(written very fast this morning, while son number 2 chose to practise the guitar!)
I’m not one for reading parenting books, I’ve never read one at all. To be honest I never really had the time. My pressures around parenting have come directly from watching friends, catching new stories and blogs that cross my path. I learned that leaving a child to cry, physically hurt me, I ached, and therefore in my view it was wrong. I couldn’t get myself out of the house on time without children, so with children I really let schedules go. It was just easier for me and I reckoned happy mum, happy children.
But, I like any mum, want my children to do well in life. So around 3 when my son’s peers started gymnastics, and music, and tennis and drama, and riding, and even mandarin (only 1 friend to be truthful, but still) I started to flounder, I questioned whether I was doing them a disservice. So I took him to gymnastics, he screamed, we left. I took him to tennis, he froze outside, never wanted to go back, we left. No after school sports clubs for my boys. They hated sport and there was no way I was going to force them (I play a lot of sport and my husband runs so it wasn’t unusual in our house, they just didn’t like it). They enjoyed drama in bits, but largely as it involved making stage props with glue and sticky back plastic, and lots of storytelling.
So I stopped pushing and we bumbled on, happy, instinctive play but nothing really stuck. I got a little worried around 8 years old while I watched my friends children passing their musical grades, getting black belts in martial arts; one has just been selected for county tennis which means 5-7 hours of tennis a week + 5 hours of other sports.
Then at around 9 years, something remarkable happened. My son watched me playing tennis, he decided he wanted a go again. One hour later and it is the best thing ever, he loves it, we do it together and, just by watching me, he can swing a racket well (though not quite hit a ball!). He drags me out of the house, in the cold and the wet, instead of the other way round, it is marvellous.
Then a few months later he picked up a guitar, he is teaching himself, copying out notes, practicing over and over again from a book and a DVD. Without a single word from me nagging him to practice. There is nothing that I like to hear more than the same bars played over and over again, and his little face focused and happy.
And it was a lightbulb moment in parenting for me. It’s ok to trust your child’s judgement, give them opportunities but don’t put pressure on and if they don’t enjoy it, that’s ok, stop.
If you are a mum who is not sure if you’re doing it right. Really trust in yourself, feel your way through. Your child will find what he loves to do when he or she is ready. They will enjoy it; they will find the motivation from within when they are listened to and are allowed the space to explore their own interests. Yes, that can take time, 9 years for one of my children and a little longer for the other. It may be sooner for others, it may be later for others, but it will come. In its own good time.