One of the joys of raising children is to have a reason for doing things you once found enjoyable in childhood. Some activities could be considered progressively un-cool as children move into adolescence and certainly taboo as they get into the serious pursuit of a spouse later on.
If you were to see a young adult sitting by themselves on a beach with a little bucket and spade building sandcastles to their hearts content you’d be phoning the keepers of the funny farm to have them committed. But what if the same adult were to be accompanied by two small children? Now that’s a different matter. Women passing by would think it cute, and men would feel sorry for their fellow adult and smile in sympathy. Another of those onerous jobs a married person has to do? Or is it?
In actual fact the person sitting on the beach with their children could be enjoying themselves thoroughly, in spite of an artificial look of boredom on their face.
I remember my Father Eric buying me a wind up train set for Christmas when I was young. These days train sets are a dime a dozen and come with all the bells and whistles our electronic age generation have come to expect. But in the 1940’s a train set was a major purchase and represented the top of the pops in kid’s dream world.
I can remember jumping up and down with glee when Dad pried open that large box and assembled tracks and accessories on the family room floor. But my dreams were quickly dashed when plainly told I could watch but couldn’t touch without supervision. When Eric tired of the game it was packed away again and put out of reach until his next convenient time to play with me.
Now I decided to be more democratic in the raising of my children. They’d be participants in decision making, and there’d be time for joint family fun. The sand castle on the beach routine was certainly entered into with good spirit, and when Georgine wasn’t looking the girls and I would roar off into deserted hills overlooking Pune, India on our Vespa scooter, the eldest on the rear seat urging me on to discover where the bullock tracks led, and the youngest standing solemnly behind handle bars managing the horn. The horn and accelerator are the only important items on vehicles in India.
To add a little spice to bedtime I’d rush around and tap on the window, then rush back to their bedroom to find them looking hopefully out the window to glimpse “Wee Willy Winkle” who I’d informed them always showed up at dusk to remind them it was time for bed. It took a while for them to figure out who “Wee Willy Winkle” really was. The same went for Santa Claus.
Bedtime was the time for bath, the “kangaroo ride” in the towel afterward, and their favorite stories, some of which repeated so often they’d recite the words as you read. I was fortunate enough to have a job in those childhood years that allowed access to my office after school. They’d wait patiently for me to process my interviews, then dash in excitedly for a few minutes to tell me about their day at school.
So I patted myself on the back. The children were part of our round table discussions when we looked at family issues, and time was set aside to share playtime and participate in the excitement of their discoveries. I secretly gave myself the Good Father Award!
Then one day my self satisfaction bubble burst. The eldest had been attending Academy in Singapore and returned for her first vacation home. Allegiance had shifted from the family round table discussions to intimacy of her peer group back at the Academy. She now had personal space we weren’t permitted to enter. The Vespa scooter no longer was cool for a three person adventure, but our Moped got a good single workout each day as she moved around with her vacation peer group. It was one specific issue however that bought me face to face with reality and helped put things into perspective.
A foreign music group was visiting Pune, and daughter number one lamented the fact there wasn’t anyone to take her. Enter self sacrificing Father, anxious to reestablish old feelings of togetherness! I indicated I’d be willing to take her. Her answer floored me. “I can’t do that Dad, what would people think of me? Girls don’t go to these places with their Fathers; they go with people their own age!”
Then it dawned on me. We’d prided ourselves in teaching our children to think for themselves and develop their unique personalities. I’d not comprehended eventually the generation gap would demand our children show individuality and a certain distance from familiarity, and henceforth there’d be things parents didn’t or shouldn’t participate in.
She was on the verge of adulthood, deserved respect this rite of passage demanded, and without damage to the family relationship there’d be things only she and her peer group would do together from that point forward.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2012 All rights reserved”