As I prepared for my daughter’s 13th party last month, I smiled as I saw glimpses of a girl who is growing up fast becoming more independant as the days go by, and then in the same breath I see the little girl wanting balloons, fairy lights and lollies. It is at this stage that I see my girl bouncing between pending adult-hood and clinging onto the freedom and simplicity of childhood.
So how do we as parents keep our sanity in these sometimes turbulent times? The famous quote “It takes a village to raise a child” is thought to be an African proverb, and is one of my favourites! To keep our sanity, we need to utilise the ‘village’, be part of a ‘village’, and contribute to a ‘village’ – in whatever shape or form it might be in. A town community, marae (Maori meeting place), church, extended family (whanau), youth groups, scouts, hobby group and so on. It takes more than just mum and/or dad to raise a child. When we have a network of people who care for each other, look out for each other and love our kids as their own, we are well on the way to keeping our sanity! We can talk, share experiences, nod in that agreement when we know we have been in that exact same situation as someone else. We share tips, advice, or simply a cup of coffee and a chat. I wouldn’t trade my church community for anything…my children have beautiful mentors, people who they have known all their life, made memories with, shared life with, and they look forward to seeing them each week. I am so incredibly thankful for my church, and I encourage anyone who is not part of a church community, to be brave and come along as you will find strength journeying life together.
“Our “village” has never been more necessary than it is today. We live in a face-paced, instant information, and pressure-packed world. Today’s children are faced with a myriad of both challenges and opportunities. Navigating parenthood can be a daunting undertaking – partnerships and supports are welcome and necessary to prepare our students for tomorrow.” (http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/10489)
So what is my strategy for surviving the next chapter? I always remember a quote from a kiwi psychologist and author Nigel Latta, from his book “Politically Incorrect Parenting”. It was talking about 10 simple rules for raising kids. And number 5 was “Kids need Fences”.
“Kids need fences. Make rules, set limits, and stick to them as hard as you can. It is in the nature of children to move forward until they come up against a fence. Some kids need only to know that the fence is there, others need to bang into it several times, but all of them need it. A world without fences is a dangerous and frightening place for a little person. Fences say ‘You can go this far, but no further.’ Fences keep you safe and secure. Fences help you figure out where your place is. Fences keep out the bad stuff as well. Let me say it again. Kids need fences.”
I remember him also talking about this kind of thing, once at a seminar after our Christchurch earthquakes. He was reiterating that the best thing we can do for our children is to have firm boundaries, and be the brick wall for them to bounce off. It is ok for them to bounce off us, sometimes they bounce hard, but we are to be there for them to bounce! It was along the lines of building fences, to give our children more security within the boundaries. And this is where they thrive, to become the best version of themselves, in Christ.
So as I look at my almost-teenager, I decide in my head to gently let her gain independence, but keep the fences in place. Until she is mature enough, with enough frontal lobes developed, I will provide the fence. Somehow, I will allow her to have more input into decision making, and hopefully she will know that home is a safe place, that mum and dad have her back (even when she is bouncing off our brick wall boundaries). I will also allow her to play and have fun with the inner child, as there is plenty of time for her to be a grown up with so much care and responsibility. I will put ribbons in her hair as long as she will let me, and even though my lap seems to be getting smaller, she still fits somewhat. Cuddles are mandatory at our place, so are kisses and tickles. I love my girl, always will. I will pray for her. Lots. As she figures out who she is, I will pray that she will realise her value and worth in God. I will let her know she is beautiful, and that her best is enough. I love the unique personality God has created in her, and the potential she has to be a blessing in this world. Happy 13th Elizabeth, love you to the moon and back! xx