I’m taking a parenting course right now and one of the main ideas of the course is that children should be treated uniquely rather than equally. I totally get this. I don’t need lessons in how to treat my children uniquely – they taught me that all by themselves…. Actually, at times, I wonder how two children, born so closely to each other, to the same parents and raised in the same environment could be so different… but, hey ho!
I do, however, believe my children are incredibly lucky to have each other in their lives. Imogen may teach Harry the social rules that do not come naturally to him, but he teaches her that it’s OK to make your own mind up, do what you want and bend the rules. OK, break the rules. OK, act like the rules simply don’t exist.
How many of us act like the rules don’t exist? Harry does!! The rule book just doesn’t apply.
And, that got me thinking: ‘The Rule Book’ – an unwritten and largely unspoken manual – that most parents simply sign up to and adhere to as a matter of course, places such a lot of expectations on our children from a very early age…. These unwritten and largely unspoken expectations place a burden on our children, and most of us (both parents and children) simply never think to question them.
I don’t mean the day to day expectations, not the ‘right from wrong’ stuff we each have to deal with in order to get along with each other….. I’m mean the lifelong expectations.
Of course, we don’t call them expectations. We call them dreams, hopes and aspirations. Many are subconscious. But they exist. And they are very, very difficult to let go of. Believe me, I know.
I know how painful it felt when that unremarkable man in that unremarkable office took mine away from me.
The unremarkable man didn’t change Harry in any way whatsoever; He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know – he merely confirmed it, but he initiated the process of me letting go of every hope, dream and aspiration I had for Harry. Even by the time he was 3, even without knowing it, I had an ‘ideal’ vision of Harry’s life and I had to let it go. It was not easy.
The day that process ended was the day I deregistered Harry from school. I realise now why that day is so significant to me… it was that moment when I finally relinquished my expectations of Harry. The day I truly realised I would have to allow him the freedom to make his own path. Of course, I continue to work with him to make the most of his considerable talents, but the end goal is unknown. I have no clue where this road goes. And that’s stupidly scary, but it’s something I have to be OK with. And…. it’s surprisingly liberating.
While Imogen remains in school – and I have no intention of removing her from ‘the system’ – I feel she also benefits from Harry’s ‘no rule book’ policy. As she grows, she knows that there is another path, should she choose to take it, and she also knows that I’ll back her up no matter what.
As parents, we have to leave our own expectations behind and say to our children: I am with you. No matter what.