Have you ever wondered what sort of adults your children might become as they are growing up?
I certainly have. Particularly with the pressures of being a perfect parent, and the different ideas in terms of what good parenting looks like, I’ve also wondered whether my influence is playing out in a sufficiently positive way.
I remember quite some time ago, being delighted at the simplicity of the statement, ‘As parents, what more can we hope for than our daughters to be confident and our sons to be respectful.’
I can’t remember where I first read or heard this, but I really liked it, and still do. I found it a useful and practical yardstick to measure whether my children and we as parents are turning out OK.
Although my children are now practically adults, I still find myself doing a quick mental check on the confidence and respect thing.
My daughter seems to be knocking the lights out of what previously would have been considered as wobbles in self-confidence – conquering her fear of public speaking, getting over the embarrassment of networking, remaining positive in the face of relentless rejections for the first job post graduating. I’m also hugely buoyed and cheered by the phone-calls which ever so occasionally will start off with, ‘you’d be proud of me mum…’.
And in terms of my son showing respect, there are times I positively brim with pride. I remember distinctly the first time my son (then, a young teenager, now a 19 year old) leant forward to hold open a door for me. Helping me with the shopping came next, and then an immense kindness to his grandfather who is a little less steady on his pins these days. My son does not appear to be at all self-conscious in doing these things, and I do sometimes wish that those young men and women who firmly keep their eyes down rather than risking eye contact with the woman squashed between the standing commuters wearing her ‘baby on board’ badge, could show similar courtesies. So yes, I get a little thrill of pride when I see my son being kind.
There are bits of their growing up, however, that bemuse me. I felt sure that my children would love things, just because I did. But they have flagrantly rejected my passions for drawing, my cat, and the entire South of France. Yet, somehow, they have inherited a love of food and family meals, which as it turns out, seems to be one of those inter-generational things that has passed down through our family. In the household I grew up in, my brother or myself, inviting a girlfriend or boyfriend over for, ‘Grandpa’s spaghetti’ was taken as a signal to the rest of the family that the invitee was now a Significant Other.
I’d be lying if I said we never eat TV dinners (we’ve eaten plenty), but I do feel proud that my children are showing strong signs of being very capable at preparing home cooked food. My son managed to not only combine the grind of A levels with a passion for rugby and sport, but also to complete alongside these, a two year course of cookery classes. Although he is not a letter writer, I love the fact he will email his Granny, with a picture of a pudding and debate with her its finer points.
Instead of cash bale-outs, I prefer to send regular food parcels to both our children via a well-known supermarket home shopping service. This has two benefits for me. Firstly, it incentivises them to call and write to me to ask for what they want, and secondly, I get to vicariously enjoy the meals they then cook for themselves and their friends.
So all things considered, I’m pretty happy with the yardstick I have chosen; a confident daughter and a respectful son. Please do let me know about any yardsticks you might be toying with.
Helen Sachdev is one of the Founders of WOMBA as well as a senior executive, a Trustee with both the CIMA UK Board and Leicester University Student’s Union, and an Executive Coach. She is a mother of two who is committed to making the world a better place for working parents.