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This is G, my 17-year-old. She’s the youngest of our large brood and people have often asked us, how did we make a G?

What’s a G? Well, this one is a swot. She’s on academic scholarship on her IGCSE achievements and is also a finalist last year at UK’s Royal Society of Medicine’s conference’s poster session, Surgery Beyond Borders, beating many postgraduates and practising doctors for this coveted placing. I am convinced her passion for learning arose from the fact that we never forced her to read or write – she did it when she was ready – as we filled her early years with beautiful moments instead.

But apart from that, she is the football captain for BISP/Cruzeiro Academy and plays international basketball. Oh, she is also a former national taekwondo champion.

But that’s not the unique, captivating bit of G that jumps at you: she is quick-witted, funny, sharp-tongued, feisty, boisterous and most of all, she’s joyful and joyous.  Joy bursts from her like she has a thousand suns within her. She fills the room up with her explosive energy. You can sense that from this and many other photographs of her. Yes, of course, she fights but those storms pass very quickly and she is sunny again in the blink of an eye.

So, is it genetics, school, diet, environment?

Sure, those do play a part, but I think most of all, it is the huge amount of love poured into her. That love is measured too in terms of our most scarce commodity – TIME.  I am a firm believer that we cannot rush parenting; hothousing yields no long term benefits nor does enrichment programmes.  All children need, more than anything else, is their parents’ freely-given time.

Time to talk to them. Forget expensive holidays, but the time to care daily is more important.  She goes to a school 30 minutes away from home. She sits in the passenger seat next to her beloved Daad, and for 60 minutes each day, she would chat, chat. chat, chat and chat.  I asked him today, what did you talk about? He grimaced. “You mean what did SHE talk about.” He couldn’t get a word in edgeways. But they talked about: Extended Essays, Internal Assessments, footballing commitment, boyfriend, girl pals, school uniform. One thing I admire about her dad: he is non-judgmental, is a keeper of many teenage secrets and gives wise advice but only when asked. I think she learns a lot about being a decent human being from him, because whenever she grouses about someone or something, her father always presents an opposite view to make her think about life in a gentler, more forgiving way.

And when she gets home, we sit down for dinner – as we do most night during term time –  and I ask her to tell me all about her day.  Why? Because I am more interested in her life than mine. I love her quick-silver mind. And she never runs out of things to say.

So what is the upside of all this talking to parents? She sorts things out on the day and gets to sleep – as in pushing out the zzzzzzz, not lie in bed watching videos – by 10pm at the latest. She goes to sleep with an untroubled mind simply because she had talked it all out with her Momdad, and she wakes up the next morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for another full day which she meets head on with enthusiasm, fight and yes, her explosive energy.

And that’s what it takes to make a G. Time and a good pair of ears.