared tea and ate tea and put the kids to bed. I had a spare minute to sit at the kitchen table and read a section from the newspaper that my very dear neighbour faithfully passes on each week and “Bam” there it was:
“My kids are spoilt and need to realise it, their granny tells them”
“Mum is not one to beat about the bush and neither has she a mean bone, so it is impossible to react defensively to anything she says…But apart from the material stuff, what Mum was really getting at was that they probably get too much done for them….They are honest and kind kids, respectful of us and teachers, but the older ones are not exactly beating a path to the stove, or the washing machine, or the dishwasher…because I’ve always done the domestic load for all of us (until now)…..And as Mum’s now had the kindness to point out, maybe it’s time these well cared-for kids showed understanding of how lucky they are. And the kids are not ungrateful; they know how hard we work to provide. But they are growing up in a parenting era dubbed by the experts as “child-centred”, one in which parents… spare no energetic or financial expense on giving children a stable, rounded experience-rich and happy life……..And despite our good reasons for putting the comfort of kids first, another side effect may be while we are aiming to send well-loved kids into the world, we may also risk delivering a generation of pampered mummy’s boys….Life skills are learned at home. I’m grateful to my no-fuss Mum for pointing out something so obvious but something I couldn’t quite see. I’ve succeeded in providing my babies with a stable, happy, consistently-routined, stimulating and experience and nurturing-rich start to life – and now possibly it’s time I toughened up.” (Wendy Tuohy Adelaide Advertiser March 24th page 29 My Week)
The next morning the boy got up and seemed quite happy. I was amazed. Also I was amazed to have a quiet opportunity with the boy. (This doesn’t happen very often in a household of 6 when everyone has to be out the door early!) He came and sat on my lap and I mentioned that last night had been tough. There was a nod in agreement. I followed on along the lines of sometimes we have to hear things we don’t like, but that they can actually turn into good things. He knew exactly what I meant. “It is not going to be easy, and I am going to be tougher but it is going to be good.” Another big nod and he is ready to move on. “Hang on, I need something, I need a kiss!”