My son is enrolled in a great summer camp, they have movies, and bowling and swimming and all kinds of really neat activities, matter of fact mom and I want to go. But I noticed something the other day, that on one hand I almost wish I hadn’t. See Charlie attends a private school and they offer “after care” basically it’s a PE type program that helps teach the kids some sports activities, while mom and I finish working a traditional 8 – 10 hour work day. Earlier this year Charlie started asking me if he could stay and play a while after I had shown up to get him. Well my wife works a longer day than I do, so either we leave as soon as I get there, and hang around the house, or he stays and plays. Having been his age once, I know which one I would want, so as long as the teacher is OK, many days we stay and play. Some days we are actually the LAST ONES TO LEAVE. But he’s happy, and tired, and that’s really kind of my goal.
Well, now were into summer camp, I show up about the same time as I would for school, and often times he asks again, if he can play for a while. Unless it’s a special day and we have something planned the rules are usually the same, ask if it’s OK, if they say it is, than we will stay for a while. However I did notice that he is rather unique among his friends, its not that his friends don’t want to stay, many of them actually take off for the opposite end of the field when they see the parents cars, but most of them are immediately bundled up and taken off into a mini this or macro that and whisked away home. Now I don’t blame mom or dad, they’ve had a rough day they probably have more waiting at home, but a week or so at camp I noticed something else unusual.
See at camp by the time I get there, they are all pretty hot, so they are inside cooling off for a bit, so the kids see the parents enter and sign the child out, and as one voice they say “Bob your going home, your mom’s here.” Or “Cyndi dad’s here time to clean up.” Almost to a child they obediently stop what they are doing and start putting away whatever they were working on, so that when the parent is ready to leave they are to, which is where I noticed a difference. See every day Charlie walks up and asks, if he can stay and play for a little while, and every day I direct him to the teacher for permission. Well what’s struck me the other day is, no one else asks. They just jump to it and they are waiting to leave, regardless of what they may have been doing or how intent they may have been doing it. Charlie is the only one who asks.
Then last week I started noticing that many of the parents were giving me very strange looks when they came in, so I started trying to figure out why? I mean, I’m a little overweight a LOT too short, but I’m in a shirt and tie, middle aged management type, short hair, playing with Lego’s, what’s to look at?
What the Lego’s?
Well yeah every now and then Charlie will ask me if I want to play with him.
See when Charlie was born my wife and I looked around at all the people who had kids around us and looked for commonalities in the families who seemed to have ‘good kids’ and those who were, shall we say, not so well behaved. We wanted to see if we could influence our Childs life by mimicking what other parents did who had kids that we liked being around. One of the things we notices was that those parents to an OVERWHELM<ING majority, were involved in what their kids were doing. I don’t mean they set curfews and ‘laid down the law,’ but actually got down and got dirty with them when the need arose. The kids really seemed to respond to that, now I have learned the hard way that you don’t want to cross “that line”, after all we all have one, but other than that if your child expects a positive response they will invite you into their world.
The world of a child is a MUCH better place to be, than where I spend 2000 hours every year, I thought so then and I surely think so now. So yesterday when Charlie looked up at me and said, “Daddy, do you want to play with me?” Why in the world would I ever say NO? Ask any grand parent, or empty nester, what they would change if they could turn back the clocks, overwhelmingly they will tell you that they were not expecting it to pass SO quickly. Most will say, “I wish I had spent more time…” or “I wish I had known…” Yet, they were that size once too, they know that every minute of every day of every YEAR, is passing by, maybe not as quickly as their little impatient mind wishes it would, but MUCH faster than their now retired parents which they knew.
But there is a catch. Remember, most of Charlie’s friends don’t stop and ask their parents. Most of those parents never even ask what their child was doing when they walked up, they just “need” to get them strapped back into the car so we can head on down the road. So if you want your child to offer you an invitation, hey have to think somewhere in their minds that you’re going to say yes, at least some of the times. Kids don’t HAVE to be told no too often to know what answer to expect. So while you’re asking yourself if you are taking the time to stop and play with your children, ask yourself if your children a fearless enough, in your presence” to ask?
Now I know some parent out there is getting all hot and bothered with the, “Yeah but its easy for your, you only have one son, I have 4.” Maybe your right maybe it is a little easier, because I only have one child, not that I don’t want more, it just hasn’t happened yet. However, understand that from before Charlie was born I have been looking and reading and studying, what makes a good kid, what makes a smart kid, what can I do to help them make it in this world. So many parents are so busy trying to get their kids from experience to experience from home to school, to college to job, that they forget that there is a very small person in there, and sometimes they get a little bit afraid of this very big world, and what they need MOST is to know that their mom and or dad are right there next to them. Willing to get in the mud and the blood and make things happen.
You don’t want your kids making up excuses on why they didn’t tell you the important things; make sure that they know that you are indeed there to listen to them. Listen in the mornings to what their plans are for the day, listening at dinner to how well everything went or didn’t go. They want to make sure that you’re there at night to chase off the scary dragons, whether they are 6 or 16. Don’t make excuses, don’t be one of those folks who think “if only I would have”
Make all the excuses you want, and if you are going to make them, make them a good one. After all you may have to use it all your life.
But for heavens sake, don’t ever make an excuse to your kids….