Friday, 21 August 2015

The power of parenting solidarity

Our eyes locked only for a second but it was enough.

"I know how you feel. I feel the same. And we're doing our best."

An important message, silently communicated between two strangers.

The scene? A crowded courtyard, alive with sounds, scents and colour during one of the world's biggest arts festivals.  People had travelled thousands of miles to be there.  There was no end of stimulation for the senses.  It should have been an amazing experience, for all ages.

And yet.

In the midst of this activity, my eleven-year-old had a face like a thundercloud. Her body language was closed.  She looked, quite frankly, as though she'd rather be anywhere but here.  And with anyone but her family.

At risk of sounding pathetic, I wanted to cry.  Four days away at the very end of the Scottish school holidays. That was all we had managed to squeeze in together as a family, between work and other commitments. I'd looked forward to it so much that I'd forgotten something essential: Kids don't have a happy button that you switch on along with the car ignition at the start of the trip.

And then I saw her.  A woman around my age. Nicely dressed, *normal* looking - but with an expression just like mine. Two feet away from her: A girl around my daughter's age. Nicely dressed, *normal* looking - but with an expression just like my daughter's.

We didn't speak. But I think we might have saved one another's day.

Please know that I don't take pleasure from others' struggles. But in the challenging world of parenting, I think it's important to let one another know that we all share these struggles.  And that struggling doesn't mean you are a bad parent. Or that you're getting it wrong.

All stages have their challenges.  The infants who won't sleep more than three hours at a time.  The terrible twos who turn into terrible threes.  The mood swings of adolescents. The full-blown rebellion of older teenagers.

As a fellow parent, we don't always have answers for our friends.  And sometimes that doesn't matter. What does matter goes beyond words.  It's what that anonymous lady and I did for one another.  It's letting someone know that they're not alone and they're not being judged.

And - despite how they may feel - that they're doing a really important, really tough job pretty damn well.

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