Yesterday, for only the second or maybe third time in just approximately 15 years at work, I took a business call that became delightfully and refreshingly personal once the work problem had been treated .. . a small inquiry about my not altogether Dutch accent from my client in Germany (who turned out to also be a displaced antipodean: an Aussie) ended up moving work aside for a few moments, our professional hats slipped off and we discussed the lighter side of life. Some child raising pointers were exchanged and some of the points of discussion got me thinking. How do parents learn how to parent?
First: trial and error…. lots of trials and lots of errors. Baptism of fire and learn as you go. .. and just as you get comfortable and at ease with one phase of your childs development, they go and ruin it by immediately heading into a different one, starting the parental learning curve all over again.
My Aunty Heather told me a wonderful anecdote once: she knew a family who (eventually) had five children, as new parents, when their first child was little, he swallowed a coin, so they phoned an ambulance and rushed him to hospital… years later by sheer co-incidence child number Five also decided to swallow a coin… the parents took it calmly and deducted the amount off his pocket money.
It’s totally true.. parents learn fast and second children are so much less stress, you’ve been-there-done-that already, know the signs and a ton more confident about the job in hand. It would be all so perfect and easy for parents from then on … except that kids tends to throw a spanner in the works by being individuals and going though each an every stage differently, so the parental learning curve is a constant tiring never-finished work in progress (and thus a subtle form of Nature’s Birth control mayhap?)
How come our kids can be chalk and cheese? Guess what that’s our fault… it’s all down to genetics. Somewhere between friends, books, TV or the web I collected a few gems of information that I stashed in my brain and kept hold of… such as:
A man and a woman each share a little of their DNA with their parents and grandparents… it’s like having a deck of your family DNA cards each… when they make a child together the His and Her’s decks of cards get shuffled together, and randomly, and a copy, (say for arguments sake: one quarter) of the double deck is dealt out into a new little pile (=child) then the original decks are totally reshuffled and re-dealt for the next child. In theory that means that each child could in principle have a card in common, or more cards, or none. Ten children all born to one couple can therefore be equally, amazingly similar or amazingly different.
Who hasn’t been at the family gathering sometime , somewhere and heard” Oh your …. (insert following name as appropriate) Mother / Father / Grandmother/ Grandfather Uncle / Aunt / Sister / Brother etc … did xyz just like that too!” ? I think that we delude ourselves that we are all completely different from each other, in reality we are all just the same wheels with different layers of patterns on, and once the new pattern of youth starts to fade off with use, the undercoat layer that resembles our parents and grandparents starts to shine though the bare patches.
Natures revenge for this strange series of events is remarkably simple… have kids and grandkids and one day in the future they will start to resemble us.
This tangent leads me to an incident that took place during a family gathering at our place in the winter months this year… all of the smaller kids were accounted for, but two of the oldest were quiet and “playing nicely” … NOT. ! No, they were amusing themselves, testing out their inner interior designer on my daughters bedroom wall… weapon of choice was a felt tipped marker… and the evidence was rather hard to hide, considering that it’s about a meter /three feet high. Obviously during the creative process that thought didn’t occur to them…. or consequences.
Daughter was saved from the consequences bit by a modern piece of good luck: namely, parents bought up with vastly differing parenting styles… Hubby saw it first and exclaimed in Dutch “ hey Wow what a cool piece of art…everyone, come and look at this!…”
Awww…. How the heck am I supposed to tell her off for vandalism after that? Also there was the “we-are-right-in-the-middle-of-a-party” card that also carried a certain amount of weight, so instead of the “ well-missy, here’s-the-scrubbing-brush,-start-scrubbing-it-off” kind of punishment, I am resorting to the other tactic.. it stays there.. and it stays there long enough for her to get really, really, really sick of it and for it to become a slight embarrassment to her (for a short while at least).
Daughter will learn her lesson one way or the other. Sometimes the longer term lessons might just yield a more lasting impression and a better result…. and just maybe some of my artistic DNA is responsible for this creative outburst anyway… or is that some fresh talent of her own?
..and I learned that there are lots more ways to dish out punishment than the first most obvious ones. The parental learning curve continues.