The thing I like best about Dr Spock's book is his section on the fit between parent and child. His thesis is that babies are born with a temperamental proclivity (quiet, restless, buoyant etc), but what matters is not how much like the parents a child is, but how the parents feel about and react to that child's temperament. An introspective mother might enjoy having a very outgoing daughter. An extroverted father might be disappointed in a shy son and consequently ignore him. Good fit/bad fit.
All along I've felt that Oli and I were a good fit, but sometimes I wonder if that's based on me thinking (narcissistically) that he is very like me.
At every stage as he gets older, I think, oh, I only just feel like a parent and he is only just becoming a person. School is the great challenge, the great unknown, and we've only just begun there.
When he was two or three, I secretly wondered if he would, any day, reveal himself to be a mathematical genius or begin reading without any coaching. He didn't.
Instead, when he was four, two drama teachers repeatedly told me he was "gifted". At five, two other drama teachers have effectively said the same. And it's not just them. His ballet teacher remarks on his "imagination". In fact, countless people remark on it, including his school teacher.
This is a bit perplexing to hear. Most four and five year olds like to pretend and to dress up. Oli is not an all-singing, all-dancing, performing type of child (though the fact he does drama and ballet lessons might suggest that to those who have not met him.) But I've heard the "imagination" remark so many times now, I suspect it does point to something unique about him.
What do you do if you have an especially imaginative child? (Perhaps nothing different to what we've been doing all along...?)
I've read and heard numerous recent interviews with Alain de Botton about his book Status Anxiety. I was thinking that as a contemporary parent I feel a nebulous kind of anxiety about my child's future (leaving aside issues of global warming etc for the moment). The old middle-class parental aspirations - to have a child with a highly successful career, marriage and family - just don't apply any more. I know enough about life to realise that being a doctor or lawyer doesn't make you a happy or nice human being. Getting married and staying monogamous could indicate simply that you're a very insecure, scared person.
Now that my child has entered an environment where his skills are measured and compared with other children's, it's impossible to keep the outside world and its definitions of success at bay. (Of course they never were entirely at bay, as we live in the world.) Having a child at school also provokes many memories and reflections of my own schooling, what I was like as a child, what excited me and whether or not (not, mostly) I was able to continue with those activities and passions as I grew up.
I've grown to hate that term "juggling act" as aplied to motherhood, but it does come in useful for thinking about this core activity of parenthood - trying to figure out who your child is, protect his essential attributes and guide him towards the skills which he can use to become a happy and yes, successful, person, if success means giving full expression to yourself.