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Lazy was also at the top of my list of judgments

It was a glorious Joburg day, probably Autumn if I recall the weather as being this good. It is my favourite season.

We sat relaxing on her expansive patio. She had one of those outdoor living spaces with a duplicated lounge and dining area. It was blissful. This was before I had kids of my own and after she had two boys. She was a casual confident woman, still is, and we got on famously. We met each other exercising horses for the rich and famous.

I remember this day because it impacted my parenting even before I was a parent. I am sure you have a story of your own that shaped you in an unexpected way.

We were sipping a sweet rose wine, as relaxed as could be when one of her sons fell off the jungle gym that was at the far end of her garden. She didn’t seem to budge, at least not enough.

If I remember clearly, she tilted her head a tiny bit and took another sip. I was excluded from this moment of observation, this intense and tuned-in gentleness that seemed nothing at all if you weren’t paying attention.

Her son cried out in pain. She had been waiting for his call. Instead of rushing to his aid, she assessed further and then called back to him, something like — can you come here, honey?

I have to admit I thought I was experiencing the worst parenting moment in history, only it was the best parenting moment. As he sorted himself out and brought himself over to us, she looked at me and said…

— people think I am a lazy mom, only they don’t see how I am teaching my kids to get help.

It seemed possible, that she was a lazy mom. Here we were on this gorgeous couch with fancy wine at the top of her manicured lawns and she didn’t move when her son was in distress. Lazy was also at the top of my list of judgments.

But I saw something else as well. I saw restraint. I saw purpose. I saw intention. I also saw care and love. I also saw pride and joy. And I saw a boy come to his mom and get affirmation that his feelings were valid and his pain was legitimate and she was fully there to help him. She smiled at him the whole time, transmitting that she saw in him his abilities.

This has stayed with me.

I do this every day with my children and my charges at the centre. — I can’t do this sum — Which part is troubling you?

This lesson from almost two decades ago merged with every part of my job as a parent and teacher. We are too quick to rush in and rescue our children and our employees. We squeeze out the room they need to take their thinking further, hobbling them before they have a chance to stand up and do something for themselves.

Of course, there are times when you rush like a madwoman and swoop them up. I will never forget when my daughter fell through a hole at the top of a wooden jungle gym. She ran across the little bridge and just disappeared, landing on the side of her head. I was there, without question. That was not a teaching moment, that was an emergency.

When you bend down to tie his shoelaces.
— move aside my son, I am much better at this than you are.

We talk to our children all the time. With small movements and big actions, with tiny glances and vicious stares. With no comment or by just turning away. Or talking for them.

Are we ashamed of them, embarrassed by them, rushed and frustrated by them? Are we accepting of them, proud of what they can do and focused on helping them reach further and achieve more?

Can we shut out the world and our own agenda and connect with them?

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