Together with our twin boys starting school this year, I also ventured back into the hectic world of the ‘working mother’. I was scraping the bottom of the confidence barrel during my initial return to the workforce, after living the life of a contented ‘stay at home’ mum for quite some time. My main adult social contact was regular yet memorable conversations over many coffees, (and even more Tim Tams!) with some close girlfriends who were also living in the same world. My primary focus was our boys and our home, and the thought of dealing with the corporate world again had me scared out of my mind.
At the time, the love I had for myself, compared with the love I have for our children was not even in the same ballpark. With both my kids and myself facing a new life-changing situation, it was raw and frightening, but today, I am so thankful for the experience. Although bewildering, it brought me to a heart wrenching, yet necessary realisation about how I perceived the ‘correct’ way of raising our boys to be. As our sons were going through a rapid stage of discovery, I too was also going through my own rapid stage of discovery, through the lives of our boys, together with regressing, yet progressing from the memories I have of my own childhood.
It was a week since the first baffling day of school had passed, and parental participation in the classroom literacy program was now on the agenda. Happily, I signed up, while reminiscing about the warm memories I have of my own mother assisting in the classroom all those years ago. While reading with the other children and soaking up the excitement of the Prep classroom atmosphere, I was also observing the way our twin boys were interacting with the other children. One seemed to be acting within the realms of his personality that we know and love, yet our other son was being the complete opposite to how we know him to be. Where did the amazing, proud, extroverted child we see at home disappear too?
After school that day, I asked him why he was being so quiet around the other kids. He sheepishly responded, “I’m so scared that other kids won’t like me Mum.” I sat there, totally stunned and completely without words. I forgot how young we are, when insecurities of who we perceive ourselves to be, can creep into our consciousness.
As I’m sure you’re aware, everything our kids go through, happy or sad, we feel it with them, ten fold. Every fibre in your being wants to make it right. Then it hit me, I can’t live their lives for them, and my expectations of my role as a parent was a far cry from reality.
I guess it’s like the old saying, “If I had my time over again I would have”, and I now know and understand that I have been trying to fulfil that desire through the lives of my kids.
After this epiphany, I now constantly remind myself that my role as their parent and mentor, is to walk beside them on their journey, not in from of them leading the way, or behind them giving them a push in the direction that think is best, but beside them, offering my unconditional support, guidance and reassurance through my own unique love and expression.
It is a mind-blowing experience being human, with each of us housing an original spirit, although it seems to me that we all have a common yearning for the same two things, love and acceptance. I believe that to evolve into becoming the best we can be, these are fundamental on our individual journey of life and learning.
A pat on the back for an achievement, a shoulder to cry on during our trails, and a convincing voice of comfort saying “You are still so beautiful”, when we sometimes feel that we aren’t, is what will get us through, changed in some profound way when we make it through to the other side.
In every stage of our learning, be it as an infant, child, adolescent, adult or senior citizen, love and acceptance is truly vital.
We have five very distinct personalities living under our roof, and I now feel privileged, not intimidated by walking down those diverse roads during my journey as a parent, as I walk my own, beside them, every step of the way.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem