Of course reading is essentially about accessing other viewpoints and experiences that we have not had the luxury of experiencing, principally because we aren’t the person expressing them irrespective of whether we too have visited Petra, giving birth, sky-dived or lost our soul-mate. I believe reading is critical to making our way in the world effectively, responsibly and lovingly – open heartedly and hopefully open-mindedly.
Life is challenging enough and remaining so can be a struggle as our feet fall into grooves ever-deepening and our responses and reactions become more engrained. Maybe it’s me, but reading widely and frequently is fundamental to constantly challenging your belief-system and awareness.
I want to help my daughter learn this for herself and to give her the tools to grow her own internal world as well as her interaction with the world about her but without the crippling self-doubt of her parents.
I already knew that for a message to be authentically received, actions must match words and – along with my own crisis, midlife or otherwise – of the last few years, reading with her has set me back on my own path, thinking about and re-considering the messages we speak of to our children when we read Emma Dodd (highly recommended) and Giles Andreae (10 times a day.) It’s not enough to read the words to her when what a child sees is a mother paralysed by criticism, self-belief and the fear of others’ opinion. The gap between the reading of concepts like being yourself, finding your path, being free to be you are just words if a parent can’t live it. Reading this is easy. Living it, learning it a life’s work.
My Cliff Richard youthfulness (this is a joke) has nothing to do with my skin and everything to do with demeanour. (i look in the mirror and see a 40 year old. I open my mouth and hear a child.) It is certainly not true of many of my childless friends who have navigated adulthood with maturity whilst retaining their joie de vivre, but for ME, it has taken not only having a child, but a further two years into parenting before I have been able to excise myself of self-doubt. This sounds simple: Step 1: shed self-doubt. Right. Thanks for that.
For me, shedding that skin felt like being flayed alive over months. It had been no less than brutal and frankly it did not go quietly. It has taken a frankly brutal return to work, post-maternity; a bruising but not unwelcome redundancy; the entering into full-time consultancy whilst growing a toddler simultaneously managing dwindling financial, energy and time resources alongside the most challenging work project of my working-life. These have been notes from the trenches of an inner war being waged on myself.
Now, it’s gone. I have buried it, like a placenta, with love under a rosebush. That person held me back, but she was decent and I was cruel and merciless in a way I pray I never have to witness my daughter be to herself.
So this morning, when my daughter shocked me by asking that most dreaded of questions when i asked that she present herself onto the changemat, I couldn’t believe my ears when she replied “why?”
But I was ready and I was not afraid.