It took me until I was 20 years old to realise the true meaning of responsibility. To really consider what it means to be responsible for my own life, the way I live it and the impact it has on those around me.
I remember the exact day. I was 41 weeks pregnant, exhausted, stressed and sat on my Grandpa’s sofa trying to find a childminder for my then unborn baby. My future at that point greatly depended on finding good childcare so that I could return to University after the summer holidays (a month after the birth) and complete my degree. My University was a 2.5 hour drive from home, so no one at home could help, it needed to be a childminder, and after weeks of searching, calling and enquiring I had gotten nowhere. Things didn’t look too good.
Most of the people around me – Drs, Health Visitors, Tutors, family members, had urged me to take a break from university. To return when my baby was older and I had gotten used to being a Mother. Up until that point I had ignored them – I was determined and head-strong and I knew what I needed to do. This was the moment that threw me – the moment that nearly made me give up.
I had hit a brick wall before my journey had even really begun. There was no one I could ask for help, and this was what life was going to be like as soon as I had given birth and moved away, difficult, harsh and lonely. I felt that I wasn’t enough. I felt abandoned, frustrated, resentful, helpless and hopeless.
At that EXACT moment I had a decision to make. A decision that solely rested on my ability to take full responsibility not just for my child’s life, but also for the success of my own. I could either give up, stay home, stay supported and stay sheltered, or I could take responsibility, keep pushing, trying and moving forward to make my life as a then single parent, a truly incredible one.
That day and the decision I made to take full responsibility for my future and every one of my actions completely altered the way I decided to live the rest of my life. It is the reason behind every lesson I have learnt since then, and every success I have and will ever experience. Taking responsibility for my life, empowered me to totally change it.
It’s not good enough though, that it took me until the age of twenty, to learn and develop what is quite possibly the most important attribute. Sadly I don’t think I am the only one that learnt this lesson later on in life. What’s even more saddening is that it’s a lesson I feel some never truly understand or practice.
A few blogs ago, I wrote about the overwhelming importance of Guy Claxton’s 4Rs – Resilience, Reflectiveness, Resourcefulness and Reciprocity – the strongest attributes, or tools, that if harnessed by our children early on, will prepare them for the challenges they stand to face throughout their lives. These 4Rs and Claxton’s work have been used in schools up and down the country as the ethos behind their entire curriculum – as a way of preparing children to confidently and successfully face an ever changing world. I strongly believe however, that without the addition of an over arching fifth ‘R’, the rest are just not enough. That fifth R is of course R E S P O N S I B I L I T Y.
Our children need to learn responsibility, I feel, as soon as they become aware of the feelings of others. This is usually the time when we are teaching them to share, to be gentle and to be kind to those around them. If at this point, we also added a dialogue surrounding responsibility, and made it a part of our everyday lives – we would be raising empowered individuals who know exactly who they are, who innately know that they have a place in a world upon which they can have an impact.
Our children are our little shadows, they mimic and copy what we do long before they realise they are doing it. Our actions become there’s, and for a while at least, our values become their values, and so as well as talking about responsibility and what it means, we need to show that we truly embrace it too.
Becoming responsible isn’t just about being trustworthy or capable of caring for something other than you, it’s about being accountable, being proactive and not always expecting that there will always be someone there to fix things for you when everything falls apart.
It’s about engaging with the world around you and knowing that what you do has an impact on it – whether that impact is positive or negative and being openly accountable for the impression that you have made.
It’s about depending on only yourself and not placing your learning, motivation, progression, health and happiness in the hands of someone else – whether that person be a teacher, a friend, a lover or a parent.
It’s about always being ready to find solutions, rather than trying to find fault in others in order to place the blame with them.
It’s about constantly feeding your own evolution, knowing that you are always learning and being ready at all times to adapt and embrace change.
I truly believe that we owe it to our children to harness this attribute alongside them. By raising responsible children we create empowered young individuals who aren’t entitled, but who instead see their future as something that they can impact and shape.
To finish my earlier story – I carried on searching the whole of that week. I made sure to tell every childminder that answered the phone about myself, about what I was doing and about how their help would literally change my life. At the end of that week, the day before my baby was born, two childminders contacted me – they had both had to turn me away previously due to ratios and lack of space. The women had decided to make things work by sharing my baby’s childcare and these two women, Sam and Sharon, will possibly never know the impact that they had on my life. Because of these women I was able to graduate and I am beyond grateful for their kindness and the love they showed both my child and me during a time when I was at my most terrified. Responsibility will take you far in life, but kindness is what will make the journey worthwhile.