April 10, 2014

Nobody Said It Was Easy

Thank you to Friends' Kindergarten teacher, and parent of a teenager, Laurie Nakauchi who offers this dynamic piece about parenting....

Laurie Nakauchi with her daughter Maya
When I volunteered to be a “guest blogger”, my plan was to write about brain and learning differences between boys and girls and how Friends’ teachers support all kids by using methods to accommodate those different learning styles. But the words for that article were not flowing because I was distracted by my parenting role.

Some of you may know me only by sight from in the halls or parking lot but to give a little background, I have a teenage daughter who went through Friends’ School (1st-  5th grades) and is now at Boulder High. While I could speak easily about how to teach reading, how to do long division, how to write an acrostic poem…I would hesitate to give parenting advice. There’s no manual, no right or wrong way to do it. It’s a day-to-day process that can be sunshine and smiles one day and tumultuous thunderclouds the next.

Every day I teach, I think about things I have failed at miserably as a parent and those shining moments when I’ve gotten it right. And I take what I’ve learned and apply it to my teaching. I thought I’d share some of my reflections with you.

First, as I’m sure you’ve discovered, parenting is hard. There are constant ups and downs, the rewards can be frequent but given at unknown intervals, and the pay is terrible. But that isn’t why we sign up for this job.

Most of you realize that this is THE most important job you have. Looking back, I realize focusing on boundaries, expectations, routines, personal character traits and values makes a big difference later. The battles over things like homework, bed times, manners, snack choices… seem difficult when you are in the moment but much easier than the ones that come up in middle and high school when the stakes are higher. (Issues like curfew, driving, parties, dating…)

It’s so tempting to be your child’s friend but realize that friends and their influence come and go. But parents are one-of-a-kind. You may not always be popular or your child’s buddy but you’ll always hold that key card of being the parent. And while it may not always seem a powerful position, right now it really is. Your child is highly influenced by YOU.

You are your child’s first and most influential teacher. There is immense power in that. You have the opportunity to set your child up to be strong and independent.

My daughter used to get frustrated with me when she wanted a sandwich or snack and rather than just prepare it for her, I’d walk her through the steps of making it herself. Her frequent complaint was, “Why can’t you just make it for me? It would be faster and easier.” While she had a good point, here is the story I told her.

Maya, 8 at the time, during her
Friends' School days
Imagine you are driving your car on the highway and you get a flat tire. If you don’t know how to fix the tire you are stranded, waiting for someone to come along to either fix the tire for you or to take you somewhere to get help. But if you know how to fix the tire you can do so and then drive along your way.  Which would you prefer?

While time doesn’t always allow us to teach every skill, when you take time you are giving your
child a powerful tool of independence and in turn, confidence to learn new things. This is a gift my parents gave me and I am forever grateful for it.

A final thought on parenting is one I hope you have heard before. No matter what blunders you make, be kind to yourself. Just like we tell our children, “Everybody makes mistakes. Practice makes better. ” Please remember this for yourselves.

When you make a mistake, recognize it and point it out to your child, and explain that next time you will try to do better, you are doing some powerful modeling. You are letting your child see that we all make mistakes and we learn from them and do our best not to repeat them.

Finally, if any of you have teenage children, please pass your words of wisdom on to parents like me. We are lucky to belong to this club called “parenthood” and a little encouragement can go a very long way. 

Laurie has taught a Kindergarten-1st grade loop at Friends' since 2005.

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