Being a parent means you are entirely responsible for the welfare of a little person, who might not always appreciate it or even notice what you’re doing – but would absolutely struggle without you being actively involved.
But then, as they grow, you are also responsible for allowing them to grow and develop emotionally by guiding them, but ideally without directing them too restrictively. Who are we to tell our children what to think? Developing critical reasoning is incredibly important, and if we do our jobs right, they will eventually form opinions that will differ from ours from time to time.
Bryan is nine; he is forming his own views of the world and, thankfully, he seems to be developing some moral opinions so far. He sometimes takes my opinion as read, so I have to catch how I’m expressing myself – I’ll happily give a view, but I don’t want him to follow it blindly just because I’m his father (as much as that would make my life easier sometimes).
The other night at dinner, he told me that he was going to have a couple of children when he was older. I had a moment of fear when he told me that, as I wondered how old he was going to be precisely when he had these children. Thankfully, he planned to finish school first, which was a blessing in disguise.
He then informed me that he would carry on working after having children, and I could look after them for a couple of days a week.
“Oh, lovely!” I exclaimed. “But what about your partner? Their parents might want to be involved as well.”
No, he informs me; there won’t be a partner. He wants to be a single parent like me, which surprised me; he’s experienced two care givers before when he was in foster care, so I naively assumed that he would consider that as a possibility. But no; at the moment, he wants to be a single dad. I reminded him that he would need to do all the washing and cooking by himself, which gave him a moment’s pause, then he decided that he would hire some help for all that stuff. I can’t fault him for that.
I suspect that his opinion will change a hundred different times just before Christmas, but then he said something that made me pause. “But, of course, Daddy, I’d do some things differently.”
I gulped, bracing myself for a critique of my parenting skills so far. Children are always the most direct human beings, so I knew that he wouldn’t mince his words.
“Oh really?” I asked nonchalantly. “What would you do?”
“Well … I’d still read to my kids like you do to me,” he commented, “but then I would do bedtime slightly differently.”
“Okay. Is there anything we can tweak now?”
Bryan considered this, then shrugged. “I’d put my kids’ beds in a different position in their rooms.”
This threw me a little bit, I don’t mind pretending. “Do you want to move your bed?” I asked.
“No thanks, I like it.”
I decided to leave the conversation there, and Bryan returned to eating his cauliflower cheese. As I said, encouraging my son to have his own opinions is absolutely vital. Now I just need to understand them all …