I have learned more about children in the past 3 years, than I have in the previous years of my life. My daughters are my best and favourite teachers. They have taught me how to answer consecutive ‘Why?’ questions; reconsider my definition of imagination; be more curious; remember the joys of playing on the floor and hide and seek; the absolute delight of being the receiver of a prodigious, unconditional and toothless smile.
They have taught me that their happiness is essentially dependent on mine – oh, and on the fortunes of Dora the Explorer and Peppa Pig, of course. If my mood is not the best, they feel it and it pains me that it is so. They are never sad, but their faces light up even brighter when mum or dad sit on the floor to play with them.
While playing with Legos with my eldest, I suggested that she assembled the car whilst I built the garage… ‘No daddy, we’ll do it together. Here, I’ll help you’. She loves her scooter, but every time we take it out of the car for her to use it, she wants us to run along besides her. When in the park, she just wants us to tag along in everything she does – It’s just not the same, going down that slide without mummy or daddy being part of the experience.
When I get home from work, even before I have time to drop the keys, she starts excitedly chatting about the day’s activities, ‘I did this and that. With this and that’, while the younger one, with a huge smile in her face, rapidly crawls up to my feet and on her knees, extends her arms in a ‘grab-me-dad’ appeal – by far, the best part of my day.
An interesting experience, conducted by an American university, consisted of asking young parents and their kids, separately, who they would like to have dinner with if they could choose anyone in the world. Most parents answered with their favourite celebrities and the like, but most of the kids replied they would choose to have dinner with their parents and extended family.
How’s that for an answer? I would’ve probably said I would like to have dinner with Eddie Vedder, but these kids’ answers made me realise I don’t know how good I have it.
We’ve all heard the song ‘Cats in a Cradle’ by Harry Chapin, at least the Ugly Kid Joe version. We’ve all seen that movie with the kid whose dad seldom sees him, misses birthdays for one reason or the other (usually work), but makes it up with great presents. And we can all relate to the kid’s misery, all he wants is to play baseball with his dad, not the latest Play Station.
As Hollywood clichéd as this story is, it’s rather commonplace and the moral quite easy to grasp – Kids value far more the parents’ presence than their presents. That surely doesn’t mean they don’t love getting presents as well.
One of the characters of the TV series ‘Modern Family’, said something along the lines, ‘90% of being a parent is to be present’. My experience so far, has led me to think this statement is inaccurate, I think it’s more 95%.
Whatever it is we want to pass on to our kids – to form their characters and make them ready for the ‘adult world’ – can be introduced through example and availability.
Whilst considered presents are important to my kids, my presence is far more.