Bill runs his own business devoted to strengthening the relationship between children and parents. He artfully taps into the desire children and parents have for wholehearted connectedness. Bill simply prompts parents to maintain time and space in the relationship schedule for it to thrive. Bill shares with his parent and child audience various conversation starters to help them to sharpen up their skills to have the hearty conversations that make for great relationships. By no coincidence, the business is called ‘Time and Space’. Bill is a wise coach to dads and mums yet I had my doubts that time and space might be the tools to win kids over. In my ignorant state, I wondered whether his business might have served kids better rebadged as iPad, Apps, Cool Clothes, TV and Theme Parks.
I wondered how I might break the news to my kids that fun and excitement were to be replaced by time and space these holidays. I chickened out last year and went the happy-joy-joy version of me. There was no way I was being voted off the island when I produced tickets to Dream World.
The car trip there was an excited orchestra of whoops and shrill voices. All the pent-up energy contained by the surround of the car exploded into ride after ride throughout a frenetic day. I was bounced between fun and fear. Most rides gave the kids a chance to laugh at the colour draining out of my face after they cajoled me into sharing a ride that threw me into a disorientated jumble. They loved the screams. They went crazy with the speed. Getting wet on a variety of water slides was a hoot. The car trip home was a frenzied recall of each twist and turn with a maddening overuse of the word “awesome.” By the time the car pulled into the drive, the kids’ energy had just about fizzed and there was no parenting assertion needed to usher them to bed.
The theme parks are an excitement haven. Yet, something was missing from the experience. At the time I missed it however a year later and another parenting tilt at Term 2 holidays has delivered a lesson that I suspect the experts have known for a while.
In my mind, the holidays were not going to be a winner. I had promised a friend that I… that we, my children and I… would help move house. I was intent to reciprocate the favour delivered to me nine months earlier. Essentially, I had spoken for my kids in trading out their holiday joy for the drudgery of playing removalists. There is not a child on this earth who would opt to pack boxes, sweep up behind the fridge that hasn’t been moved in five years and load a trailer with junk. There is no joy in masking tape. The fun runs out of a child when told “You haven’t played with this in years – it’s off to the op shop.” And, I did little to put happiness in the mix when I instructed the kids to stay clear of the TV and electronics. To my mind, I had built the pyre and struck the match.
What played out was unexpected. In the back and forth of adults ferrying furniture and children sorting toys, the kids became delighted by being part of the cooperative effort. They became enthused by helping. I checked in on the girls’ muscles that were apparently bulging from the exertion of lifting packing boxes. They insisted on more jobs! I asked that they lug bits and pieces to the truck. And, they did. I directed them to focus their efforts on cleaning and they complied.
I hardly think that the chore of moving house inspired a kindly effort from my girls. I suspect that we – the parents – had inadvertently created time and space for our children. We were working in close proximity. I could talk up the efforts of my girls. There were no external distractions such as the theme park that created an exaggerated excitement. We jostled lovingly as we passed back and forth like worker ants. The packing boxes became a barricade to a spontaneous nerf gun battle. We rested together for morning tea and lunch. I make no promises that moving house will be the amalgam that creates a contented parent-child bliss.
Bill is right. Making time and space for my children told them that they are important. Their chirpy response was terrifically heartening. Moving house has as much appeal as olives on a chocolate cake. But, making the effort to set up time and space – genuine openings for my daughters and myself to lean into one another – will become another technique in my parenting repertoire.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska.