A few years back, when my kids were still little (around two and five years old) another mum-friend made a comment as our play-date was coming to an end. She said: "I always learn something about parenting after I’ve been with you". Two thoughts flashed simultaneously in my mind:
1. I must be a boring person to hang out with!
2. Can’t she tell I’ve got no idea what I’m doing?
I’m pretty sure I laughed in her face, but she shook her head and said: “You use all your teacher-tricks… like when you do the ‘I’m getting serious count’ you start at five and go down to zero and you don’t muck around. I start at one and drag it out. I got to eleven the other day before I realised I had no idea where I was going. When would I stop? At a hundred? A thousand?”
A thank you to teachers, everywhere, from Sydney to Cambodia. Post continues below.
I’m pretty sure our conversation degenerated into an analysis of the highest number our eldest child might know and I assured her that I’d made it to zero plenty of times without my child slipping into the compliant obedience I was seeking.
“Yes,” my friend said, “but you do have tricks up your sleeve. I learn a lot.”
Since then, I’ve tried to be less boring when I get together with friends. I’ve also become aware of things that I do as a parent that are actually techniques and strategies I’ve transferred over from my classroom days. I suspect many teachers-who-are-parents also employ these tools, although it is likely that I’m a strange – and boring – anomaly.
Now, please let the records show that I am by no means a “parenting expert”. On any given day I’m fumbling my way through this mothering gig using basic survival strategies and my somewhat dodgy intuition. Since being handed my baby Olivia some 11 years ago, I’ve lived with the vague sense that I’m doing something wrong and indeed some days I am: incorrect school uniform, missing appointments and completely losing my cool over a wet towel left on the bed – like I mean completely losing my cool. Occasionally I have mothering meltdowns that are so colossal, they have become part of our family folklore (story to follow). For now, let it be known, I’m no parenting expert (I’m not even a parenting enthusiast). However, I am aware that I do rely on my teaching skills as I’m “parenting”.