A few weeks ago we took our sons to a beach lookout near our home and watched the sun set. Their dad pretended to point out whales and sharks in the ocean for our Mr Four while the baby sat intently observing the waves crashing on the shore. We both looked at each other and talked about how lucky we were to live in such a beautiful place, and how fortunate we were to be able to raise our children here.
Like most parents we want to give our children as many opportunities and experiences in life that we can, we want to instil wholesome values in them and try and raise them to be respectful, kind, loving people. But what if we fail. What if we are doing everything completely wrong, what if the way we think it should be done is the wrong way? and what if we make all the wrong choices?.
A few days ago I had the opportunity to take Mr Four on a mummy/son date by himself. It was a simple trip to the supermarket at our local shopping complex, but he was so excited. With his little pockets full of the change he had collected over the past year or so he searched around through the shops until he found something that he really wanted. After a few i’ll take this, or maybe this, or maybe this, he found exactly what it was he wanted. A newly released copy of The Lego Movie. It was a movie we already owned, and I was pretty certain the only reason he really wanted it was because it had a fancy new case with a little lego man inside. But the joy on his face and the excitement in his voice was too heart warming to disappoint.
There we were at the counter of the shop counting out his coins, I already knew he didn’t have enough, and I knew I would have to make up the difference. So without telling him I slid over my card while carefully trying to pull his coins back into my handbag without him noticing.
As we stood there taking a few shots, a women who had been behind us at the checkout walked our way. She looked at Mr Four spinning and jumping outside the store and then at me crouching down in front of him to take the picture. Looking down at me she says, ‘What did that teach him?’, without even a reply she says ‘don’t spoil your kid – he’ll never learn life is hard’.
Our encounter was brief, but her comment stayed with me.
Was she right?
As I thought about what this lady had said, I began to question myself and weather or not my decision to ‘pay the difference’ had taken away a much needed learning experience for my son. Was I spoiling him?, was I teaching him gratitude? Was I making life ‘too easy’ for him?.
This isn’t the first time I have questioned my parenting. Pretty much every single night after I have put both our boys to sleep I will ring my husband and talk to him about our children. I will tell him about the challenges I may be having with them and then we talk about what we think we need to do or not do to help them. Together we try our best. And that is all we can do. Try our best.
Children have a funny way of surprising you when you least expect it. Sometimes it is with terrible tantrums at the most inappropriate place and sometimes it is in a beautiful ‘capture this moment in a bottle’ kind of way. Today for me had a little bit of both.
After a Sunday spent at church and then at his cousins Mr Four was exhausted, but he asked to do something nice for the teacher he had had in class today. After a little while of him being quiet in his room, he appears with a picture. Asking me to help him with the writing on the card, he heads to the pantry and finds a ‘snack’ to gift back to her. As I helped him tape a small packet of ‘sesame snaps’ onto a colouring in page, and write a small thank you on the card, I hugged him tight & kissed his head. I felt gratitude for a person who was helping so amazingly my husband and I teach our child.
Maybe we won’t always know weather or not we are making the best parenting choices for our kids. Maybe there will be days where we shout defeat over the small battles they insist on fighting, and maybe some days we will make life ‘a little too easy’ for them. Maybe we will let them wear pyjamas to the mall, and maybe we will buy them something they totally don’t need. Maybe we will let them stay up late, and maybe somedays people will tell us what we’re doing is wrong.
But maybe just like that little unexpected card, maybe they will surprise us.
And for just a moment in their only little way, these little people that fill our minds with worry and our hearts with love, will let us know that maybe we ARE doing a good job.