The pen is mightier than the parent



The joy of communication. For once, in this beeping and pixelated world we (virtually) live in, this isn’t a reference to mobile phones or the internet – I’m talking about good old pen and paper. Since my daughter started school last September we’ve not only seen her grow into an increasingly sassy confident 5-year-old teenager but we’ve watched her discover the pleasure of being able to write. The wonders of phonetics means that even without accurate spelling, we can still interpret most of the magic that spills out of her head and onto the page.

There have been tales of princesses, retellings of Horrid Henry, birthday party invitations, props lists for imaginary Harry Potter productions and, on a much more simple level, there have been declarations of love. But being able to write hasn’t just allowed her to articulate the pictures and thoughts in her head, it’s demonstrated to me, as a parent, how she’s becoming increasingly independent. And here I shall stifle a sob. Take the example below. Upon a recent visit to her Nanna’s house, my daughter requested an envelope for a letter that she wanted to send to her best friend:


When did the ability to concoct a perfectly implausible story of ponies sliding down rainbows become the means to compose a cry for help? Her first bid for freedom. Is she starting to shun the parental yoke already?

As I know my mum will be reading this (*waves*), I must add that my daughter’s plea is no reflection on Nanna’s hospitality. We are a long way from either child whining “Do we have to go to XXX’s house?” Whilst grandparents provide a steady stream of cakes, cuddles, stories and ballpoint pens to pilfer, their homes are a happy and much looked forward to place to be. What the letter has given me is a glimpse of the future when my children won’t want to be hanging out with Mum or Dad anymore. They won’t be penning requests to be saved, they’ll be texting them to their mates (or probably sending them via Google Glass with a mere twitch of the eye):


This makes me sad. Suddenly I feel an urge to savour every tantrum, every battle to get out of the door, as there will come a point when they won’t seek that attention from me anymore. The other day, I made my daughter promise that we’ll still hug even when she’s as old as me and I’m as old as Nanna. Of course she made the promise but I’m not sure I know how to ensure both of us keep it. Life can throw so many obstacles between people – distance, disagreements, or just growing up and drifting away generally.

So it seems that the bid for freedom all starts with a pen and paper. However, it’s 21st century technology that will hold us together. We might not always be able to ‘touch’ but we can ‘be in touch’. We can ‘share’ even when we can’t be there in person. One day, when my children have Facebook profiles, I’ll advocate the introduction of a ‘dislike’ button – I’m sure I won’t always ‘like’ what they do and the naughty step will no longer be an option. But whatever happens, I hope they will always need their mum and dad and we’ll have kept that promise to hug – even if it’s just a virtual {{{hug}}}.

4 thoughts on “The pen is mightier than the parent

  1. I think that you are describing one aspect of what is known as NRS – Neediness Reversal Syndrome. (OK I made that up.) Our need to be essential to our children’s happiness increases as their dependence on us declines. It’s only in communication that that need can be met; feeding them, clothing them, cuddling them to sleep and administering plasters – they all matter now. But unless our children stay connected to us as they grow and (gulp) make their own ways about the world, we don’t know if they need us or not.

    Another aspect of NRS is that it won’t be all that long (and I know) before you start showing your children what YOU’VE written in order to get their approval.

    1. Show them blog posts for approval? Eeek. I’m conscious that they might read them one day so am applying some filters to my fingertips already!

  2. Excellent article Helen! Feeling the same here and wishing often times that the clock would slow down. Thank you for writing this article. Lots of love and xxx from the sunshine.

  3. Thanks for commenting Hiba. I must admit that I do sometimes spend time wishing things would go faster – like bed times for example! Hope you’re all well and that your aircon is ready for your summer! xxx

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