So what’s your legacy? …I’m very consciously trying to teach my kids the rules of civilisation: saying please and thank you; using a knife and fork; blowing their noses and washing their hands after a trip to the loo.
However, what’s becoming more obvious as time passes is how much they are picking up from watching what I do. I know role modelling from parents is hardly a revelation, but in my mind’s eye its selectively related to me at my best. It’s therefore slightly uncomfortable to acknowledge that they will not only pick up the good (hopefully!), but also the bad and the ugly. Eek.
It only struck home when someone commented about how well my eldest could project his voice when delivering his first line in a school play. It was then that I realised the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – I have a voice like a fog horn.
However, for every positive, there’s a negative. I’m what you might call ‘high octane’ – lots of energy, enthusiasm, always ‘on’. The downside: a bit highly strung. I recently watched a programme about the SAS and they talked about the importance of being the ‘grey man’ – to slip below the radar, not ruffle feathers and as a consequence, not get killed. I fear, with red hair and my voice, I wouldn’t last too long.
When someone recently mentioned that their goal was to create a calm environment for their child to flourish, I must admit that I winced a little bit inside because I know I create nothing but. So I’m left trying to consider the upsides of being a bit ‘go-go-go’. After all, if every positive has a negative, surely the opposite is also true? I guess my guys are also used to me and neither appear to be too impacted by it (so far!), in fact my youngest still pretends not to hear…
Having this wobble also reminds me of being on maternity leave and coming across many different parenting styles. After my initial panic (involving me on the brink of taking some advice from a kindly stranger on a bus), I settled on the self-preserving belief that any style is fine as long as it is applied consistently; fits parents’ natural preferences and is done with conviction.
This immunised me somewhat when faced with the extremes of the Gina Fordists (with their routine and order) and the continuum theorists (co-sleeping, baby-carrying, demand-feeding, no-crying). The easiest option seemed to be to take one approach, whole-sale off the shelf. What seemed more difficult was striking the balance between the two.
Now with older children, I can see the parallels. Whilst there’s no handbook for 7 year olds, there’s as many approaches as there are families – but no definitive answer. Those who have it nailed have just found what suits them.
This is the logic I’m using to counter my wobble. I’m reassuring myself that whilst yes, I may sound like a drill Sargent in the morning, the same characteristics are useful for hosting kids’ parties. I also hope I show my guys how to be positive, get stuck in, do their best and have fun. According to my logic, as long as it’s my natural style and I’m consistent, then all is well (even if I’m not as zen as I would like). If it’s not, then I guess I’ll resort to the advice I give my kids: “I can’t do better than my best”!
So, whilst I admire the calm composure of others, Niebuhr’s adage feels like a good way to go: “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”. For the time being at least, I’ll be singing out of tune at the top of my voice to music on the school run. After all, that’s just me.