When I had children, I honestly thought that because I was a teacher, it was going to be easier for me. After all, at any one time, I have at least 30 children to think about or deal with! One or two at home? That’s going to be a doddle surely?
So when my eldest was born, the apple of my eye, the sugar in my tea…imagine my complete sense of surprise and feeling of loss of control, when this tiny wriggly, independent baby, simply didn’t do as she was told. You know, basic things, like SLEEEP! Have an afternoon nap. Sleep through the night. Words cannot describe the frustration that I felt, particularly when I would meet or visit others and their little ones would nap or sleep until the cows came home. I felt very short-changed!
My youngest came along, and although she was marginally better at sleeping during the nights, we knew that something wasn’t quite right with her health because she would have constant coughs and colds that would make her feel really grisly and always wanting to seek comfort. She couldn’t say it, but her clinging onto to me and resting her head on me, she would always seem to be pleading, ‘Please make me feel better!’ A few years later, she had her adenoids and tonsils removed, and she’s been a different child since.
Over the past few years, through bitter experience, I’ve learnt a hilarious fact. At Primary school age, it doesn’t matter what your occupation is as a parent, it doesn’t matter how qualified you are – you do not know best in your child’s eyes. Their teacher knows best. And their friends know best too!
At school, if I tell the children in my class a fact, I can actually see them drink the information in with their wide, curious eyes. When I tell my own children a piece of information, I can see them thinking – I’d better fact check that on Google!
It doesn’t worry me though. I do find it extremely amusing. We had a heatwave recently, and I really was adamant that after lunch, the children should sit with their bottles at their tables and have sips of water throughout the afternoon, in order to stay hydrated. I explained how they should aim to drink approximately 2 litres of water a day and how my own bottle (which holds 1 litre), has a scale at the side so that I can monitor how much I am drinking. I recommended that the next time they purchase a bottle, they should get one with a scale at the side as well. The very next day, lots of children had swapped their regular bottles for ones that they definitely knew held either 2 litres, 1 litre or 500 ml – because we had spoken about how these measurements were easy to monitor. And some have new bottles with scales on the side ordered and on their way…
I really felt sorry for the parents at that point. I wondered how many parents had been moaning at their children at home, ‘Drink more water!’ But then their child’s teacher had said, you must drink more water – and suddenly the children take their fluid intake very seriously.
I have rambled a bit today. I am taking some time to get to the actual point of my blog today.
You see, what I never realised as a teacher- is how fearful becoming a parent makes you. Don’t get me wrong- I always took my responsibilities as a teacher extremely seriously. Taking children on day trips or residential trips is no walk in the park! You are on high alert for as long as you are with them. But – at home time – you pass these precious lives back to their parents.
As a parent, I’m constantly aware that this world is changing beyond recognition. The challenges and pressures that children face now, did not exist when I was young. Social media – needing to present yourself as perfect and aspirational all the time. Sexual exploitation and grooming – always existed but now children can be accessed behind the shell of a smartphone. Another fact is, we are in 2018 and gender inequality is still a huge issue around the globe.
And my mission is to make my children brave, intelligent and strong enough to deal with all the trials and tribulations that life may present.
So I do my best to build their self-esteem and confidence. They’ve started Tae kwando. I want them to be physically strong and brave. I talk to them about people throughout history who faced adversity and overcame their troubles or at least brought awareness to the world.
But yesterday afternoon, when the sun was shining but the girls were too scared to go in the garden because the next door neighbour’s cat was there – I lost my shit.
‘You have to be brave!’ I found myself yelling, ‘Stop being scared of everything! The world is only for the brave!’
I found that I had channeled my mother – and now that I had started, I couldn’t stop! Lots of key women’s history came spouting out of my mouth: Emeline Pankhurst (I used ‘Sister Suffragette’ from Mary Poppins as my point of reference); Grace Darling (my eldest has learnt about her at school); Malala Yousefzai – shot in the head but wasn’t scared to carry on studying. Finally, in order to keep it relevant for my 5 year old – MOANA! I shouted. Moana was so brave!
I specifically wanted to choose examples of females and colour to show them that you have to be brave.
‘Being brave isn’t that you’re not scared,’ I ranted, ‘It’s about doing things even though you’re scared!’ I can’t remember who said that. But it seemed a pretty accurate definition of courage to me.
I don’t know how long I went on for. But it was a looong time!
I don’t for a second think that I’ve cracked this. I know I’m in it for the long haul. I just know how tough and scary this world can be, and you have to be fearless – or learn to be that way, in order for the world to be yours.
God bless the memories of all the brave people in the world, who are an example to us all.
And a special thanks to Disney for creating Moana. A girl of colour, who was strong, sometimes scared, but never gave up.