So I’m reading ‘Secrets of Happy Parents: How to have kids and stay in love’ by Steve Buddulph, quite a title! I’m a bit of a self-help / non-fiction junky, partly because I become too damned embroiled in fiction and can’t quite extract it from my daily life (I’m the type who cried in Home and Away when whatever her name was finally died of leukemia all those years ago). Anyway here are his valuable lessons (so far):
Lesson 1: we all have 3 parts to our personality (according to some psychologist or other) – Child, Parent and Adult. Child would delight at the pudding trolley at a restaurant (do they still have such things?), Parent would worry over calories and nutrition, Adult would rationalise and say a little won’t hurt. Each of us have all 3 but in different measures – some of us are more playful, others overly sensible, others nagging and authoritarian. When we meet partners and friends they all interplay and ruts develop where you might ‘Parent’ a partners ‘Child’, changing which one you lead with can help get out of these ruts.
Lesson 2: Recyling – all of us recycle our parents ‘stuff’ and all their sayings reactions etc come out when we have kids (surprise surprise) but what was interesting was that it is triggered at the ages it happened to us so that a man who had got on with his kids for many years saw them all run away, in turn, at 14. When asked by a counsellor why he ran away at 14, he was shocked, but the family counsellor knew that this might well have been the case and that the boys reaching this age triggered this issue in the family. Knowing at what age certain feelings or events arose is very helpful, something reiterated by Oliver James who wrote ‘They F*** You Up’, also geared towards finding out as much about your childhood as you can so you can work through it and be free to bring up your kids as you actually wish to, not are programmed to.
Which brings me neatly to Family Storytelling Day, a lighter look at families and their stories! I’m reading Neil Griffiths ‘Are you Sitting Comfortably, Then I shall Begin’, a guide to storytelling from the inventor of Storysacks (sacks of books, games, activities, DVDs and puppets to bring stories alive for young children). It occurred to me, while reading it, that the stories my kids love best of all (bearing in mind that I sell the gorgeous Barefoot Books and that we have groaning shelves of amazing stories) are those about our family. The most popular of these include, but are not limited to:
- the time Nana (my mum) left the goose fat cooking on the hob and nearly burnt down the house with my sister (then a baby) in it
- the time Nige drove over Grandpa’s foot with a tractor
- the time I ate a piece out of 45 chocolate Easter eggs while staying on a ranch with my family in Canada (age 4) when I got up early one morning to see this amazing display
- the time Nige and I got snowed in to a tiny village in Alaska that was only accessible by plane
- the time I slept in a log cabin in Canada and saw a brown bear through the window
- the time I went with Dats (my dad) and caught a rabbit on the prairie outside our house
- the time i lost Gabe in a supermarket / car boot sale / park / festival (if you have a ‘runner’ you’ll understand that I’m not a rubbish parent
So here’s my challenge: find a nice notebook and start taking notes. Interview your parents, siblings, whoever. Get dates, timelines, stories and family jokes. I started this with my parents but have got to both of them being about 35 (my age interestingly) but am aware that I want to get on with it before I can’t. I always wish I’d listened more carefully when I heard my grandmother talk about her sisters both dying of heartbreak (the first as her fiancee died and the second because her beloved sister died).
So record it or remember it before it’s too late!