On a weekend when we were supposed to celebrating in the sunshine with our families, I found myself sitting In the garden, drinking home-made elderflower cordial with my husband and pondering on the enormity of parenthood, the length of it and the breadth of it. I couldn’t have envisaged my eldest daughter teaching small children and loving them, my younger daughter working in the Victoria area of London, where my father spent his working life, and forging her own path in a world so different from my own. I never imagined that at a time of national crisis I wouldn’t be able to hold them in my arms and comfort them, and in doing so comfort myself with their warmth and the familiarity of their skin.
Parenthood. I’m in awe of it, of the role we play in our children’s lives, of the responsibility we have, for the the care, protection, nurturing, love, and guidance of another human being. Ultimately too, for the responsibility of letting them go when they are fledged and ready to fly so that even in isolation they can thrive and be joyful.
When I reflect, I can remember so clearly gazing in wonder at Olivia when she was born, and realising that I had never seen anything quite so beautiful, but also being afraid because of her vulnerability. She was a miracle. When Lizzie arrived, my second beautiful miracle, they became sisters and a new relationship was created, one that I was part of and yet also separate from. I was thrilled that these two tiny girls would have each other. I was confident with Lizzie and did what I knew to be right. She remains my laid-back child and I’m sure that is related to my laid-back parenting of her.
I have watched my daughters grow and now LPW parents are watching their children grow. Relish the commonplace: the chocolate-coated hands and mouth, the grubby knees and the nettle stings you can sooth; relish the furrowed brow that you can smooth away with a caress, enjoy cooking together, laughing together, playing together. I know that this time is hard but one day it will be over and you may miss the contact and the time you have shared. Children are not perfect and neither are we, their parents, but imperfection is more beautiful than perfection in its own precious and unique way.
As I look down the generations to my children I look back to my parents who too are isolated. They fill their days and their time with conversations and memories; they gave to me my love for life and for family, my determination and my confidence. We are all part of a chain and what we give to our children will, in turn, impact on what they give to theirs. You carry messages from your parents and from their parents to your children, and to their children too in time. Choose the messages you carry with care.
It is the greatest honour and privilege to be a parent and the greatest responsibility too. It is a great honour and privilege to share the upbringing of the children attending our school. Thank you.