Dear parents, wishing you the best for this time of year.
I doubt you’ll be altogether happy – we’d be disappointed if we undertook this venture in pursuit of happiness. That may come, on occasion. But deeper is the worthiness of this work, is our integrity as we work through the barriers that get in the way of connecting with our children.
This is where we discover our own goodness in the face of a task almost impossible. And in reaching for our children, we discover the goodness of the little people we once were, and reach for ourselves, rather than leave our own little ones behind. Because we need company.
So my wish for you in this journey, over which, in the end, we don’t have much control, is company. Strong, solid, wise, generous company. Thankyou for accompanying me this year. Here’s to more company, whatever this next year brings.
My daughter’s first day of school was one of the hardest days of my life. Although we had some times in the past when separating from one another had been full of feelings, we worked through them together, and things, up to then, had been pretty smooth. Cheerful up to that point, on this day she started to wail and cling to me as she lined up at the doorstep of the classroom.
The teacher looked increasingly alarmed, and then more and more annoyed with me. Other children were beginning to waver in their confidence, considering joining my daughter in a serious cry. Heartbreaking as it was, it just was not going to work for me to stay. I walked away, my nerve ends on fire. Over time it got easier, but I had to work hard at it. Continue reading →
Starting school – for the first time, or at a new school, or even after the long summer break, can be a challenge for both our children and ourselves. We carefully pack their school bag with the things that will help them through their day – a nutritious lunch, a spare pair of pants and pencils. But it’s easy to forget our children carry an emotional backpack as well. Our special role, as parents and carers, is to help them pack and unpack that bag. It’s at least as important as a healthy lunch or a good night’s sleep. Continue reading →
We need to keep a steadfast perspective: this is not our fault. What is being asked of us is necessary, but unreasonable. It is hard because of that, not because we have somehow not figured out the trick to doing it well. We are good. Our children are good. We want to come out of this holding each other close, if not physically, then emotionally. That is the most important thing. We all need to be held close.
A lot is being asked of us as parents at the moment. Managing school-at-home and work-at-home, working parents are running the risk of being “ground up in the gears” as the world of work and the world of schooling collide in the privacy of our home.
This is fascinating. My own experience of all this is of a vague sense of displacement, discouragement, sadness, disconnection. Hard to put a finger on. Then I meet someone – today, the young GP at the local medical practice who I’ve never met before, and may not meet again. And I feel better. We weren’t meant to be isolated from one another.
I’m not suffering trauma – illness, loss of work, serious financial stress – like so many are. But I’m suffering the loss of what was normal, predictable, finely balanced to keep me just on the right side of hopeful.
This short news segment is worth a listen. He studies burnout, and says in the current environment, women are particularly vulnerable, as they shoulder the majority of the burden of managing work and children at home. So if you are feeling a little overwhelmed, take heart: it is overwhelming and impossible to do well enough. Its ridiculous to expect to be able to supervise young children and be employed at work at the same time in the same space. Be kind to yourselves, conscientious mothers.
Personally…I’m not going to do school-at-home…I’m not going to turn myself into my child’s teacher…Let’s face up to what this really means – nothing will continue as normal, including the delivery of the school curriculum.
We find ourselves living in interesting times. Here in Australia we are more or less at the point of school closures, with parents being asked to keep their children home if at all possible. It’s probably just a matter of time before the restrictions on social gatherings are even more extreme. In many countries, physical distancing in response to the Corona Virus pandemic has meant that the schools are completely closed, and our children are at home. We are all being encouraged to stay home and limit our contact with others.
Many parents I have spoken to are optimistic about this chance to spend some extra time with their children. They are also anxious…if getting out kids to do homework is a hassle, what is getting them to do routine schoolwork going to be like, day in day out? Continue reading →
As parents, we worry about many things as our children head into adolescence. Are our children spending too much time on screens? Are they doing well enough at school and getting their homework done? Do they have friends and social support? Are they safe? Are they using drugs and taking unnecessary risks?
What if there was a better, biologically based way of understanding what we need to focus on, as parents of adolescents?
Barbara Natterson-Horowitz is an evolutionary biologist and a cardiologist, and has made a study, over the last 5 years, of animal adolescence. Out of this study, she draws some powerful lessons for understanding the human experience. Continue reading →
I think that what it’s like to be a baby is it’s like being in love in Paris for the first time after you’ve had four double espressos, which is a very nice way to feel in some ways but it does mean that you tend to wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning crying.” Prof Alison Gopnik, Professor of Psychology and Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley
Professor Alison Gopnik studies how children’s minds work. Our understanding of how children’s minds are organised has changed profoundly over the last few decades. Rather an being a blank slate, or a “booming buzzing confusion”, Gopnik says “In many respects even the youngest babies are smarter even than grown-ups. They think, they make up theories, they try to figure out how the world works, and they pay attention to other people and try to understand things about what’s going on in other people’s minds.” Children have what Gopnik calls an “explore perspective”.[i]
Sometimes, parenting is hard because we have the wrong framework for understanding what a child is doing. Continue reading →
I live in Australia, and it’s clear that we are facing a climate crisis of the most profound kind. As parents we have a special and particular responsibility to understand what the science is telling us, and to find ways to take action. Our children will ask us “What did you do?” There will be many ways we can respond.