Raising Boys: Sheryn Gieck & Josh McCombie

Integrity, honesty and learning to let go were essential to giving her sons a well-rounded upbringing

Sheryn Gieck with her youngest son, Josh McCombie. Picture / Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

Sheryn Gieck, co-owner of EastWest Yoga studio, has always been an active, and physically active, part of her two sons’ lives.

A long-time yogi, she has been practising Ashtanga for 20 years and incorporated Vinyasa, Yin and hot yoga five years ago. Speaking from her light-filled Freemans Bay home, her 30-year-old son, Josh McCombie, recalls his parents’ yoga practice contributing to a well-rounded upbringing.

“When I was about 8, we went to India for two months while they did a yoga retreat, so we had these really cool life experiences through their love of yoga,” he says.

As children, it was inspiring to see them doing things that benefitted themselves, he says. “A lot of it they did for their relationship, but with us in mind to improve themselves, so they could pass that on to us by being better parents, which definitely came through.”

For Sheryn, who has two sons — Luke, 32, lives in the US, and a 26-year-old daughter Amelia (who runs EastWest with her and their business partner, Kirsty Van De Geer) — there were big differences between raising boys and girls.

“The energy and full-on noise from the boys was very different to Amelia. They’re only 17 months apart, and were about big open spaces, and moving and doing, whereas Amelia could sit quietly,” she says. “I loved having sons — what you saw was often what you got, and we were outside a lot. I walked with them and went to parks and beaches, and let them run.”

For Sheryn, it was important that her sons learned responsibility for their actions.

“I didn’t see myself as an ‘authority figure’ who knew everything,” she says. “So it was important if some issue arose, to hear their point of view, or what was going on for them rather than jump in and make a call on it. But if something happened, it was up to them to go and apologise and make it right, once they realised it was not okay — so they felt the effect of it, not just because I was telling them something was wrong. And it was important to me to say sorry when I mucked up.

“I remember people saying to us when they were younger ‘wait until they’re teenagers, it’ll be awful’ and I remember their dad and I saying to each other ‘that’s not going to be our reality. Why would that happen?’ So we had the intention of enjoying our kids, and we did.”

Growing up, Josh says their house had an open-door policy.

“Honesty was a big one. In our family you were expected to talk about your feelings, and what was going on for you, so I feel like that’s one of my core values.”

Sheryn remembers what set a course in her being a mother. “One was: who I am as a mother is not reflected in what I experienced in mothering. And the other was I didn’t want to have any regrets when I looked back on how I mothered. So that meant I consciously did what I had to do in order to be the best mother I could be. Reading books, workshops, whatever it took.”

She has a final thought on mothering sons. “Something that worked for me was being there for them when they were young and enjoying being that central person. But I remember, as they became teenagers, I felt I needed to step slightly to the side and allow their father, Mike, to come in and be the primary role model for them to develop their masculinity.

A big part of parenting is you’re always letting go. Whether it’s loving your baby and then they become a toddler, then they go to school, you’re always letting go and that’s not easy.”

Adds Josh: “But even as our relationship changed, we knew she was always there for us. And she still is.”

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New Zealand Herald

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