Parenting – A Reflection of How You Were Raised?
What makes a good parent? We all have our own answers to this question and that’s the way it should be. I was trying to ask myself where that answer comes from for me. I haven’t read the books, I tend not to be influenced by ‘park talk’ and I have no blueprint. More and more I realise that I am trying to pick the ‘best bits’ from my own childhood and pass them on to Max.
I was allowed to be a child, the kind that fell out of trees, tore his clothes and flirted with adventure and danger in equal measures. With an imagination fuelled by books and stories, I was an expert den builder, I made my own bow and arrows, I was forever on treasure hunts and I never returned home until the sun had set. I can remember one favourite game of ours was splitting into two teams, climbing the apple trees in an orchard and trying to knock each other out of the tree with the apples, probably not one that will catch on today.
My Grandparents had a farm in the country and spending long summer holidays there filled my head with lots of memories filed under “joyous”. Scampering into the chicken coop and filling my jumper with eggs, 50% of which might have made it to the pantry intact. Milking the cows and drinking straight from the bucket. Hurtling down hills in ‘rustic’ billy carts, ignoring the calls to “be careful”. These days there’s a name for this sort of child-hood fun and frolics, I’ve seen it referred to as Free Range.
Those are the memories I want to fill Max’s head with although living in the middle of a metropolis can make that a logistical challenge. I’d gladly swap the museums, cinemas, galleries and shopping centres of the city for forests, rivers, mountains and lakes. For me having and maintaining a sense of adventure and imagination is up there on my list, the mental list that most parents keep titled “What Qualities I’d Like My Child to Have”. Its part of a little challenge I set myself when Max was born to give him an extraordinary childhood rather than an ordinary childhood.
I always had the impression my parents were very thrifty and took exception to that. If we went out to eat we were often restricted to the dreaded Soup of the Day whilst there always seemed to be a boy on the table next door greedily scoffing down an overflowing plate of fish n chips. I can remember on family holidays we were allowed an ice cream on the last night of the holiday only. I remember one day being shocked that along with my siblings we were told we could choose a ‘big toy’ each from the toy shop; that sticks in my mind because that was unusual.
I admire their thriftiness now and see the value in it, not just a healthier bank balance but I’m convinced that less is more for Max. Whenever he has a windfall of presents around birthdays and Christmas time it seems to burden him. Rather than slow down and enjoy one thing he flits from one to the other without any focus. His expectations change for a few days afterwards and what used to be “good morning” or “hello” becomes “present?”
My parents have been together since their early 20’s, they both worked hard and played an active role in their three children’s upbringing and I can honestly say I’ve never seen them argue. Furthermore they still walk around holding hands, that’s not a bad effort for 40 years of marriage. That created an environment that felt safe and stable and also set a precedent that I quickly realised set us apart from a lot of other families.
Those are some of the things that I have plucked from my childhood and hold on to as being valuable and beneficial for Max. How much is your approach to parenting a reflection of how you were raised? What else guides your parenting style?