As a Mum to two young children, I have a different roles to play. I am a care giver, I show and teach love and compassion, kindness and caring. From the first day of being a mummy I knew I had to nurture and protect him, and I had to help him grow into the sort of person that people will like and respect, to have moral values, manners and above all be able to love others as well as himself. This a job with a lot of responsibility and I knew that it wouldn't be easy.
At first when you have a baby, you have to do everything for them and gradually the little tiny human being you have been given, starts to do things for himself. I remember shedding a tear the first time he wanted to hold his own bottle and when he said 'no' to me for the first time. I was astoundingly proud of my little man's achievement, but knew it was downhill from there.
The next couple of years he progressed and advanced into a lovely little person who I was showing the way into the big grown up world and he took everything in his stride. He was never a shy child, he didn't batter an eyelid on his first day at pre-school he simply left me! As we went along his little learning journey from baby hood into childhood, I started to teach him basic safety and it soon became apparent that I was contradicting myself rather a lot. Let me give an example, we teach our children not to talk to strangers, yet as our children begin to talk and interact with the world around them we encourage them to say hello to anyone they encounter.
Now if we didn't we would be raising grumpy shy and rather unsociable children. The lines are blurred, how do you explain a good stranger versus a bad one? do we as adults even know?
We want our children to grow and be happy as well as be safe, we want to protect our children from horrible grown up things but we also need to teach them what is not safe or good for them. Luckily children are pretty robust and will bounce back from most slight wobbles on their journey. My son is not in the slightest affected by 'the incident' in BHS, where he got lost. However Mummy was very upset for a few days and did consider putting him back in reins at 5 years old to make sure he never left me again.
As my son gets older he is gradually learning more and more from other people and I have less and less control over what that is, being at school full time means he spends 6 hours a day without me and is learning things that I know nothing about unless he tells me.(anyone with a child this age will probably agree that 'nothing' is a usual answer to the question 'what did you do today at school?) It is hard to show him that some things are okay in certain situations where in others they certainly aren't. Again the lines are very blurred.
Our children are innocent to the world we live in, we want to keep them ignorant to the dangers out there, but at the same time want them to know something are wrong without scaring them. This is why we have age appropriate films and video games, there are certain things a child should not know about! How do you show a child that him and his best friend having a peeing competition being the shed is a bit naughty, but walking around naked isn't the done thing ? Having a younger sister has thrown up a whole new set of rules for my little boy, we have had to show him that his bits and bobs are private and that so are hers. But an innocent child also has no awareness of the grown up world if an adult crosses the boundaries of what is acceptable.
How do we teach our children to stay safe and to say no, when we want them to be protected from a grown up world that is filled with things that are sometimes horrible?
I had already started to discuss good secrets and bad secrets with my little boy and that his bits are private, but as a parent facing this for the first time and without a parenting manual I was lost in a communication gap. Then someone told me about the NSPCC campaign called the underwear rule
it is a great campaign that will equip parents and children with language to approach the subject in a non scary too grown up way, and it is rather good actually.
I sat down with my little man and had 'the talk'. To be honest I am sure I was more worried than he was about it, as he as usual took it all in his stride and I was rather relieved. So hopefully until he turns into a hairy adolescent that is it for awkward chats and I'm pretty sure that one will be a 'daddy' chat anyway.
So even though we want to keep our littlies little, they will one day grow up and we will all want to keep them safe and able to deal with anything that may arise.
Labels: children, family life, parenting