By Samantha Sango
MY mum always laughs at me when I tell her off for not giving full disclosure about the reality of parenthood. It was much easier for me to push my parent’s boundaries than it has been for me to be on the receiving end. Now that I am a parent, I am the one being challenged and the one who is asked perpetually unending questions.
All jokes and laughter at my expense aside, the truth is parenting has changed me. In my early parenting days, I saw my role as my kids’ teacher, guide and hovering godmother. In seeking to have perfectly behaved children, I started off very strict and with a firm determination to make sure they fitted my version of ‘good kids’. However, now five kids later, I am much more relaxed and have learnt lessons from my kids, which continue serving me well in my personal and professional relationships.
Our children are adults in making and as part of preparing them for adulthood, our actions need to reflect this. This means going beyond saying the right things and translates into several mini actions a day to show them love.
Listening, hugging, gifts, playing are all some of the things we can do to say ‘I love you’ to our kids. And it is in this same vein that we set them boundaries, teach them that actions have repercussions and navigate the tricky terrain of dealing with teenage angst.
Acknowledging their voices
As kids grow up, it is important that we acknowledge their voices, that we listen to them, that we let them know their voices are not silent or muffled. Contrary to the popular saying, kids must be seen and heard. Just like adults, sometimes our children need to vent so we listen without judgement. Sometimes they need to let us know their fears and worries, so we sit with them, acknowledge what they say and try to help them navigate the scary world of facing their fears.
And there are times when they disagree with us, when they do not see our reasoning and why we choose to do what we do. If we are raising adults, then this is the time we take time to explain to them our why. This empowers them and in my case, it has meant they have come up with solutions that I would not ordinarily have considered. They also accept my challenges to go google for answers and find solutions where I would ordinarily need to research to educate myself before answering.
As a family, we would not have been able to get to this mode of living and understanding, if I, as the parent, had not taken the first step to listen. To listen without judgement. And to acknowledge good ideas and solutions from them. And this was not easy.
This takes us to the next lesson that my kids have taught me. Most of us have grown up in households where the best serving dishes were reserved for important visitors and as children, we have been ignored or disregarded in favour of other people. I no longer do this because in current times where children spend more time at home and in close proximity to their parents, it can teach our kids that they are not important.
My eldest daughter used plastic ware for part of her primary years, but over time, I changed this and allowed them to use glasses and crockery so they could get used to it. I also learnt to practice my Christianity on them first — after all, they know me better than most people so shouldnot they be the ones to experience and attest to this first hand?
Then there are times when our children find themselves needing to say no; no to being forced to hug someone, no to go and stay with a relative or no to doing something that terrifies us. I am not talking about the no in relation to eating dinner or going to school for example.
I am talking about that ‘no’ that is out of character and curls your stomach. It is during these moments that we need to halt everything else, calm ourselves down, put aside our need to portray happy families and good kids, and instead, stoop down to their level and listen because how we deal with this may determine whether in future, our children can trust us with their innermost secrets.
According to our children the kind of respect that they are working towards as adults, we are helping them to define and become adults who are able to stand on their own two feet, adults who trust that they can seek help and find it.
My children have varying personalities, tastes in food, hobbies, shoe sizes. When I look at them as they are now, I wonder how they will navigate the working world and whether they will find acceptance and inclusion.
In all honesty, I actually wonder about this now as they go through school. Will their teachers and future employers take time to know and play to their strengths? Will they understand that my children have different motivations? Take for example the part threat, part bribe, at the dinner table that ‘no pudding until the last vegetable on their plate is eaten’ only worked for some of my kids.
I had two of my kids walk away from the table beaming ‘I didn’t want pudding anyway’. And so I have factored this into the chores that they do now and how I get them to buy into my point of view. Yes, I spend more time explaining, but I also have children who are blossoming into their own, and not only that, but as a family, we tap into their skills. I mean, how many families can claim to have a designated spider catcher?
Saying I am sorry
As parents, we must never underestimate the value of saying sorry to our kids. Our apologies to them when we have genuinely made a mistake show how we are human and how to navigate life as imperfect people.
It also allows us to teach our children that mistakes happen but life goes on and we have the ability to learn from and survive our mistakes. Detours on our life’s journey are not the end, but just that, a detour. And in as much as there are several ways to skin a cat (why would anyone do that) there is no single path to happiness or a career or a perfect life. What is more important is the journey and the ability to live our best lives with minimum regret.
In all of the lessons, I acknowledge that my kids are still kids and I am their parent. They have high energy, drive me crazy, donot know good music but I love them and look forward to learning many more lessons from them as I teach and show them the best way I can how to navigate this world.
Women Chartered Accountants Network (WeCan), United Kingdom