Not long after I had my first child, one of the other mums at our mothers' group said to me, "Don't you just worry about them all the time!" I gave an unconvincing laugh, then said "Not really." She looked faintly appalled. I didn't know it then, but I'd broken one of the unspoken rules of motherhood: that it is your job to worry. My kids are now 9 and 6, and while I feel their disappointments and fears keenly, I still don't really worry about them.

When I can't sleep in the middle of the night, it is for the thought of some poor kid being abused online; or another not having enough food in the house to fill their belly. We are fortunate, our family, and the combination of this and being raised by parents who valued independence almost above anything else has meant I've been able to escape the malaise of our age: an obsession with parenting the right way.

And lucky, smug me: now there's (another) book, The Gardener and the Carpenter, to back me up, written by an American psychology professor who says that rather than trying to shape kids in a certain way (the carpenter metaphor), we should think of our kids like a plant in a cottage garden, free to grow the way they wish. If only she would tell us what to do about the weeds...

Jennifer Ward-Lealand on the cover of tomorrow's Canvas.
Jennifer Ward-Lealand on the cover of tomorrow's Canvas.