I was reflecting on something today about kids, and how communities collectively contribute to the making of who they become.
In truth, I’m probably feeling all sentimental because both kids are at adventure and music camp this week, or perhaps it’s because for 15 minutes in the land of motherhood I have found 5 mins to stop and think.
I’d like to say a simple thank you.
I appreciate the significant grown-ups in my kids’ lives – those who are shining the spotlight on their passions, interests and talents. Those who call them on how they need to hold themselves and others to account, and those who remind them what society expects of them.
From coaches, tutors, instructors, relatives, teachers, neighbours, chance encounters and other fun and passionate parents who they gravitate towards. I need a megaphone … thank you!
You are giving our kids stuff that we as their parents can’t. It’s not because we aren’t capable of it – it’s because kids naturally look to other people to be inspired by, challenged by, lectured by, celebrated by and have their behaviour called on and talents unlocked.
Parents can’t always do that for our own kids.
Our kids don’t welcome it. It often sounds trite, bossy, condescending and controlling. Advice and wisdom comes across as all, well … parent-y.
Only other grown-ups can do that stuff. We are kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.
My parents couldn’t always be those people for my brothers’ and I – but they were smart enough to put inspiring and challenging people in our paths to light our fires and stoke the passions. In turn, they were those people for other people’s kids.
As a parent I look to other go-getters with foresight and insight to give my kids the nudge they need to become the best they can be.
In the past few years my kids have been exposed to people as we travelled Australia who opened up their minds and hearts to new ways of thinking and living. On a weekly basis they have had access to music and maths tutors, sports coaches and song and dance teachers.
On the local front Godparents have reminded them about respect and going with the flow. Grandparents have opened up their minds to thinking about the world, the arts, education and community.
Other kids’ parents have demonstrated family dynamics, discipline, respect and ways of living.
Neighbours have shared meals and moments. School mates’ families have put out the welcome mat and engaged them in conversations, valuing them as contributing people with interesting experiences. Did I say thank you? Thank you!
I had a conversation with someone recently who mentioned that they didn’t like their kids getting advice from other grown-ups. Or other grown ups calling them on behaviours which may have been unacceptable. They felt it wasn’t their job to chastise them, that this was their soul responsibility to manage as parent. I was genuinely alarmed. If my squids come calling – please, call them on what isn’t appropriate, what you don’t feel comfortable with.
Doesn’t it take a village to raise a child?
Don’t we all need to be teachers? And, don’t we all have recollections of others who taught us valuable life lessons?
Most of the interesting and contributing people I know are the products of an environment which exposes them to varied ideas, philosophies and experiences that help them become informed, compassionate and accepting people. We can’t possibly give this to them all as a parent, though we can send them out with the bedrock values of respect, consideration and openness.
Recently Fox Magazine posted on this very subject when it came to parenting boys. Sporting role models are particularly crucial to a young boy’s development. There’s a plethora of sport role models out there who give boys so many values, responsibilities and moments of reflection.
I’ve got a running / sailing / soccer kid – we’ve seen a host of sporty folk enter his life. In the article author Hugo Shephard explains why sporting role models are particularly crucial to a young boy’s development. As a mum who can’t always fulfill this kids insatiable sports appetite, I’m eternally grateful to the coaches who step in.
In Steve Biddulph’s book Raising Boys he proposes that because sport is the main place where men and boys interact, it‘s often where boys can work through expectations, respect and values in lives.
The same is for kids who learn music, dance, sail, swim, enjoy baseball, tai-chi, soccer. football, basketball, netball, cooking, craft, chess, acting, enviro passions and so many other pursuits.
Grown ups with similar passions can guide them through interests, values and learning experiences.
When I was in high school I was an exchange student to Canada. I was fortunate enough to leave one loving, supportive family for another, oceans away. Walking through that arrivals hall in a foreign country as a 16 yo was the most confronting experience I had ever had at that point in my life.
I got lucky – my host family gave me opportunities that exposed me to not just a new country but also experiences, relationships, cultural references points and opinions that opened my eyes and I came to treasure. In turn, they valued the perspective and experience, based on my upbringing that I brought to their own kitchen table.
That’s what other adults and other influencers can give you when you’re a kid, and in turn value as you grow up.
Likewise I had brothers who immersed themselves with music and youthful volunteering, CFA and local community events. Other community driven people took them under their wing, got a kick out of seeing them bloom, celebrated their involvement and encouraged them to soar.
Our parents gave us a great start, then they let go and trusted in these others adults to polish and shine values, opinions, passions and pursuits
International studies have shown us that we learn through modelling others.
As we grow as young people we come to understand what socially acceptable behaviour is and what isn’t, as well as learning strategies for achieving goals. I reckon my kids are absorbing this at their camps this week.
Role models offer out-standing opportunities and challenges as discussed in Tomorrow’s Change Makers: Reclaiming the Power of Citizenship for a New Generation
In her book Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell documents how families, schools, and communities play critical roles in raising and mentoring tomorrow’s citizens. Relationships, experiences, and challenges shaped young lives of contributions, service, civic engagement, and commitment to causes bigger than themselves.
Yep, community can do that.
In recent years I’ve been pretty focussed on paying that forward to my community as well, as I’ve mentored young up-and-comers in communications, marketing and PR. I’ve been energised by their gradual success and direction as I’ve been one of many to help them discover what they offer the world as I’ve given them a gentle, reassuring push from behind. I thank their parents for trusting me with them. They’re confidence is something that excites me and allows me to reflect as well.
I hope my kids push those buttons in other people’s lives.
I understand from all my reading, and from my own childhood that the key to raising a well-rounded child is to establish a solid support system at home so that he / she grows up satisfied with their achievements and ambitions.
Then you have to let go, and trust in others to steer them and prod them along.
So as I wander past my 8 and 11 yo’s vacant bedrooms I can happily admit that, sure, I’m missing them, but I’m more excited about the kids who will be returned to us after camp. I can’t wait to be exposed to their new worlds, and I thank every single person who steps in their path or nudges them from behind.
It’s a grand old thing to collectively contribute to the gown-ups our kids will become. May we all go forth and pay it forward to someone else’s child.