How will things feel when your baby is 6 years old? There is a lot you can do today to make sure things will feel good by then, like having coffee with your mummy friends.
Imagine your child is 6 and comes home from school very tired one day. You'd ask him: "What's up? and he'd answer: "I am exhausted because I have used so much courage today."
You'd be intrigued and hope that nothing will interrupt this conversation. You'd want to ask but at the same time you'd know that only if you are silent your child will open his heart. So you'd take a deep breath and just wait.
Sure enough the story would come.
“At the daily meeting today, I raised an issue that was very important."
"Yes, I said that I don't like it when my friends say that I am in love with Jane. I mean, I like her and we both have grandparents in the same city, so that's cool. But this does not mean I am in love. I don't want to marry her and have children. I don't even have a crush on her. I like her and that's it."
"The teacher complimented me."
"I bet. It is a very important issue and it does take courage to raise it."
"Yes I know. It also bothers me when they say I have many girlfriends, but I did not have enough courage to raise that one. I chose the thing I had enough courage for."
You'd want to hug your son and you'd be filled with a sense of gratefulness. You'd feel that all the observing, sharing emotions, verbalising thoughts, modelling problem solving must have somehow contributed to shaping what you'd have witnessed today.
That is self-knowledge: knowing about his own emotions and feelings. How love is different from friendship. How upsetting it is to have a feeling labeled wrongly. How awkward and intimidating (maybe downright scary) it is to speak about such feelings in a group. How courage can be summoned. How far is it possible to go with the current resources. That natural confidence that has nothing to do with arrogance. That honest, assertive yet cooperating behaviour.
You'd think, “I believe my child is well equipped. He has probably the best possible defence against bullying.” You may even get carried away and realise a few more things about that baby of yours that used to mould to your body like the softest little present. He knows how to look for love and he knows how to look for friendship. He knows how to address a problem and to get help to find a solution. He is sensitive. He is brave. He is strong. He is caring.
At this point, you'd figure out that it's not just your parenting that could do that. Although you'd know you have tried your hardest, there is no way that all that goodness could come just from you.
You'd start thinking about your choice of school. You'd be encouraged that picking the one that you’d think would contribute most to nurturing his mind and his soul. That place allowed him to practice behaviour that is respectful, empowered, conscious and mindful of others...yes! That must have been one of the good choices you made in the last few years.
Imagine you then get a call at bedtime that day. It'd be the mum of that girl. She'd be all excited. "Have you heard what happened today?” She would fill you in, telling you that the chair of the meeting (her daughter) had asked, "So who has a solution to suggest?" and that one of the older children of the group would have come up with the wise: "If you are not sure, don't say it."
At that point you would realise that you are part of a community of people who are really working together to make important values a reality. You need teachers who are able to "step back" and let children take responsibility, for instance through self-chaired daily meetings.
You need children who speak up. You need children who look for solutions and encourage others to come up with useful ideas. You need children who can think of new ideas for new problems. You need children who are confident and able to share their proposed solution with the group. You need a group that you can trust to at least try to implement that solution. You need a fellow mum who gets as excited as you about all of this. Maybe you are different from me and what makes you tick may not be self-awareness, emotional management and constructive decision making. You might be into a whole different life trip.
That's not the point here. What matters for you and your child is that you find that crowd who gets excited about what you love. The village to raise your child.
Finding your village does not happen overnight. It happens through those sleep-deprived coffees with another new mum who laughs at the same silly jokes as you and who is equally amazed at the unique sound of your baby's farts today. It happens by sharing the tears of those first days in daycare. It happens in those afternoons at the park where nobody seems to say more than three words in a row, but everyone goes home feeling that the others are wonderful human beings.
That is your village. It may look and sound different from what you’d have thought. It may lead you to unexplored territory. It may even push you out of your comfort zone. But just to get you one step further, one step wiser, one step happier. Your village is your protection against PST, OCD, PSTD and all those nasty things that happen to our minds and hearts when you face a task too big in isolation and/or hostility.
Use your courage and ask that intriguing mum for her phone number. Go ahead and have coffee with those parents that seems to "get it." That's how you find your crowd. That's how you build your village. One day, when baby is 6 years old, you will have proof (tangible proof!) that it does pay off.
* Inspired by the true experience of Silvia and her son Raphaël, this post is not in any way supported or sponsored by his school