John Cowan - Who Is That Child?

Publish Date
Friday, 15 January 2016, 1:42PM
By John Cowan

For a long time I thought that parents shaped their children.  I believed that we coached and mentored and disciplined them into the adults they eventually become. I now wonder if that is correct.  I look at my three adult children: they are so totally different! (They are also totally wonderful, but that’s a father’s opinion). I have a serious oldest son who wants to change the world, a brilliant daughter who loves business and science, and an artistic youngest who lives in a world of music and philosophy. If I was such a key factor in making them who they are, how did they end up so different from each other? If I was shaping them, did I have any of these shapes in mind? No. They just ‘turned out’ that way.

I now see my role has been more of a gardener than craftsmen. It is like I got some packets of seeds, but the labels had come off. I planted them all and nurtured them the same but, after a while, I saw that some seeds were coming up as beans, others as watermelon, some as corn and so on.  When I know what I’m growing I can start to cultivate them appropriately – staking the tomatoes, training the vines, lifting the rhubarb… real gardeners would have better illustrations than me.   The gardener is important, but I cannot turn a marrow into a cauliflower… I have to discover what it is then work with that.

A big part of the pleasure of parenting is just discovering who your kids are! By all means fertilise their good character and weed out their negative habits but stand back and discover who this child really is!   You will have – and should have – dreams for your kids but it is far more important to let them discover their own dreams.  They may be like you, but they are not you, and so their talents and tastes and ambitions might be completely different.

More and more of who they are becoming is revealed year after year. So, make friends with them, over and over again. Make friends with your toddler, and then again with your school age child, your adolescent, your young adult. They change and change and change and never stop changing and so the discovery process never stops, either.

Well done, gardener. You have a fine crop there. If we can help you or garden, get in touch at the

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