Listen to this story
10 years ago I got to meet and interview some of the members of the von Trapp family. I don’t know how many times I have seen The Sound of Music, but my parents dragged me to it at least five times as a child and I grew up knowing the von Trapp family better than many of my cousins. In case you were trying to remember, there were Liesl, Freidrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta and Gretl – according to Hollywood anyway. The names of the real von Trapp family children were actually Rupert, Agathe, Maria, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna and Martina. (Perhaps the writers of The Sound of Music didn’t think those names sounded Austrian enough.)
The ones I met were descendants of Werner – or Kurt, as he was called in the movie. And they told me some very interesting things – apparently, old Baron von Trapp was really a soft-hearted sweetie with his children. The one who had to be taught how to be kind and loving was Maria, who had spent many years in a convent and was a bit of a fierce battle axe. The complete opposite of how the movie depicts it.
Whichever way around it was, the von Trapp parents demonstrate two styles of parenting – one soft and one firm. The challenge for us as parents is to balance both those styles. Yes, children need rules, structure, boundaries and discipline – it is very important that children get those things. But just as importantly, children need love, affection and warmth. The discipline needs to be balanced with grace and patience. The challenge for us is to get the balance between those two things right. Inevitably we will get it wrong occasionally, and each of us will have a tendency to veer one way more than the other but I reckon as long as we are aware of it, and we try to do both parts of the parenting job, we will probably do okay. And okay is okay – honestly, we don’t need to be perfect.