"I Don't Know How You Kids Survived".....Why Parenting in 2017 Has to be Different to How our Parents Did it.
“I don’t know how you kids survived.”
Do you ever hear this? When you are agonising over a decision regarding your kids, stressing over an issue that your child has shared with you or wondering whether you are being too strict, too lenient, too restrictive, too nosey…..
There seems to be this view from those that may be a tad older, that we are all stressing too much about it all and that we should just parent how they parented. I’m pretty lucky and don’t cop this very much, but discussions with friends have proven that the general consensus from the older generation is that we all just need to calm our farms and just go on our merry parenting way like they did.
The problem is this…..
Our children are not growing up in the world that we grew up in. They don’t have the same carefree existence that we did and a speaker on kid’s wellbeing that I had the privilege of hearing the other day, made me really reflect on why.
Imagine our life when we were little. You rarely heard about anything much. The news came on at 6 o’clock and that was pretty much the only access that we, as kids, had to worldwide events. Now, our kids hear about world events just minutes after they take place. A bombing in Syria, a crazed driver in Melbourne or most recently, a bombing outside of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. And it’s not just through the news. Their social media is flooded with details and firsthand videos within the hour, their friends are changing their profile pics in support of the victims and people are searching for their loved ones by sharing Facebook posts that get shared exponentially within minutes.
A teen pop sensation, a stadium full of people…...and a suicide bomber. Not a combination that we would have ever considered twenty years ago.
It would be lovely for our kids to be growing up in the same carefree, play in the street until the street lights came on, kind of childhood that we had. But the reality is that they are not. And the stresses and pressures and anxieties that our kids are coping with are real.
While sitting listening to this speaker, a nationally renowned uni lecturer, it dawned on me. My kids were born into a world where a terrorist attack is not just something that you hear about once or twice a year, on the news, in a far off distant land.
It’s a possibility, in cities that they have holidayed in, or live in.
When travelling somewhere by plane, it crosses their mind.
When booking a family holiday, it crosses their mind.
When booking Ed Sheeran tickets, it crosses their mind.
It could happen in Melbourne. It could happen at an Ariana Grande concert…...it could happen anywhere. Now tell me that that’s not stressful.
And it stresses me out too.
Mental illness, teen suicide rates, the immediacy of a world of information and detail that we were once oblivious to.......
It’s not all doom and gloom. Parenting, growing up, raising kids…It’s not all about considering all the horrible things in the world. It’s fun, entertaining and full of moments that make you burst with pride, joy and love…...But it is different.
There was one phrase that struck a chord with me, as I sat in the audience listening to this strong, intelligent woman.
“Children’s shoes are an awkward fit for most adults.”
But maybe that’s what we need to do. When our teens are struggling…..put ourselves in their shoes, their world, their everyday. I’m the first to admit, that I struggle with this. I’m a fixer, a rescuer…..my general response is to just stop stressing and focus on what we are going to do about it. I had never really stopped to think about just how different our kid’s world is. And had I ever really taken that into account? Parenting has to be different in 2017 because the world is different in 2017.
I don’t have the answer. In fact, most of the time I feel like I have no idea what I am doing and whether I am doing it right. Or, whether my kids seem to be turning out ok, despite having such a clueless mother. But I do know this….
I have joked before with friends, that I would not want to be growing up as a teenager in 2017. But I am raising one....
Do you sometimes feel like you have kind of lost yourself? You look back to who you used to be and how you used to be and think, “Where did that girl go?”
I remember once saying to my husband, in one of those busy, cranky moments, “I used to be the funny one!” When I was little, in my family of four kids, I was the funny one. I was quirky and creative and never quite fit in. I remember reading my sister’s journal once, (Sorry Lovely, but we shared a bedroom for eighteen years, it was going to happen eventually), and in it she described me as the black sheep of the family. Not in a bad way. Just in that I was always a little bit left of centre, would often come out with bizarre sayings and would do bizarre things….but over the years…..I have become…..well, normal.
