So, with a cold drink tantalizingly just out of reach, we sat down to become part of the Bermuda national numbers. Most of the questions were pretty benign and easy to answer and then came the kicker: “How old were you when you had your first child?” A pause, “Twenty- one”, I said. “And, how old were you when you had your youngest child?” A longer pause, “Fifty-five”, I muttered.
To be honest, I don’t remember many of the other questions. I got kind of lost in thought wondering about when I made the transition from a “young” parent to an “experienced” one (please note that I didn’t say “old”!)
Parenting is undoubtedly the most important job that most of us will ever have. It is demanding, time consuming, emotionally charged and results oriented. Having said that, we are all hopelessly under qualified to take it on. There is no course, diploma, or degree that trains us to be an effective parent. It is clearly a “seat of the pants” learning experience that is as individual as our own characters, experiences, partners and children make it.
When I look back on that twenty-one year old kid who stood in the delivery room on a cold November morning, I shudder to think how little he knew about what he was getting into, but I envy him the wonderful, decades long journey that he was about to begin.
A few days after my census encounter I chatted with a young dad who was asking me about the transition from Kindergarten to Grade 1 and how it would play out for his child going from a class and schoolmates that he had known for three years to a new teacher, learning environment and set of friends and classmates. We talked about the growth in experiences and the widening circle of his peer group and the beginnings of building a more complex life beyond family and I was reminded how frightening those prospects often are for parents. For us, the letting go is often more traumatic than it is for our kids. They are gaining so much—but we feel like we are losing something in the process. And somewhere around 4 or 5 years old, our children begin to spend more of their waking hours without us than with us.
That is where school comes in. All of a sudden, you pass over the teaching of life’s lessons, the reaching of milestones, and the care and feeding of your baby to another group of adults and peers. This is one of the greatest leaps of faith in life, as you put your faith in someone to care for your most precious possessions.
As a school, it is our responsibility to live up to and continually earn the trust that parents put in us. Today is interview day, and as I walk around the school and listen to the buzz of parents, teachers and tutors talking about the ups and downs of the academic year so far, it is a good time for us all to reflect on how important that it is to work effectively together to raise all of our children. There are often hiccups, as there are with every parenting partnership. We don’t always agree on what’s “best” in every circumstance, but as long as we both know that one another has the interests of our children at heart, it will work itself out. I have made plenty of mistakes as a parent (as we all do) but somehow my older children have grown into wonderful adults and parents themselves, and my two darling little boys continue to greet every day with a laugh and a sense of wonder.
And so, parent to parent, thank you for your continued dedication to your children. It can be exasperating, mind-boggling, and down right scary, but it is never dull!
And, don't ever forget, we’re all in this together!