I’ve heard it said that if you are finding parenting difficult, you’re probably doing it right. If it’s easy, you’re probably missing something (at least in the early years). As a parent of three kids (7, 5 and 1) who feels like he’s in the thick of it right now, I’ll be the first to admit that it is certainly difficult! In a short period of 24 hours, there are so many unpredictable moments, interruptions and variations to ‘the day plan’ that sometimes, you wonder why you made one in the first place.
Yet, in the rare moments of reflection we sometimes share together, my wife and I are realising just how ‘early on’ we are in this parenting journey itself (or should I say marathon). I often hear the phrase “long days, short years” when referring to our stage of parenting and I can see the relevance of this, but the problem I have with that saying is that it narrows my view of what parenting encapsulates. It causes me to forget about the big picture and only focus on the current year, week or yes, long day. We are responsible for raising these children right up until adulthood (and potentially even after this point!) but it’s easy to lose sight of that amongst the daily chaos of changing nappies, getting toddlers dressed against their will or packing lunch boxes for the thousandth time only to find the majority of their contents untouched upon return. In this parenting fog, I can forget to see the forest for the trees.
Although it can be difficult, keeping perspective on things helps us parent wisely. And parenting wisely includes realising that we don’t need to (and shouldn’t have to) carry this responsibility alone, in isolation from the communities we can be part of. The Covid lockdowns made this vividly apparent. How difficult some of those days were when we had no community to call upon for support, no sporting teams we could mingle with or church groups we could worship with, helping to share the load of parent life together while the kids played independently for once. It’s funny how quickly we take it all for granted again once we’re back into the routine of life, driving the kids around to different appointments or crash-landing into church on a Sunday, but the value of community partnerships is not to be underestimated. There is good reason why people say ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. When we wade into the mess of community life, we form partnerships that can be mutually beneficial and achieve more together as a result. Partnerships build understanding between both parties. There’s a mutual agreement to try and make things work. Tough conversations may need to happen occasionally but always with consideration for the wellbeing of the team.
Consider for a moment, what school might look like if you viewed it as a place to build partnerships. Partnerships that benefit the whole family, not just the child. What would that look like in terms of relationship with the staff? Interaction with parent groups? Involvement in the community events? Charlton is a place, I feel, where the opportunities to partner with a supportive community are many and varied.
Viewing school more as a community and less as an institution enriches the way we engage with the teachers and the parent cohort too. Think about the recent Charlton Colour Run and the involvement from all players to make it what it was. That sort of event doesn’t happen without good partnerships. Another experience I often think back on was when I was teaching Year 4, investigating the War on Waste series and doing what we could at school to help change the perspective of single-use plastics. The students suggested we collect cans and recycle them for money to pay for eco-straws for the school canteen. It took a lot of cans to get there but by the end of the term we had over 1000 cans and bottles to recycle, thanks to the contributions of the parent community. Our mission became a lot more difficult at this point due to the number of crates we had to somehow collect and move to Croft oval Return and Earn but one quick email out to parents for support and the next week it was all happening like clockwork! Parents turned up with trailers or utes to help move the recycled cans there and we were all part of something that was quite memorable for all involved. Without the parent community partnering with me to make that happen, it would’ve been a much greater challenge.
Thinking about the ‘long game’ of parenting really does help me to change the way I interact with my children and to face those busy, loud, exhausting years with a bit more direction and purpose. It helps me to sow into their lives in a more intentional way, picturing the adults I would like to see them grow into and what it will take of me to help get them there. The long game perspective also helps me to be more mindful of the way I view the teachers and carers that I partner with along the way. Each of these professionals are contributing toward the wholistic development of my children, both academically and spiritually. They are part of the village that helps raise my kids. Of course, no village tribe is perfect, but making the choice to support and partner with each other in the midst of our imperfections makes for a pretty amazing community, I think. Counter-cultural even. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Mr John Lucas / Junior School Teacher & Discipline and Welfare Leader