Like so many other parents, I want my girls to have the best life possible. That’s another way of me saying, I don’t want them to go through the difficulties I did in my life. However, I know that we grow from the challenges we face. To try and create a feathered nest for my children where they never experience pain or discomfort is both unrealistic and probably to their detriment. Okay, so let’s reframe. I want to provide them with tools that will help them navigate life’s challenges better than I have.
Queue the onslaught of parenting books, websites, blogs and videos that will tell me everything I need to know about child development from their brain function, emotional wellbeing, nutritional needs, education models, socialisation and creative outlets. Oh goodness I know I’m missing something. I felt an anxiety attack coming on the other day because my 9-year-old still doesn’t know how to ride a bike (we live on a hill that resembles the big drop on a rollercoaster okay?) But still my imagination runs away on me with pictures of my adult child crying into her tissues “I didn’t even learn to ride a bike until I was 9” she wails into her hands. I snap back to my keyboard writing this blog and say with a sigh “I’m the worst.”
Despite my research of many international experts, it was actually two based in New Zealand that rang a bell of truth that I couldn’t un-hear once I’d heard it. I’m talking specifically about Genevieve Simperingham from the Peaceful Parenting Institute of New Zealand and Wal Herring, nutritionist and author of “Healthy Little Eaters”. Both are people swarmed by parents desperate to know THE SECRET to helping their child either start doing something desirable or stop doing something undesirable. Both could load us up with all sorts of tricks and tips to guide our children towards better choices and outcomes but Genevieve and Wal know that tips and tricks aren’t THE SECRET we’re looking for. We think we want to know THE SECRET but I’m telling you, once you know it, you can’t unknow it and it will take all your courage to follow it through.
Okay, you’re still reading so I guess it’s time to fasten your seatbelt because we’re about to take the path less travelled. Here we go.
It is our lived example that has the greatest impact on our children.
If you’re a person who knows how to regulate your emotions, eats intuitively and lives mindfully you probably said: “what’s the problem?” The rest of us read that statement and said “oh crap.”
Have you ever heard someone say “monkey see, monkey do” and wanted to punch them? Just me? Okay for one, they’re comparing your child to a monkey which sounds adorable but it also makes light of a very real and terrifying concept. We are the template our children are mapping their lives against and although I know my daughters love using stencils at art time, when it comes to me being that stencil for their lives, I really want to push them towards the magic of free drawing. But alas, sometimes human beings (despite our evolution) follow the same path as our mammalian brothers and sisters. We learn how to be in this world by watching closely the patterns of our elders. I like to think that the fact I eat chocolate while I write at my desk is nobody’s business but my own but when my girls find the empty wrappers and look at me with a mix of confusion at where the chocolate has gone and then disappointment/anger that I didn’t share, I know that they’re making a list of things they’ll do when they’re an adult and no longer have to eat the nutritionally balanced meals I strive to serve. So, I could learn all about how to hide vegetables in cake and pasta squares but actually, the best thing I can do for my children’s nutritional future is address my own dysfunctional relationship with my body and food.
I was really hoping to not have to face this particular area of my life. I’ve done loads of work on improving my relationship with myself and concentrating on that. I crossed my fingers that there would be a flow-on effect and I would just automatically start eating well, exercising and making healthy life choices. I’ve since learned that you can only go so far in your personal and spiritual development without acknowledging your body and how you treat it. And just like Genevieve helped me realise that the best way for me to help my children navigate conflict peacefully, regulate their emotions and become more mindful of their thoughts was to mirror that way of being, I now will journey with Wal to learn what it looks like to be a living example of a woman in touch with her body. I can’t imagine a better gift to my daughters. With one foot in front of the other, I move towards the path less travelled. A part of me pleads to please just have another cookie and sit down but it’s too late, no amount of cookies will dull the sound of that bell. I hope you’ll travel with me as I blog about the journey. This is mama monkey, over and out.