This week I decided to change all that and started off by asking the kids for their views on how to parent.
At first I thought the conversations had not yielded that much information. However, after some reflections and wonderings and cogitations a few themes became more and more striking:
- I realised that they really really want to be happy.
- I realised that they really really want to be good, because they think that is what makes them happy.
- I realised that they really really want to be good, because they think that’s what makes me and their Dad happy.
- I realised that they really really want to make us happy, because us being happy makes them happy.
- I realised that they really really do want more than they have, especially this close to Christmas.
- I realised that they really really love being around us.
So no pressure there then, for any of us. Crikey!
It crossed my mind that the posts that followed should explore further what happiness is for a parent and a child, and how to help children be good. But then I thought again.
Instead, I amused myself by parodying the great ‘Little Miss Sunshine‘ book by Roger Hargreaves. Hopefully that posts illustrates how, when we think about it, it would be plain weird to have kids who were happy all the time.
Then I wondered if we really do want our kids to be good all the time. This time I amused myself by parodying the Cinderella fairy tale. This confirmed my views that it’s OK to raise ‘good’ kids, if by this we mean raising truly virtuous kids who try to do what is right.
If being ‘good’ is just defined as complying with rules and social convention, when those rules themselves are flawed, then I’m not so keen.
The realisation that the eldest spoke a lot about presents initially didn’t feel very good or very virtuous. I don’t feel like we live in a household that is overly concerned with ‘stuff’. Seems I am wrong. But then really, when you think about it, why shouldn’t we want more for our kids? And why shouldn’t our kids want more for themselves?
This moved my thoughts onwards to considering debates where concerns are squished by those who dismiss them outright because we already have so much: why are we moaning when we should just be getting on with things?
Socrates and Plato helped me out on this one, while they were on twitter. In conclusion I reckon it’s OK to strive for better. I am still left wondering, though, what that ‘better’ is.
The parodies and the made up twitter debates left me feeling a little disheartened. Life’s tricky. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking. Sometimes it does not end well. How can I protect the children as they grow up? I can’t, not with a 100% certainty.
What we can do, though, is show how we are often happiest following times of blood, sweat and tears. Rather than avoiding risks, we need to face them head on now and then. We need to be fearless.
Finally, the middlest boy’s comment, that what made him happy was just being with me, started to tug on my heart strings. This is very much to do with the fact that I am currently trying to get back to paid work after a four year career break. I wondered, if I lived in a perfect world, what would be the perfect work-life balance?
You know the answer to this already: there is no perfect world. But there is, I discovered, the circus. So long as we laugh at the clowns and give the kids front row seats, I don’t think we need to worry too much.
What next? Well, I’m still interested in what being ‘good’ is, when thinking of parenting and children. The pressing question of how to make kids the right-sort-of-happy also hangs heavy in the air. But it’s clear, as I flick through old text books, that far better brains than mine have been debating these problems for centuries. With two weeks left of NaNoWriMo, I am not sure I am going to find the definitive answer for you.
How should be children ‘be’, and how should I ‘be’ to support them in this, are starting to sound like the wrong questions.
Instead, what are the children going to have to do, and how can we prepare them for this, are perhaps questions more worthy of our time.