Thursday, 31 May 2012


I bet no-one ever told you that parenting is like archery. One of the many things I have had to learn about through my boys is bows and arrows. Oh yes, we've made them, bought them at extortionate prices from gift shops that you can't avoid walking through and even played imaginary bows and arrows. I actually surprise myself sometimes with my new found knowledge of these things. Little boys (and big ones, it seems) love bows and arrows.

And last night I was having a bedtime conversation with Max. You know, the kind where they actually talk to you not because they want to chat particularly but because they don't want to go to bed yet, but I make the most of every chatting opportunity with Max because he mostly doesn't tell me anything except the football score or the latest injury inflicted on him by one of his brothers. We were chatting about the future, and how we are helping him to get ready for his future.

It dawned on me that actually, being a parent is just like being an archer. (Ok, now I apologise if I take the little boy illustration too far, but it really was a light bulb moment). You've heard the phrase "I've got a quiver-full". Well, it's true! Our job as parents is to sharpen, polish and prepare our arrows. They're not going to stay in our quiver forever. Arrows are designed to be shot out, and to hit the target they must be prepared properly. A dull, shapeless arrow is not going to be very effective.

Our role as the archer is to sharpen our arrows. It involves scraping and whittling off the bits that shouldn't be there, and shaping it into the point that is going to hit the target. This is what disciplining our children is all about. It is our job. Not the teacher's or the grandparent's or their friend's job. It is ours. They are in our quiver, they are our responsiblity to sharpen. As hard as it is (and believe me, I KNOW how hard it is) we have to sharpen and discipline our children. We must give them boundaries. We must help them become the person they are meant to be. We must train them so that they are ready to hit the target. We love them, cherish them, keep them safe in our quiver and we shape them. We accept them as they are but we help them to change. If we just accept them as they are, and leave them at that, we will end up with blunt arrows that aren't in anyway ready to be fired. This is our job, and we must 'man up' and accept the challenge.

And then, when they're sharpened and ready to be shot, what then? I think that will be the hardest part of all. We must remove them from our quiver of safety, put them in our bow and fire them out. We have to let them fly. On their own. Without us. We have to trust that we have shaped them and prepared them enough for them to reach their target. I have no idea how this will feel. Even now as my boys begin to pull away from me, I feel the shadow of an empty quiver on my back.

As I explained all this to Max last night, he looked at me with his lovely, expressive face going through stages of confusion, understanding and finally excitement.

"What's my target Mum?" He asked me.
"Well, I don't know yet Max, we just have to make sure you're ready when it's time to fly!"

He was thrilled. I left him in bed, thinking up exciting ideas for the rest of his life (unfortunately he stayed awake until 10pm thinking up those ideas) and came downstairs wondering how I will feel when it's time to shoot. Will I be ready? Will they be ready? The quiver will stay on my back forever now, but one day it will be empty and my job will be done.

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