IT’S been a week in which I’ve indulged being a doting parent. It seems like only yesterday I was driving back from Salisbury District Hospital with my 24-hour-old son strapped into the back, maintaining a steady 15 miles an hour and cursing every speed bump, convinced that each jolt would cause irreparable brain damage.
Now, almost 12 years on, he’s turning into an accomplished young man. Seeing him perform in a band at a local schools music festival, I felt pride and humility swelling up inside me in equal measure.
Pride – that he has the confidence and self-belief to play the way he does. And humility, that despite all my errors, stumbles and misguided attempts at parenting, he has turned out the way he has. I looked around the room; I guessed that 200 other parents also felt the same thing. Parenting can be a lonely task. No-one else knows your child the way you do; no-one else carries the privilege or the responsibility that you carry. It is your joy to take pride in their success and your burden to shoulder the blame for their failure.
I started my working life as a teacher (so have more than a little sympathy with Tina’s thoughts below) and I remember reading a social worker’s report of one child who was struggling to cope with his parents’ separation. Each had very different parenting styles. Neither was right or wrong, but caught in the middle, life was confusing for the child struggling to find his place in the world.
And therein lies the rub. There isn’t a right or wrong way of parenting. We do, however, understand more now about how children learn and how we can help them feel secure, and we are discovering that some of the things we experienced when we were children, should rightly be confined to history.
We understand more now about how children learn and how we can help them feel secure A world that includes gangs, social media, cyber bullying and online grooming is considerably more complex than that of yesteryear, but I am relieved that my son doesn’t have ice on the inside of his windows when he wakes up, a long walk to school in all weathers, polio, whooping cough and a generation that could still recall a war on their doorstep.
Philip Larkin’s distinctive, cynical and depressing view of parenting “They f*** you up, your mum and dad, they may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had, and add some extra just for you….” is a stark warning to all parents. But in spite of that, most of us are just doing our best. We live with our failures. And, like last Thursday, take deep pride and joy in the bits we get right.