They would say to me
Don't go in the world and play
It's bad company
All they had was child and faithNutsy made a comment on my last post which got me thinking, as Nutsy's comments are wont to do. Given the title of this post, not to mention the lyric extract from Budgie's Parents, it won't be a surprise that what I have been thinking about was parents and parenting.
Let him grow and let him wait
Just to find out what it was to be free
I know kids who are spoiled brats, but whose parents are convinced they are 'firm but fair'. I also know kids who are downright neglected, one way or another, whose parents claim to dote on them, reckoning they would 'do anything' for their children. Presumably so long as there's not something they'd rather be doing for themselves. I've got teenage kids so I've lived through all the hassles, sacrifices and compromises that have to be made to survive parenthood. So I wonder what I'm kidding myself about?
I was fortunate in my parents: they were loving and caring, giving time and energy to raise my brother and myself as best they were able. Nevertheless I carry scars from my upbringing, and I know I'm not the only one. I am fortunate at that, many adults seem to bear open wounds, long after childhood is past.
Long ago, at prenatal classes, we were told not to worry about parenting: it comes naturally and we will find that actually we'll do it perfectly well when it comes to it. That might have been the case back in the prehistoric African savannah; here in 20th/21st Century Britain things work differently.
My take nowadays is that, as parents, we are bound to make mistakes: bound to screw up somewhere along the way. The challenge is to raise kids who are secure enough and sensible enough to grow into well-rounded adults able to make the best of the world in which they grow, in spite of - maybe even because of - those mistakes. Parents who sell the idea of themselves as perfect, never making mistakes, set their kids up to feel like they are failing in their lives, as well as their own parenting.
To raise children that way is a community effort - churches can be wonderful for that, but there are other communities - and an extended family probably helps, but in the end you need parents who are willing to accept that having children is a whole new way of life, which has to be enjoyed for itself, but requires eternal vigilance. The way you treat kids when they are young has a major impact on how they behave as they get older.
Which is one reason why I have tremendous admiration for those who adopt, or long term foster, older children. Someone else has sown the wind, they are called to lovingly reap the whirlwind!
Another group I admire are single parents. Parenting is a team game - sometimes together, sometimes in turn (like tag-wrestling) - so to have to do it alone is a tremendous challenge. Yet I know single parents who have done just that, and done it well. Maybe it helps that when you're on your own you know it's going to be difficult, you know you are going to have to make sacrifices. Sometimes, it seems, couples just don't get that.
Wrap me up and keep me warm
Hide myself far from the storm
Sleep and love will keep
my mind at rest.
Only now I realise why my
parents had to try.
Love you all and keep you all my life.