By Mutryce A. Williams
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
Navigating "Island" Parenting is a submission of insights, quotes, tips and parenting advice that I have gathered over the years as a source of inspiration and as tools to deal with the daily challenges of parenting. This week’s issue: The Village Must Be Positive. The hope is that this submission would cause you to reflect on your parenting skills and also make the journey of parenting a bit easier or brighter.
Question the Motive
I could never forget the distress or the tears which flowed as she explained that her parents were encouraging her to work a few more years before going to college. She had two years of work experience under her belt. She had two lucrative scholarship offers. She had also saved her earnings; this would assist defraying the additional costs of her studies. She was a model daughter who always took her parents’ opinions into consideration before taking any decision. How could she defy them now? She rationalized and debated. She was mature and had proven herself to be a very responsible young woman who had excelled in the areas of scholarship, leadership and service. There was no doubt that she would excel at university. She was determined and had laser sharp focus.
Why would her parents encourage her to work a few more years? Was it because they thought she wasn’t ready for college? Was the decision based on finances? What could it possibly be? I was perplexed. When I asked, the answer surprised me. A “trusted” family friend had advised the parents on the matter. Again, I questioned the rationale. Why did this friend think it best that she work a few more years? Why did this friend think that it was her place to advise the parents on such a matter?
As a staunch advocate for youth and education, I decided to sit with the parents, and not advise but rather have them present me with the arguments. The only one that they had was that Friend X thought it best. She knew more about “these things” than they did, and they trusted her judgment. I then asked several pertinent questions after fully assessing the situation. The final question asked was, “Why is it okay for Friend X’s children to go to college as soon as they have finished with school, no work experience but yet your daughter who is 20 should work a few more years when she has two lucrative scholarship opportunities at her disposal? Why should she delay, when her going to college would not have a financial impact on the family?”
The parents looked at me as they knew exactly where I was coming from. The mother’s remark was, “Oh, so college only for her children!” I do not make it a practice to intervene in the affairs of others but in this case, I felt it necessary, as I had witnessed a pattern with the two families. “Friend X” would encourage my little friend’s parents not to send her to summer camp, music class or give her that much deserved trip and there was always a logical reason, yet this lady was providing her children with the same opportunities. The families had been close for many years. The children grew up together.
Over the years I had witnessed the comparisons. Over the years I had witnessed the “Friend X’s” criticism of the other family’s children. Remarks such as, “Well, if my daughter had done that it would be the end of her or my son will never dare do such a thing” came from the friend. She was even quick in chastising or correcting her friend’s children. She always had advice on hand for her friend. There were other remarks such as, “I saw your daughter in an expensive pair of shoes, why on earth would you spend all that money on those shoes? I would not have spent so much money on a pair of shoes.” A few days later, you will see her daughter in an even more expensive pair of shoes.
Evaluating Your Friendships!
You have to constantly reflect on and evaluate the nature and quality of your friendships. Are your friends an effective or valuable part of your parenting team? Do they support your parenting efforts? Are they overly or even critical of your children? Do they compete? Do they measure? Are they jealous of your children? Do they genuinely want to see your children succeed? Are they dashers or suppressors of dreams? Are they people you want in your children’s sphere. When your friends provide advice are they coming from a place of concern or care or is there another motive? Have they violated your trust by discussing sensitive matters about your children? Are they genuine? Are they really your friends?
It would have given me such pleasure to write on the joys of Easter, traditions of Easter past or even the Easter bunny but an incident of a similar nature which occurred this past week caused me to reflect on the aforementioned situation and draw parallels. It actually led me to question the number of parents who were raising or even limiting their children based on the opinions of family, trusted friends or even society. It caused me to question the number of parents who were aware of family relationships or friendships that were negatively impacting their ability to parent yet turned a blind eye or went along with the fray.
I also questioned the number of parents who have apologized for believing in their children, supporting them or being their all, even ending their sentences in, “Well, I am going to give him my all. If he wants to disappoint me it is up to him.” I often question why the last sentence is even necessary. The answer I have come up with, it is because of our culture we have heard the following refrain, “She believe in her daughter too much. You just wait until she disappoint her” and society actually waits for this day to happen. I think this fear prevents many parents from “giving or investing their all.”
The sky is the limit!
I am so tired of seeing parents limit their children out of fear, and based on the opinions and even expectation of others. If your child wants to be an astronaut, foster the interest. Read books. Help him do research. Take a box and make a spaceship or sew him a spacesuit. Tell him about the physicist and astronaut Ronald Ervin McNair. A book, I strongly recommend is “Ron’s Big’s Mission.” It is very inspirational. This story tells children that there is no such thing as the impossible, because anything is possible. Help your child chart the path towards achieving his dreams. Help him shoot for the moon; he may end up catching a star. This is how you have to think as a parent.
Do not let anyone in your child’s sphere who comes in the guise of being a realist; trivialize your child’s dream by even joking, “He can’t become no astronaut. How much people you know is astronaut? How much spaceship you see around ya! You ever see a spaceship, so how is he going to become a astronaut? You all need to take that boy’s head out of the clouds.”
If your child shows a keen interest in a sport, foster this interest also. Do not allow anyone to ask why you have chosen to invest in such foolishness as it will go nowhere, and please do not allow this to happen in the presence of your child. Those people who are dashers or crushers of dreams need not be your child’s sphere. Negativity can only hamper this interest.
Your relationship with your child is yours!
The relationship that you have with your child is yours. It is nobody else’s. As a parent you have to evaluate what is best for you, your child and your family situation. This is something that I firmly believe in. There are always going to be others who have an opinion about what you ought to or ought not to do, especially when it comes to parenting. You are going to hear, “Well I did… I waited until… I did not think it was best… I wasted money sending my daughter to piano lessons, she cannot even play doh re me… I beg you keep your money in your purse… I wish I had… I do not see the benefit of letting him learn tennis… why is he majoring in that… what is he going to do with it when he is done… why are you spending your money on that… well if you ask me I think it is best to start with… can you really afford it…”
Listen, trust your instinct. Nobody knows your child better than you. Your child isn’t his or her child. Nobody knows your situation better than you do. The experience or outcome may not be the same. Do not let any decision you make be based solely on the opinion of others. If you think that your child is ready for music lessons and he or she has just left your womb, let a qualified music instructor tell you that it is too early for him or her to commence formal lessons, do not let that family member or friend who uses you or your child as a yardstick to have a say in such matters. The example may be a bit drastic, but I hope that it clearly illustrates my point.
Be vigilant when it comes to the village that you currently have, and evaluate, evaluate, I cannot say it enough, evaluate. Your relationship with your child is yours! Trust that you know best!
The village must be positive!
Let me end by saying that I am not against the village raising the child. I am not against children being corrected. I am however against negativity. I am definitely for parents doing a periodic check of their friendships, relationships or those people who are in their children’s sphere. I am all for the village playing a constructive role in the development of the child, and providing much needed support to the parent, however the village must be positive.
Quotes – Positive Influences
Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another. Napoleon Hill
Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us. Wilma Rudolph
When it comes to developing character strength, inner security and unique personal and interpersonal talents and skills in a child, no institution can or ever will compare with, or effectively substitute for, the home's potential for positive influence. Steven Covey
Mutryce A. Williams, a native of St Kitts and Nevis is the mother of 4-year-old Daniel and 3-year-old Nicholas. She not only values the many facets of West Indian parenting but also thinks that there is vast room for improvement. A former educator and a child/youth advocate, Mutryce firmly believes that children should not only be seen but heard.. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org