I became a mum and a wife and a teacher and a woman...and somewhere in the process I have started to lose myself.
Perhaps lost isn’t the right verb. I’m not lost….underneath it all, I am still there. But in the busy routines of motherhood, being a wife and being a teacher, I sometimes feel like there is less of me and more and more of what I need to be or should be for everyone else.
No, I don’t think I am lost. But I do think that as mothers and wives and, in my case, teachers, we do sometimes need to turn the focus away from what we are doing for everyone else and back towards ourselves. Not for ever, or even a long time, but just every now and then. So that we don’t get lost.
Over the next week, maybe two….let’s be realistic, probably three, I am going to write a series of articles focusing on not losing ourselves in the routines that we are all so caught up in. I’m sure I’ll come up with a better title at some stage, but at this stage let’s just call it a How To….or more accurately a Why it’s Important Not To.
Why it’s Important Not to Lose Yourself as a …...
Four articles…..with the goal of getting some clarity for myself….and hopefully one or two of you. Clarity around how and why it’s time to turn the focus back to myself…..just a little bit and a little more often.
It’s an amazing time of life. Being a mum, a partner, having a career…..but it doesn’t mean that we have to lose our original selves in the process.
So, we are about a week out from NAPLAN….and sorry to disappoint, but no, this is not another article bagging NAPLAN.
I was catching up with an old friend recently, (It’s amazing how many of my articles start like that. I’m sure they’ll stop talking to me soon!)....
Anyway, we were catching up for a coffee when her daughter, who is in Year 3, came and joined us in the kitchen. She was telling me all about school….friends, her teacher, the choir she’s in (girl after my own heart!), when talk turned to the upcoming NAPLAN.
It’s ok. I won’t go very well. I am not very “smart.”
I could have just smiled and said, “That’s ok, we can’t all be rocket scientists. That’s ok, as long as you try your best….” But for me, it goes a bit deeper than that….
So to all of those gorgeous faced little cherubs sitting their NAPLAN tests next week (including mine, although you’d never know. He hasn’t even mentioned them and neither have we), this is to you.
The Spelling test that you are sitting next week….That doesn’t tell you how smart you are. It does tell your teacher what aspects of Spelling you are already rocking it in and which parts you might need a bit of extra help….but it doesn’t tell you how “smart” you are in anything but Spelling.
That Maths exam…...That doesn’t tell you how smart you are. It tells you how good you are at Maths. It tells your teacher which concepts you’ve got so that they can challenge you in that area. It tells them which areas (probably fractions, if you are anything like me!) of Maths you just can’t get your head around so that they can break it down for you and help you out….but it doesn’t tell you how “smart” you are in anything but Maths.
You get the picture.
I am not anti NAPLAN….I am anti you thinking that NAPLAN tells you your entire school-based worth.
There is no creativity test in NAPLAN. NAPLAN doesn’t tell you how creative, musical or artistic you are. My friend’s beautiful daughter is, at the age of 8, an already accomplished pianist, can read music and loves to compose her own pieces.
And this child thinks that she’s not smart!
There is no STEM test in NAPLAN. NAPLAN doesn’t tell you how “smart” you are in programming, coding and building phenomenal feats of engineering, things we see you do every week at school!
There is no friendship test in NAPLAN. NAPLAN doesn’t tell you about the time that you sensed that your friend was upset and you spent your lunchtime walking and talking with them, giving up your own play to make sure that they were ok. It doesn’t tell you about the time that you saw a kid sitting on their own and you invited them over to sit with you.
You might not be awesome at Maths…….but you might be an amazing athlete, dancer, artist, public speaker, scientist, historian, musician….you might be amazingly good at reading people’s emotions and connecting with people. You might have a passion for social justice or you might have phenomenal leadership skills.
But please, as you all sit these tests this week, remember that you can be “smart” in about a bzillion different things and NAPLAN only measures a few.