When we had a television, one of the few kids shows, of a seemingly endless supply, that I actually liked, was Charlie and Lola.
I really loved seeing two siblings getting on (and of course if I had more than one darling, they’d get along too).
I liked Charlie and started to think I should role model Charlie’s parenting style – a mix of constant calm, humour, quiet acceptance and imagination.
Hmmm, taking parenting instruction from a 7-year-old… Surely this sends the wrong message? Where are the parents? The adult supervision? They’re near a pond – I can’t even have a 15cm pool in my backyard in case a toddler marches past gates and fences and shoves its face in the puddle with a pathological desire to drown!
Isn’t this the era of helicopter parents who simultaneously modicoddle and cajole our children into safety and experience? Where is the outcry that a mere child can supervise his younger sibling? What example does it set? Less responsible, non-helicopter sorts, who self-evidently think they too can leave their toddlers to nurse the baby (having children too close, as well!).
But perhaps, Lauren Child, the creator of this world, is saying we need to bring out the child in us as we parent. Remember the joy of waking up refreshed to a new day. The fun of a couple of toilet rolls and a shoe box. The irresistible urge to jump on all the soft furnishings.
Parenting can be such serious stuff. Budgets. Assessing safety risks. Managing a healthy diet among fussy eaters. Developmental milestones. Challenging behaviours. Encouraging skill development including learning to read and write and do simple sums.
Maybe we need to put down the extraordinary mantle of expectation and be a companion. To suspend for a moment the generational divide. To see another human at the beginning of their journey and who is naturally captivated by us – their parents.
I had a really interesting conversation today with mothers of Gracie’s friends. I’d mentioned to them that I had some difficulties with Gracie (don’t we all have difficulties from time to time?). But their response made me realise I have lost, for the moment, the learning I had made in a Prayer and a Promise: the awe, the priceless gift of parenthood.
How long will Gracie’s fantasies and play require me?
She is only temporarily in my care.
At my concerns with discipline, the friends responded that too much focus on discipline can mean behaviour simply goes underground. Communication is vital to maintaining a relationship and to be a trusted support when times get tough.
These friends have reminded me of my promise to my peanut, that I will love her as she is. And so I make a promise to my daughter again: yes, to see with the eyes of a child, as Charlie, the magic in the world – but also with the eyes of that expectant mother anticipating the joys of a new life.