I want the best for my kids. The picture is of my eldest singing in a recent school talent competition. As a Dad I felt she won it. In fact the judges said she was the best performance of the night and yet she still didn’t place in the top 3. I am not bitter. Some times there are going to be things which challenge you but don’t take nothing away from your talent. This is where resilience comes in.
Talking of which. I receive a school report for my eldest every half term. The school emails a summary by subject of the attainment grade and effort. An identifier of how she is doing and a guideline of what she is targeted for should this be her final exam. It is an interesting time for her as she knows I usually have received the report before her and in my inbox. This was not always the case.
As I know she will probably read this I will not disclose her grades suffice to say they were very good but she admits she could do better.
As someone who is passionate about educational reform it throws up a bit of challenge. My wife and I have similar, but sometimes slightly different views on attainment. Grades and exams are par for course and have their place but I am also keen to ensure that her education and learning is about the whole of her and not just some hot ticket to get a job or go into university. It is more than that. The school report made for an interesting dialogue betwixt wifey and I.
I want more than anything else for her to be curious. Develop critical thinking. See learning in its wider context. A lifestyle ethic where she Works hard, Plays Hard and Sleeps well.
The same message I give to my youngest who works damn hard to attain and is a high achiever but I worry sometimes if she stresses out to much about work and should take some more time to chill. But heck that’s what childhood is, isn’t it?
Which brings me to my next point.
Asking the right questions
As my girls get older I am forever getting them to think about the questions they ask of themselves, their education, us as parents, their friends and life. It is difficult when tackling some of the more philosophical questions that readers of this blog know I do on a regular basis.
I am forever curious. I love being challenged on things, even those things I would say I am certain about. I reckon I am quite present as a Dad but no matter how good it looks to those on the outside I guess my kids if questioned would have a less rose tinted version of my fatherhood than I.
Giving them room to challenge me is both an interesting balancing trick but also core to my own development. They know I will drop everything to be at their sports days, talent shows, opening evenings, but when asked, they also challenge me on my time spent on my laptop writing or otherwise. They will admire my network of contacts but will question me on those who sap my energy and why I continue to stay in touch with them. Dad, why do you play down all those famous connections you know? What are you afraid of?
Part of our Daddy-daughter relationship is about exploring the right questions. We are all keeping each other on our toes and hot damn being challenging really focuses the mind! For example my youngest wants to read “A Spot of Bother” by Mark Haddon. My eldest has questioned whether it is suitable along with some very forthright questions which has forced me to question even my own ‘liberal’ views. Essentially realising the bigger question is, it’s not about me. (Truth be told wifey said hell no and there was no going back on that)
Always Tell the Truth
This segues to my final point. I allow my eldest to drink small amounts of wine and cider in our presence. Yesterday I questioned her whether she had drunk wine at a recent friend’s birthday party. She looked me in the eye and said no.
My wife said “But yes you drank some other form of alcohol didn’t you?” She admitted to this.
Lesson learnt. If you want to find the truth from a kid who knows your questioning technique. Always ask the right question.