"Worry not what your child might be tomorrow, instead, forget not what he/she is today. All children need space to grow. They need the roots of family and the wings of imagination to thrive in whatever soil they are placed. A learned and stimulated child needs avenues to explore, magical things that excite and mystify, the right to fail, and the permission to have secret friends who are invisible to the prying eyes of adults. You will keep your child young and innocent as long as you maintain the preservation and identity of Santa. You will keep them inventive if you give permission to play in snow, make mud balls to throw and grant them allowance to jump and splash in puddles on rainy days. All days must be filled with time to dream, bed-time stories after saying prayers and a good night kiss before sleep. Do all this, along with a constant supply of love and reassurance from mum and dad and you will have a happy child and good adult in the making.
There are many adults who believe that having children is all that it takes to make them a parent. Let me tell them, it makes them no more of a parent than having a piano makes one a pianist! In order to know how best to play the role of parent, the first thing to learn is how a child plays when they think you are not looking.
I learned very early on in my life that a happy family is one where at least one parent knows the importance of all the little things that matter in a child's life. When I first crayoned a picture at Infant School and brought it home to my mother, she received it lovingly from my hands, smiled, kissed me and said, 'That's lovely, Billy.' Then, when she thought I wasn't looking, she pinned it on the lounge wall, and this made want to crayon another one. We were a Catholic family and always had 'holy water' in the house to bless ourselves each morning and night. When mum thought I wasn’t looking, I would see her bless herself and whisper a prayer, and seeing this, I came to understand there was a God I could always talk to. I often wanted to say thanks to mum for all the things I learned from her when she thought I wasn't looking, but to have said 'thanks' would have told her that I had been!
Whenever handing out advice to children, never forget their childlike wants and needs, for like adults, they are only prone to accept the advice that echoes the message they long to hear. My mother was always one for giving me advice on what to do or not do and how best to do it. My father rarely gave me advice. What made me admire him was the knowledge that he kept little personal money from the unopened, brown wage packet he tipped up to mum weekly. Always having little money provided him with no need for a wallet to carry inside his coat, but what I do know however, was that within the inside pocket of his coat, he always carried a photograph of mum holding me as an infant, and that told me I was a wanted child.
Christian parents carry a heavy responsibility to teach their children to distinguish between the absolutes of 'right' and 'wrong' and 'good' and 'bad', as well as show them how to recognise those qualities and vices of character that both attract or keep at bay, salvation or damnation. If the child can come to believe in God's presence in all mankind, they will experience their happy family environment to be an early heaven. Christian parents should never forget though, the powerful influence their words have on little ears and remember that the parent's voice, to a child, is like the voice of God. This is why parents should teach and not indoctrinate, show how to discern and not discriminate, educate how to criticise without condemning and demonstrate by their restraint if needs be, how to be in a hostile environment without displaying the instinctive urge to hit out and fight.
I truly believe that children live best when they live with approval. Parental approval enable children to like, accept and trust themselves much earlier on in life. I also believe that any child who lives with acceptance, trust and friendship as constant companions, learns to find love in their heart for all earthly creatures and things, along with the courage to never give up when the chips are down.
All these things I believe to represent sound parental guidance. I knew some of this knowledge in my earlier life as a parent, but like most parents, I made many mistakes the first time round. I learned not to repeat the same mistakes and made fewer the second time, but I only gathered in all these leaves of wisdom in the autumn of my life when my children had grown and my fathering days had passed. "William Forde: March 24th, 2016.