It was bound to happen. You and I both knew it.
So today started out like any other Sunday morning. The boys were up early for hockey practice, came home to a yummy brunch prepared by yours truly and we shuffled off to skating lessons.
Like every other Sunday morning, Bronwyn asked me to watch her skate instead of read my book. I don’t get much opportunity for uninterrupted reading so usually spend skating and swimming lessons with my nose in a book. I didn’t expect this week to be much different. It seems the universe had other plans for me today.
As I sat reading and occasionally looking up to keep track of the kids’ progress, I read something that took me by surprise. I read that, according to an article in the New York Times, the average parent engages his or her kids in conversation for an average of 10 minutes per day. I think that is a number worth repeating: 10 minutes. Per day!
Once you weed out the “did you do your homework?”, “where is your lunch box?”, “have you brushed your teeth, hair, the cat today?” questions, it doesn’t leave much time for deep meaningful conversation, does it? I had to put the book down – this was a concept that I needed to digest for a while. I’m still tasting its flavors almost 12 hours later, and think I will for a while yet.
I have been patting myself on the back for quite some time, thinking that I’m doing a great job raising my kids because I work from home and can be available to them. And I am – I am there, driving them across the city to hockey games and swimming lessons. I am there dropping them off at school. I’m there, sitting at the back of the gym watching them perform during assemblies. I am present, but am I engaging my kids? Are we talking about the important things? The things that really matter, like hopes, dreams, positive body images and favorite chocolate bars?
Dean and I firmly believe that our sole responsibility, where Finn and Bronwyn are concerned, is to create well-adjusted, productive members of society. But we are putting a lot of trust in Disney and the Cartoon Network to teach the kids about compassion, love and relationships. I naturally expect Findley to know right from wrong, and I’m pretty sure he does, but we aren’t having the important conversations that explore and highlight the differences. So how can I know for sure that he understands our values? This isn’t something we can leave to chance.
We have to do more than just show up in our kids lives – we have to take the opportunities to talk about our values and beliefs. It’s more than determining how many hours a week they can spend watching TV – we have to talk about what they are watching. Ask them what they think and ask why they think that way. Then ask again.
We only have one chance to get it right with these little people. I for one, am going to try to do more than just show up from now on. I owe it to myself as much as for them. We still have at least 10 years of living together ahead of us – maybe I can turn them into people I want to spend time with, rather than people who share space with me…
P.S. The book I am reading that was the jumping off point for this book is Living Big by Pam Grout. A great book that talks about how small shifts in perspective can help you create an extraordinary life. My copy is quite marked up and scribbled in, but I’m happy to share if anyone is interested.