Better time with kids

June 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Personal Development

A wonderful weekend with family – particularly our niece (12) and nephew (10) – reinforced a discovery I made a couple of years ago that very much relates to the ‘important thing’ in my recent post: being in the lives of kids and grand kids.

In the summer of ‘07, Lisa’s sister, Tracy, had asked if we would come up to their home in Northern California for the weekend and take care of the children while they enjoyed a getaway weekend out of town. I agreed, though not very enthusiastically.

To my surprise, I had the best time and felt as though I really developed a relationship with the kids (I mean, by the Sunday, they were actually laughing at my ‘stupid English puns’ and punning back at me). It took me a few months to finally figure out what made this weekend fun and the interaction with niece and nephew so different and so much better. Pause for drum roll . . . my role was clearly defined. It was as simple as that.

I was their stand-in Dad. I had very specific things to do. I took them to tutoring, I drove them to a swim meet. I played soccer with Aaron (at last, something I know about!). They taught me how they could decisively beat me at Wii tennis and make lazing on a float in the pool a less than relaxing pursuit. When it got to be too much, I told them to stop and never felt as though I was crossing some parents-only disciplining line. This weekend, I was a parent.

There was an easy give and take, a comfortable intimacy. It was the most time I’d spent with the kids sans parents and that meant our roles had to be clearly defined.

I haven’t tried it yet, but this approach should also work when the parents are present. It seems as though there needs to be a conversation about roles and expectations. I need to ask about opportunities to spend time alone with the children as well. And what parent won’t welcome that?

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