Parenting Talking Point

Body parts and parenting dilemmas

Self Portrait with Buff
Written by Stuart Wickes

Talking Point: Body parts and parenting dilemmas

I think one of the kids has been studying body parts at school. I know this not because she’s brought any home nor because she’s been asking me embarrassing questions at bath time. No, I know this because of a drawing I found left on my desk. It’s a head and shoulders sketch of an unidentified being whose body parts have been carefully labelled.

I love finding drawings like this; they are such a window into a child’s world and understanding. I found this one particularly charming, not only for the quality of the self portrait, but for how it had been labelled.

In the Buff in Iceland

In the Buff in Iceland

The girl with no neck

Look closely and you’ll see this being does not have a neck; she has a Buff, one of those multi-function headscarves. It’s strange how it appears to have become a part of her – as much so as eye, head, mouth, teeth and eye ball.

Self Portrait with Buff

Notice anything odd in this self portrait?

Although maybe that’s not so strange given how attached the kids got to them in Iceland last year. We had five of them and after a long fight over who should have which one, they put them on and rarely took them off, using them as neck warmers, hats, helmet liners, wind protectors, hand-warmers, pillows and iPod protectors. Which I guess is how one comes to see it as a part of oneself.

Is this a part of me or a part of you?

Anyway, this got me thinking about how easy it is to make mistakes about what is and isn’t a part of us. And how as parents we may innocently give our kids things, to keep them warm, which they may come to see as a part of themselves, when in fact they are not. Of course I’m not really talking about a Buff or even an iPod (that’s another story). I’m talking about subtler things, like hobbies and interests, values, attitudes, life goals or even career aspirations. Let me give you some examples.

  • Last Sunday one of the kids didn’t want to get up to go and play rugby. I figured he thought it too cold and wanted a lie-in. But was he really trying to tell me rugby is my thing, not his?
  • I know as a kid I loved learning instruments and playing music but when I take the kids to band on a Saturday is it because I enjoyed it or because they do?
  • I know I’m passionate about biking and big family adventures but do I ask enough if they really want to come, or do they come because I don’t give them an option not to?

Now, I’m no dictator (honest) but that Buff has got me wondering how well I strike the balance between pushing my own agenda and really listening to and pursuing theirs, no matter how ridiculous it may look to me.

Lost in a Buff

Another child with body parts surgically attached to a Buff

To love what you don’t know could be a great adventure

Of course as parents we all try to pass on what we know and love; it’s part of the job and important too. But maybe learning to love what we don’t know and maybe even don’t like is just as important and perhaps a greater adventure.

Of course we have an interest and responsibility to influence, nurture and get kids onto what we think is the right path, but in truth we have no absolute right or power to dictate what that should be. Kids need to live their own lives, chase their own dreams, follow their own passions.  And as parents our job is to help them identify them, acquire the skills and confidence to pursue them and then let them free.

Not a bad lesson from a Buff eh? Now, do you think I should get it surgically removed?

Talking Points

How well do you strike the balance between sharing your own passions and encouraging others with theirs? And what should we do about the Buff? Leave it on? Give it a wash? Have it removed?


About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


  • Yes, this is so true. I find it hard to find a balance in sharing my passions too. Especially with my daughter who is more reserved than my son and doesn’t necessarily speak up when she doesn’t like something. My son will flat out let me know.

  • I do try and get people to like what I like, but they let me know if they don’t. Our kids have grown now and even if they did not like some things at the time they have returned to them now they are grown. On the other hand I now like things that they have led me too. Our daughter is an visual artist and has opened that world to me.

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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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