by Claire Shakespeare

The Clipboard - 9 June 2023

“Parents aren’t the people you come from. They’re the people you want to be, when you grow up.” – Jodi Picoult

We are very grateful to our Kāhui Ako o Te Whanganui-a-Tara kura for the opportunity of hosting Joseph Driessen, an internationally recognised education expert, who is presenting a talk about being a parent in today's world. Joseph will be talking about the importance of parenting, balanced parenting, boundaries and routines at home, mental health and the role of social media, managing difficulties as a parent, and empowering parents to be the best they can. This is a free event, from 7pm - 8:30pm on Wednesday 14 June in the Alan Gibbs Centre at Wellington College. Please come along. For further information, please click here.

I think, and this is only my humble opinion, that one of the things a parent wants is for their children, no matter their differences, to take care of each other, to be there for each other, and to understand each other. I can't speak for all parents, but I'm pretty sure we all want the same thing.

I have two boys and a girl (I'm not sure that's applicable anymore because my kids are all in their 30s). I have two men and a woman (that sounds worse). I have three adult children (much better). My relationship has changed over time, as they have grown older. My love for them is as strong as the day they were born, but their reliance on me as their dad has changed over time.

When we were expecting our first child, I spent months reading as many books as I could about parenting. I read Ellen Galinsky's book called The 6 Stages of Parenting. It had just come out in 1987. The stages are image-making, nurturing, authority, interpretive, independent and departure. My parenting was a mixture of all 6, sometimes all at once. Sometimes all in one day, and sometimes all in one incident. One day, my son broke my mum's neighbour's window with a cricket ball. So there were Galinsky's stages in action (I'm sure Ellen Galinsky would be horrified by my interpretation) - a cricket ball going through my mum's neighbour’s window wasn't the image-making that I wanted for that day. My son cried, so I was nurturing - I told him he must apologise and pay for the window. There was authority - because he interpreted that as I would pay for the window. He wanted me to come over with him, and I said this was something he must do alone - independently - and in the end, because they were not home, we wrote a note. I put money in an envelope, and we left it in their letter box and departed!

It's not what the book said, or what Galinsky had researched, but that's what I did, as a frustrated dad, on a Saturday afternoon in Mosgiel, 25 years ago.

Parenting is not an exact science. I would say we all do our very best with what we have. It's all that anyone can ask of us as parents.

My aspirations and hopes for our Coll boys are the same aspirations and hopes as I have for my own children. I want them to be well-rounded, to be great people and help those that need it. To live full and happy lives, to make mistakes and to know that I will understand. To fail and keep going. To have high aspirations for themselves and to see themselves doing incredible things for themselves and for others. To be accountable for their actions. To make the most out of every chance and every opportunity, and to be grateful for those opportunities. To succeed, and be humble about that success. To acknowledge all those that they meet, and those that help them, and to understand that everyone they meet knows something they don't and can do something they can't. To stand up for others who can't stand up for themselves. To keep learning every day. To be confident, to lead when needed and to follow when needed. To be respectful at all times, and to leave the world in a better place than they found it.

My mum would say "You can walk quietly in the snow, but still leave deep footprints for others to follow."

Most of all, I want them to know that Wellington College will always be their home, and that we will always be here if they ever need us, no matter how old they get. We will always welcome them with open arms. We will always be whanau.

I think knowing that, our boys will always have a place, a second home with us, where people are happy to see them. Sometimes the world is a tough place. At times, our boys may not be understood by the world outside, but they will always be understood at Wellington College.

At the end of each day, I go out and help sort out the boys and the buses (to be honest, I get in the way of the senior boys that already do that job so well - I'm probably more a hindrance than a help). I get to hear snippets of their day, their friendships and vignettes of what they are up to. We are in great heart at WC. Yes, mistakes are made, but always lessons are learned and we emerge much better for it.

I think, and this is only my humble opinion, that one of the things a headmaster wants is for their young people, no matter their differences, to take care of each other, to be there for each other, and to understand each other. I can't speak for all headmasters, but I'm pretty sure we all want the same thing.