One of the great things about our school is how, once the parents trust you, you become almost like part of their extended family.
Since starting there I have become privy to more family secrets than I know about my own family. I have heard intimate details of finances, marital difficulties, woes and joys. I have followed pregnancies with as much in-depth knowledge of their medical details and complications as they have. They have a need to share this information.
Sometimes they don’t just share this information with us. They have such a need to share it that they share it with their children. Every last detail. I had a parent complaining that her child’s behaviour had been extraordinarily bad this morning, we enquired if anything had happened at home. “Well I told her about the baby and she didn’t seem very keen.” Further conversation showed that mum was now nearly 5 and a half weeks pregnant – she had already discussed names with her slightly bemused year 1 child.
On the other hand some parents do not want more babies; they still have their baby. Alright they are in year 2 but they are determined to keep them as their baby. I showed a parent our new room for our new intervention group. Her child is delightful, polite, quiet but painfully shy. The room is upstairs. The mother explained she wouldn’t be able to sign the form as her child couldn’t do stairs, they are only in year 1. I explained that they would, we would help, they had in fact climbed these stairs before to get to the reward room. Never! How could we have let this little tot go up all of these stairs? She did remember the discussion at home about the reward room when the class had collected the requisite number of stickers but had been unaware that to get there stairs had been involved. Having accepted that the stairs were not an insurmountable mountain the form was signed. Along with an agreement that we would take extra care, that if they really, really seemed to struggle that there was a disabled lift, that there was a toilet of the right size upstairs, that the chairs were the right height …
There is no definitive right way to bring up children and I was certainly guilty, in hindsight, of getting it wrong at times with my own children but using the rule of “good enough” parenting, I succeeded. Within school we offer parenting groups, we offer a listening ear, we try to offer our perspective of a situation when we are asked. We also marvel everyday at how calm, collected and grown up some of our children are when we know that what they are going through is not ideal. We can also understand why some of them offer us some challenging behaviours but they don’t want our sympathy, they want us to be there, consistent and fair. The majority of the parents love their children and want to do their best for them but discussion shows that a lot of them had similar childhoods – no one taught them how to be a “good enough” parent.
So who is parenting the parents?