Aunty’s dad was upset that none of his three daughters followed him into the family decorating business. We did work with him during holidays though and now all three girls do okay with a paint brush. My partner’s long-time friend is a Captain for an airline and has been flying all his adult life. Two of his three children are now pilots. My partner left school aged sixteen years to work in his dad’s business as a metal worker. Over forty years later, he is still turning metal around on his lathe. My son followed his dad into the fitting/turning trade and now works as a hydraulics’ engineer. I have known parents that have never worked and then wonder why their children fail to get a job, preferring instead to sit on the couch and play video games. I am glad my parents were not into bank robbing or drug dealing. It is obvious that what we do, how we act and treat our kids has a huge impact on them.
We didn’t believe in spoiling our two boys as we figured this would do them no favours. We were not driven to school by our parents so our children walked too. I still don’t know if we were correct in that belief. I am quite sure our sons thought we were harsh making them walk to catch the bus every day, rain, hail or forty-degree heat when all the other kids were being driven to school. Maybe it was mean, but it felt right at the time and, now as adults, neither of the boys are lazy.
My number one son didn’t want to get an after-school job. He liked to come home from school, put his feet up, watch television and play video games. When he was seventeen, I printed out twenty-five copies of his resume, drove him to the end of our street and sat in the car waiting as he went from shop to shop asking for a job. Was that the right thing to do? I still don’t know. My son got offered four jobs that afternoon, picked the best one and worked there for the next couple of years. Today, he has an amazing work ethic.
Sometimes, kids want something different. They want to break away from their parents which shocks the doting parents. When I was twelve, there was no way I was going to the local high school. Boarding school was the only option for me and I expected my parents to fund this and make it happen. I didn’t think of, or care about the impact on my family at all. It was what I wanted that mattered. Imagine my surprise when, over thirty years later, my second son announced that he was leaving home to live with his dad. He was fourteen. There was no discussion, it was what he wanted and I was to make it happen. He was independent, just like his mum.
In later life, our parents still influence our decisions. With two little girls around their feet in a tiny Coronation Street-type house, my mum and dad asked their parents for a small loan to buy a slightly larger and nicer house. Grandad refused this request so my parents decided to find their daughters a bigger house anyway. We flew ten thousand miles to the other side of the world and immigrated to New Zealand where houses were larger and cheaper. Such a huge decision that changed all our lives and we still don’t know whether it was right or wrong. But it was right for my parents in that moment.
I wish someone had explained how much we influence our children when I was twenty-five. Kids come with a placenta but not an instruction manual. We make it up as we go along. To get a driver’s licence, we must pass a written test, practice driving for over a hundred hours, then be assessed on practical skills.
For a forklift licence, you must have practical and supervised experience, attend a course and pass a written and practical assessment. There is no test to become a mum or dad so we can only try our hardest. We do the best we can with the information and resources available to us right now. We make so many mistakes and put our fears, hopes, dreams and decisions onto those little people who stare up at us with love.
Always remember, how you treat your kids today will have long-term consequences.