As parents we know how children enrich our lives, how they make us proud, how they give us valuable new perspectives and focus our minds on the future. Yes, there are always bumps and bruises on the way as they learn life lessons – they come with the territory, but children are nevertheless an immense blessing. It is remarkable how they progress with our tender care from helpless babes in arms to adults towering over us in a mere eighteen years.
To my mind at least, those years have sped by. I have two children at university and one sitting her GCSEs and I’m only too aware that within a very short space of time, they will all have flown the nest and I’ll only be able to hope that the guidance that my wife and I have given them will serve them sufficiently well as they confront the daunting challenges that life will throw at them. Many parents will be in a similar situation.
We all live in hope that everything will be just fine when they depart from under our roof. But will they? Have we done enough for them? Have we passed on all the crucial life lessons that we have picked up through our own journeys through life?
Enjoy the ride
This unnerving prospect has very much played on my mind for a few years to the extent that in the summer of last year, I decided that hope alone was simply not enough. There were gaps to plug, be they conversations that we had not had, opinions that not been aired or quite simply nuggets of key advice had not been provided – advice that could help them to take the right path rather than the other at a key juncture. I decided to write a book. Enjoy the Ride! was my solution.
In a convenient A to Z format and this is the result, although it is aimed at my children, it is very much the case that the sentiments are universal and there is much for other parents to take away. In today’s society, busy as we all are, it is hard for us to make time for those vital life conversations to take place. And we need to have them. With teenagers, that’s doubly challenging!
So, what are those key life lessons lessons?
I would argue that all twenty-six are key and I have arranged them to progress from ambition, via such titans as education, family, gratitude, joy, reflection and sensitivity, to that powerful approach to life that is zest, which concludes my collection. For me though, some of these are truly indispensable and all parents should seek to target these before their offspring move off to pastures new.
Here are my top three life lessons all parents should teach them children:
Love is essential. Where would we be without it? It is the bond that links all generations and sparks each family unit, growing in intensity as the tentacles of the family grow with the addition of children and in-laws and grandchildren. It makes such a difference to the way that we all cope with life.
If love is there in some form, it wraps its embrace around us, giving us joy, care and safety. As parents, we need to teach our children what love is. They will need to understand this for their own lives to be happy and to enable them to convey this to others. It quite simply makes the good old world go round and as parents we do our bit to maintain that momentum.
This may surprise some. I would place this above all others. It is such an evocative word. We may instinctively think of John Bunyan and “He who would valiant be, ‘gainst all disaster” or we may call to mind amazing acts of heroism or the Victoria Cross and its motto – For Valour. The truth is that we all at times need to have recourse to a bit of valour to get us through.
Life has the capacity to lay a few snares round to trip us up and potentially cause harm and distress and for these our children must be prepared. They must dig deep and find that inner strength, that valour to get out of a tricky situation.
We all have difficult days, deal with awkward people, have to cope with illness or face daunting challenges of many kinds. We have to prepare our children for that unexpected and unwelcome element. We certainly would not want it for them, but such difficulties are a fact of life and in the book, I focus on the need to be dignified, to keep believing, maybe having recourse to faith, but above all to stay courageous.
A point to emphasize though is the need for them to use the bad times, to reflect on them when all is done – and to learn from them. Life is, after all, a learning journey!
The final occupant of my top three life skills has to be money. I wouldn’t want it to be there ideally, but it has crept in – and it must! We all have different views on this. For some of us, its acquisition is a key objective of life, for others it has lesser importance. I fall into the latter category – I’ve spent thirty years in teaching after all! I’ve also glimpsed the other side with a brief spell in accountancy.
My message to my children – and I would guess it’s the same for most of us – is that money has to be respected. It’s usually hard earnt and if we are not careful, easily lost! If my children are comfortably off, then I’m happy, because the Bank of Mum and Dad has its limits.
If they decide that they are not after riches and wealth, but are happy to settle for a life where the pursuit of the filthy lucre is not a key aim, then again, I’m happy. As long as they are not living hand to mouth.
Essentially, this is a tough one. Our own experiences with money, whether successful or otherwise, feed into the kind of life that our children aspire to. It’s inevitable. They look at what we have achieved and decide their path accordingly, but whatever direction they set off in, we are the ones with the experience and the wisdom here one way or another, so it’s a must-have conversation, however we choose to approach it.
A springboard for discussion
And the approach to all this is the interesting thing for me. If we select our top three, top ten or twenty-six messages as I have, how best to start the discussion? The obvious reply is each to his or her own, but if not round the dinner table or whilst seeking to avoid interminable discussions on Brexit or whilst watching Bake-Off, why not after buying this book use it as a nifty little springboard for discussion?
One of my friends summed the book up as being a 21st Century attempt at re-writing “If” by Rudyard Kipling. Wonderful poem though that is, that perfect specimen is surely unattainable. But there’s no denying the importance of filling Kipling’s “unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run”.
Kipling’s Earth will indeed be theirs long after we are gone, so if we can spare the time to engage in whatever form, spoken, written, text. We have to let our children know their value to us and what we hope they may develop into and achieve. With that said, we may well reflect – which is more – that we have done our jobs as parents, my friends!
Enjoy the Ride is available to buy from Amazon below:
Cheltenham author, Robert Osbourne has been a teacher of languages since the early 1990s. A husband and father, his family life has provided the perfect inspiration for his debut book.