MUMS AND DAUGHTERS
Mums and daughters - a dad's perspective
IJohn Cowan on mums and daughters – from a dad's perspective.
have not had much experience as a woman but I did, in fact, live for two whole months completely as a female. (They were the first eight weeks after my conception, when all embryos are essentially female – then my Y chromosome pulled the trigger on some hormones that launched my male career). I admit I cannot remember much of that time but I think my mother was very important to me, even though I probably made her sick.
Petra Bagust and I recently addressed a group of mums and daughters about their relationships with each other. Petra was able to speak authoritatively because she is both a mum and daughter, and I spoke because I seldom know when to shut up. The feedback? Of course they loved Petra, but my perspective as a dad was appreciated as well. Here are a few observations based on my own home and from discussions with other dads.
It’s close – we envy the easy intimacy between mums and daughters. It’s complex – at times, that sentence above is completely wrong, and the tension just makes us want to go and find something to fix in the garage. The closeness is easy enough to understand. The complexity is more complex. (I have such a way with language). That very closeness means mums and daughters will know how to irritate each other perfectly! The closer someone is to you, the more opportunities they have to bug you. (Another example of this is the survey that asked 800 people who the most annoying person in their world was. The most common answer was their spouse, even if they loved them!) When things are sweet with mums and daughters, no love could be better. But when irritations and stress come, they know exactly where each other’s buttons are and how to push them for best effect.
Because so many of the blow-ups happen during the daughter’s adolescence, it is easy to blame it all on hormonal moods. Hormones are powerful (look what they did to me at eight weeks gestation) and they can definitely amplify emotions, but I think the real issue is often that daughters are wanting to assert, “I am not my mother!” And here is the interesting thing – dads get this! We are wise enough to know we will not understand very much about the female world, but we are surprisingly wise to the idea that
IJuliet Small, Principal of Saint Kentigern Girls’ School, shares how we can encourage our kids to see a mistake not as a failure but as an opportunity to create something extraordinary – a ‘beautiful oops’.
have a favourite picture book which I love to read to children as it has such a positive and powerful message. Barney Saltzberg’s Beautiful Oops! is itself a work of art.[ The book
1] shows children that we can get creative results through relaxing about our mistakes and actually using what we think are errors to create beautiful pieces. This three-dimensional picture book focuses on creativity and imagination, turning mistakes into animals and mysterious shapes. I have read it again recently to groups in our school library during Book Week.
Is your child that person who starts drawing, makes one little line and says, “Oh no, that’s not right!” before scrunching the paper into a ball and throwing it into the rubbish bin? Does she then try again and throw it in the bin repeatedly in frustration? In situations like these, children need to be encouraged to embrace any imperfections, and be told that they can draw, they can write and they can create!
Our New Zealand Curriculum states that we want our young people to be, “Creative, energetic and enterprising.”[ The document
2] lists values which are important and makes specific reference to, “Innovation, inquiry and curiosity, by thinking critically, creatively and reflectively.” Sir Ken Robinson is an English author, speaker and international adviser on education. He speaks a great deal to educationalists about the importance of creativity in schools. Robinson says, “Creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”[
3] As teachers and parents, we need to create situations where we encourage risk-taking. It is essential that we demonstrate to children that making mistakes is part of learning.
What can we do to help children?
As adults we must model having a go, making a mistake, and taking a risk We need to share our feelings by verbalising what is going on for us during frustrating moments, because it shows our kids that it is normal to get frustrated and cross with ourselves In fact, we can model working through this frustration. Walk away and come back with ‘fresh eyes’ Get some help or advice
guess that I was actually the designer. I sewed a skirt precisely to the pattern with gorgeous Italian fabric. But, on completion, the zip stuck out as it was placed on the side in this particular design. I was so disappointed. However, instead of loathing it for the mistake, my sewing teacher encouraged me to celebrate the garment and create something truly original. She guided me to gather the material at the side, and created a sophisticated ruched, Spanish look that made the hem asymmetrical and helped me create a completely original skirt.
I now wear this skirt with pride, knowing that I created a piece that is totally unique and superior to the first design. By sharing my story, I demonstrated not only that I make mistakes, but actually by being positive and viewing the happening as an opportunity, I created something novel.
If your child is battling with a Science Fair project, think of the invention of the popsicle. Sometimes the simplest idea is the most effective. It doesn’t matter if the resulting idea is different to what was first planned. A poem for school may have started out about the beauty of winter but ended up being an entertaining account of the time when Dad slid over on the ice.
It doesn’t matter that the outfit that your child put together for Book Week looks more like ‘Thing One’ and ‘Thing Two’ than her first idea of a character from Harry Potter. If one of the hip hop dancers is away sick on the day that your child’s group is recording the video entry for the school competition, help your child to look on the bright side. Maybe the asymmetric look of the choreography will start a new dance craze?
So the next time there are tears over a homework project because it doesn’t look right or the work didn’t come out as planned, encourage your child to view it as an original piece of work. To use Barney Saltzberg’s phrase, “When you think you have made a mistake, think of it as an opportunity to make something beautiful.” Juliet Small, Principal of Saint Kentigern Girls’ School saintkentigern.com/girls-school