- If you want to be close to your kids, there is no substitute for spending time with them;
- Your children – at any age – are capable of doing extraordinary things;
- Children’s love is unconditional;
- Parents will do whatever they have to in order to care for their child;
- Story time is a magical time for children;
- We all find ways to justify our bad behaviour;
- It’s important to have a passion of your own;
- Our children learn their most important skills from us;
- We need to learn to let them do stuff for themselves;
- They will try and protect you from the consequences of their own actions and yours.
Let me unpack each of these in a little more detail.
If you want to be close to your kids, there is no substitute for spending time with them
The core of the story of “Danny the Champion of the World” is an incredibly strong bond between Danny and his father that developed after Danny’s mother died while he was a baby. The two of them spent 24/7 together until Danny finally (and belatedly) went to school.
This really struck me right between the eyes. As a working mom I feel the constant pull between wanting to be the “perfect employee” (but knowing that I no longer am) and desperately wanting to be there for my children. The reality is that I can’t be there 24/7 (and maybe I shouldn’t anyway), but I have now started carving out time every afternoon that we can just be together.
We may read or play games or just talk, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that I put my phone away and focus on them.
Your children – at any age – are capable of doing extraordinary things
Danny was just nine when he rescued his father from the poacher-catching pit in Hazell’s Wood. To do this he drove a car singlehandedly through the darkness of the wee hours of the morning, evaded detection and helped his father extricate himself from the pit with some quick thinking.
All this made me think of the number of times I should probably just have left my children to figure things out for themselves. Instead I often err on the side of helping them in order to avoid pain and mess.
Children’s love is unconditional
While Danny clearly knew that poaching is not widely condoned, he never let that make him judgemental about his father’s actions. In fact, his reaction was just the opposite. Not only did he rescue his father when he was captured and injured, he also concocted the grand plan that would wreck the abominable Mr Hazells’ great pheasant hunt through a mass poaching to end all poaches.
The bottom line is that they can be loyal beyond belief – even when they know you’re doing something that you shouldn’t. (The corollary of course is that your misdemeanors are also likely to be broadcast in a high, piping voice to the very ends of the earth.)
Parents will do whatever they have to in order to care for their child
In the first chapter, Danny describes how his father cared for him as a helpless baby and then as he grew up. While in some ways the book reflects its era (as it shouldn’t be unusual for a dad to change a diaper today), it left me reflecting that a parent in tough circumstances will go to extraordinary lengths to protect and care for their child.
He also gave up his great love – poaching – for nine years until he felt he could leave Danny on his own.
This left me remembering that every parent out there is doing the best they can – even in a world where social media can be so brutally judgemental.
Story time is a magical time for children
As a mom, my favorite scene in “Danny the Champion of the World” is where Danny describes the sheer magic of the bedtime stories his father tells him. And I loved the detail of the Big Friendly Giant (The BFG) making an appearance here, in all his dream-catching glory.
We all find ways to justify our bad behaviour
As parents we all try so hard to be our best selves – especially as we know the short people are always watching… ?? However, I suspect we all have times when we behave less well than we’d like to – I certainly do. But even as I know what I’ve done is not what I wish it had been, I often find myself justifying my behavior.
Danny’s dad is no different as he describes how he learnt poaching from his own father.
“I caught the poaching fever from him when I was ten years old and I’ve never lost it since. Mind you, in those days just about every man in our village was out in the woods at night poaching pheasants. And they did it not only because they loved the sport but because they needed food for their families.”
It’s important to have a passion of your own
Do you ever have days when you wonder where the “real you” went? The one that wasn’t constantly juggling schedules and to-do lists; the one that was fun and interesting.
“Danny the Champion of the World” made me realize that we parents need to retain a spark of ourselves by keeping at least one passion alive that has nothing to do with either home or work.
For Danny’s dad it was the love of poaching. He described it as: “poaching is such a fabulous and exciting sport that once you start doing it, it gets into your blood and you can’t give it up!”.
They learn their best skills from us
Whether we like it or not (and I often don’t), we are our children’s most important role models in both behavior and skills. Just think – Danny’s dad would have stayed captured in that poacher pit if he hadn’t taught Danny to drive. (Just please don’t think this is a recommendation of parenting behavior ??.)
Let them do stuff for themselves
I really struggle with restraining myself long enough to let them do challenging tasks for themselves. Often it is from concern about their safety, but more often it is (I confess) simply about speed and the time it is going to take for those chubby little fingers to tie their own shoe laces or fasten their own buttons. So many time I have literally bitten my tongue and waited…
Yet Danny makes it clear that we should let our children attempt to do things that we think are beyond their skill level. Not only because this is the only way they learn, but because they want to and often delight and surprise us with their success.
They will try and protect you from the consequences of their actions and yours
Danny nearly broke my heart when he refused to let his father confront the teacher who had unfairly beaten him. I wonder if I would respect my child’s request in that same position?
So there it is – the ten pieces of mom wisdom I gleaned from reading Roald Dahl’s “Danny the Champion of the World”. Please use the comment section to tell us some of the mom wisdom you’ve learnt from children’s books. And if you'd like to buy a copy for your child (or yourself), here is a handy Amazon link below ;-)
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