By Michele Powles and Renee Liang
It’s a charged phrase, positive parenting. Am I parenting positively when I grab my Lego engineer’s “wand” and “suggest” he not poke his brother in the eye with it? Or am I setting him up to feel he’s done the wrong thing, and, so chastised, he dampens his imagination?
There are so many opinions around parenting, so readily available, so relentlessly ‘positive’, that it’s easy to get caught up in feelings of guilt and inadequacy and fear. Am I the only one this isn’t working for? Is it me?
Guess what? You’re doing great. You’re building amazing brains with your Lego engineer; chaos specialist; unicorn trainer and/or genius offspring. There are no ‘eight easy steps’ to anything. There’s just you and your kids, getting to know each other. And the kids haven’t read the parenting books (unless they are actual geniuses). There’s a principle taught to young doctors: the parents are the biggest experts on their own children and they’re usually right. Find your instincts and trust them, because every parent/child combination is different.
It’s a little like reading a picture book. Deep at the heart of the pictures is the story, the feeling, the spark of what makes us connect with what’s on the page. When it works, we feel like we’re inside the story. We feel like we’re in the right place. That feeling of belonging is what we believe is so important to capture for our children in our words, whether they be spoken, or written. Research has shown that children who are secure in their relationship with their parents will do well.
Telling the story of ourselves is important, too. In much the same way you teach your child to see themselves in new ways – ‘look, you took a step!’; ‘you used the toilet!; you’re so grown up!’ – you need to capture yourself parenting brilliantly. Maybe that’s in the form of conversations with other parents, or a quiet word to a friend or partner at the end of a long day. Maybe it’s just to yourself. Maybe you need to share what you do with others, or maybe not. But the stories are important. Especially when you are changing and developing as much as your children.
As writers, we use writing as a tool. We grab the threads of things that happen throughout the day and weave them into multicoloured memory cloaks. On good days, we play dress ups in these cloaks; on bad days, we hide under them and hold our loved ones close. We let our imaginations run under the table for dinner and lick up the crumbs. When the kids are finally asleep, we try and spill out the time we’ve had with our children all over the page. Other people might talk, or draw, or move, or film. But for us, words are the key to the past – and the future. These notes and stories are something our children have already started to read. And smile at. And remember the feeling of being alive and fun and held and secure.
When We Remember to Breathe is co-written by Michele Powles and Renee Liang, published by Magpie Pulp.