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I’m currently reading Their Name is Today (Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World) by Johann Christoph Arnold. Its psychological approach to parenting interests and challenges me. As the title implies, it poses the view that children today have lost their childhood to a fast paced, selfish and demanding world (there was me thinking that was life in general) and that we as parents should take responsibility to show our children how to be kids again and admit the part our parental short comings have played in taking their childhood away.
Apart from the book leaving me feeling vastly inadequate as a parent and my initial reaction is to dismiss it and crawl into my hermit shell singing blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, the reason it is painful is because it does broach some home truths. One such topic is that of adult hypocrisy and how we should be more aware of practising what we preach. I often say, that by regularly reading yourself your children will also naturally adopt the same habit/interest/indoctrination (call it what you like but it does have an effect). Children naturally copy adults and as they haven’t fully figured out this whole right and wrong thing yet this will extend to the good and the bad habits we have adopted. One example that came up in the book was an adult’s fear of failing. Most adults in one form or another are scared of failing or not living up to their own or others expectations yet at the same time we continue to pass on this fear to our children by expecting them to achieve more and more, be better than us and laugh in the face of the very fear we hold. With this point of view it’s not hard to see how the pressure on children is intensifying over generations.
I’ve previously talked about the common fear of failing as a parent. One of my biggest parenting frustrations at the moment with my eldest is that he refuses or won’t (not quite sure which) listen to what I or my husband say to him. This can be anything from whirling around the house in La La land ignoring the repeated requests (turning to demands) of getting shoes and coat on for school to being totally distraught about something yet refusing to listen to reason, sympathy or advice and responding with a squeak. Although I’ve probably just described most children after a certain age, I’m really hoping he will come out the other side, eventually! When exactly did this transition happen? A child who used to be very vocal with his feelings and insistent with his questions now refuses to talk about anything other than stones or Minecraft. Help he’s nowhere near a teenager yet! Oh but at least he’s a good reader!!!
Seriously though, after reading this book I decided to look at this from a different angle and tentatively questioned (surely I can’t be making a mistake can I?) that just maybe it’s me that has stopped listening to my children and they are merely learning by observation. Oh no, this book could be onto something! Sometimes we do need to stop and evaluate our circumstances. Mine for example have changed. I am busier with work commitments which impacts on when I do household chores which………yep………..can I bring myself to say it……..impacts on the time I spend with my children and the time I spend listening to my children. I’ve also grumbled in the past to other parents about how I feel I’m constantly putting my children off by saying “yes we’ll do that later”, “I’d love to, but not right now”, “let me finish the ironing” etc. Well maybe that’s because I am putting them off? These are basically creative versions of “no.” Am I saying to my child that the ironing is more important than them?
Of course that’s not what I am intending to say. Believe me, I am not a lover of ironing, I’d much rather play dominoes but from a practical point of view these things need to be managed. Yet in a child’s world maybe this is not the message they receive. So last weekend, with a three and a half hour car journey to tackle and all of us in need of practising our listening skills, instead of sticking on the DVD player I decided to play a children’s audio book in the car. Ok we weren’t listening to each other but being late at night and with the kids tired I thought it the best solution for the time we had. I chose the BBC dramatisation of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A classic my husband and I remember from our childhoods.
Although it did feel like listening to an old episode of The Archers set to sinister music, it was enjoyable to the extent that it gave us something to think about and imagine and once your imagination kicks in, time seems to travel so much faster on a long journey. The BBC definitely needs to do something about the creepy music though. That element didn’t go down well with my boys and was askew to any memories I have of the character’s exciting discovery of the Secret Garden. I know the characters weren’t supposed to go into the garden but wasn’t that part of the adventure?
The conclusion to our audio book trial was that our children fell asleep, my husband, being an avid reader himself (well you’d have to be to cope with being married to the bonkers book lady!) has discovered some Terry Pratchett audio books to devour in his own time and we’re planning on embarking on some more audio book testing over the next couple of months. Maybe not so late at night and possibly a mixture of modern and classic children’s stories but I’ll let you know how it goes with some review suggestions for travelling during your summer holidays.