Paused for thought

Paused for thought

Thursday, 17 September 2015


Parenting is a peculiar thing. With the very odd exception, I believe that we all try our best. We bring up little, vulnerable humans and present to them an uncertain world through a combination of realism but also joy, exploration and humour. We try to instil in them the idea of hope and love above all else, before they come face to face with some playground horror or another. Our mind abuzz with ideas of what we should be doing, what we could be doing, we balance plates of baked bean juice and fragments of fish cakes, inwardly cursing that we should have encouraged our children to tidy up, outwardly smiling at the muddy little creatures exploring the garden and making a snail shelter or two.

When I was employed, with a boss who wasn’t 3 feet tall sporting an almost constant food smudge at the corner of their mouth and a voice that required a volume control especially in public places, I strove to do my best. At the beginning of every year, I would set out my development plan. This invariably consisted of events outside the working day, like evening or weekend workshops and reading up on innovative industry ideas and case law. I never wanted to be stagnant. I always wanted to be the best that I could be. My Core Professional Development (CPD) points most probably went through the roof, but I didn’t do it for that. I did it so that I could provide the best service to my customers, the best support to my team and the best advice to anyone who was in need of it. I wasn’t asked or worse, told, to do this, it was and remains part of who I am.

When I became a parent I gave up paid employment. For one reason or another the idea of wiping noses, bottoms, eyes (not necessarily in that order of course) appealed to me more than a clean carpeted working office with warm cups of tea and adult conversation. Eager to please my little charges, I set about with the same determination that I had harnessed my professional career with. Books were read, some with interest, others discarded when it was clear that my children had no interest in these expensive developmental toys being pushed as the only thing to help your child master one skill or another. While pages, no doubt endorsed by some of the big players in the toy market, held up products like diamonds in the light, my children turned their backs and chewed on a Velcro style hair roller or a wooden spoon.

I looked into courses but was told by a somewhat weary consultant paediatrician that I wouldn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. My insatiable desire to be the best that I could be and set myself development targets as a parent began to wane. The internet supplies a plethora of information if you ask the search engine nicely, but some of this is the totally unfounded hypothetical writing of someone who once saw a child actively helping their parent complete the gauntlet that is the weekly shop and presumes to know more than an actual parent with actual real little people running around underfoot.

I started to feel somewhat disheartened. That I might somehow miss a crucial milestone in childhood development and my children would stray so far from the rails in their adolescence to make up for it that I might be required to retrain as an Intelligence Officer. But the most amazing thing happened, they started to eat solid food, recognise colours, numbers and letters, they slept through the night. They even potty trained at which point any thoughts of a teenager unable to fathom a toilet disappeared.

I do believe that education and learning is a constant, and I continue to strive to do my best, to learn about ideas new and old, to read and read again, over and over until my brain has definitely absorbed the latest concept in child rearing. My conclusion though, is this has to be paired with a great deal of common sense, determination and experience. Neither one nor the other will suffice alone, I love being a parent but it is a job of sorts after all, and I maintain that all jobs, whatever they may be, require time and patience to master.

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