There’s this thing about being a parent which I didn’t realise would be such a joy. Maybe you’ve experienced it. It’s that moment that comes when you have been teaching your child something you want them to learn, you know you could just do it for them, but you also know that when they learn it they will have really achieved something. It’s not the same as the experience of watching your baby walking for the first time, or uttering their first word, they should do that naturally if you’re lucky enough that they are developing as they should. That’s exciting, but it’s not really got much to do with you has it? They are going to learn these things because they are programmed to.
No, I’m thinking about more specific things like learning to say “Please” and “Thank you”. I remember when my husband and I drilled it into our daughter every single day, probably every hour on the hour. We’d remind her time and again to say the magic words. Why? Because it’s part of our own upbringing I guess, and because we think it’s important to be polite. The day when she spontaneously said Please without being prompted was a good one I’ve got to admit. Being the mum of a ten year old means that I don’t have to remind her to mind her manners anymore, but helping her to navigate more delicate and difficult subjects has become crucial. There are tougher and tougher things to be taught and to learn and as she grows she’s having to deal with bigger issues. Coping with difficult people, being able to forgive, behaving kindly, acting with integrity and honesty, these are all things that we as adults sometimes can’t do, and we’re certainly into that territory now with her.
It was English Mother’s Day and Spanish Father’s Day recently as you probably know, and it’s to her credit that she didn’t need reminding to prepare a card, to bring breakfast in bed, to do all those little touches that make the day special. But really, it’s the other days which stand out for me, the day when she improved her maths grade, because she’d realised that if she did what had been suggested and studied a little more then she’d see the results, or the day when despite having been involved in a big row with some of her friends she acted the diplomat and negotiated a truce. When I think about what I do for a living, and what I do in general I’m beginning to realise that the most important things that I do aren’t the things which I get paid for. Being a good mum and a wife are top of the list whereas when I was younger, and dumber, I don’t think I appreciated that they are the best jobs in the world. We all like to ask children what they want to be when they grow up, I’m trying to raise a child who, when asked that question, will answer “Happy”. mallorcamatters.com
Here’s the thing. I read this week about children spending less time outdoors than prisoners. Can that be true? Given that I first saw it when someone shared a Daily Mail article online I could imagine that the truth has been massaged, but even so, children have to go outside in playgrounds at school don’t they? The study from the Play In Balance report by Persil’s Dirt Is Good campaign said that 18% of children never play outside at any point. “One in ten mothers and fathers have never been on an outdoor adventure with their child”. Is that more to do with the motivation of the parents than anything particularly preventing them from going outside and getting involved, or is it to do with our work life balances being so out of kilter that there is literally no daylight left in which to do things with our offspring? The kids are still playing, but on computers, or indoors in less adventurous circumstances. This has led to a response from many people about how, in their “day” this was not the case, we were thrown out of the front door at 8am with a cheese sandwich in our pocket and not let back in until teatime. The big question, I guess is would this have a negative effect on children long term, or is it just us oldsters freaking out about how we think things should be versus how they actually are? The people who participated in this report probably didn’t remember the TV programme “Why Don’t You?” which was specifically aimed at me and my little brothers to inspire us to stop watching the TV and go and make spaceships out of toilet rolls. Things haven’t changed THAT much, in my opinion. You have to encourage children to do things, they need their mums and dads to be passionate about hobbies, these things are contagious in my experience.
The fact is that life, and (some) times, have changed. Although I have been known to send my daughter out with the dog on a mission (yesterday she went to our village chemist on her own to get some sunscreen as the weather is improving and she has to slap on the block every day) I send her out with a phone, an itinerary and a clear understanding of when she is expected back home. That is very different to the way I grew up when we did disappear for hours on end, fall in rivers, come home without shoes, end up on the wrong side of the motorway, and other tales of disaster which perhaps one day you will know about. I wouldn’t send my daughter outside to play randomly, she would be going to see a friend, whose parents would also know about the plan, or she would be going to an prearranged date at the stables, or with my Dad to go sailing. Apart from lacking spontaneity what’s wrong with that? It’s another example of us taking advantage of the things which Mallorca has on offer, but it’s done with a deliberate focus to keep her off of You Tube but not out of my hair. What do you think? http://www.mallorcamatters.com