The P Word

Muddling my way through parenting

Archive for the tag “Christmas”

How was your Christmas presence?

The play on words between ‘presents’ and ‘presence’ is often too tempting for many vicars to avoid when planning their Christmas Day sermons.

With no apologies, I’m going to plagiarise that clich√© (if such a thing is possible) and apply it to parenting for a brief post-festive pause for thought.

Christmas presentsHowever much we may plan ahead for Christmas, it’s probably fair to say that most of the time spent thinking and doing in preparation for Christmas is centred around trying to buy¬†presents for our family and friends.

Once the presents are bought and the plans of where you need/want to be on particular days are sorted, the planning of how you’re going to actually spend your time is likely to be well down the pecking order.

But what makes the biggest difference to our kids?

Sure, the people we’re with for Christmas will matter, and what they unwrap on The Big Day will hopefully bring a little happiness.

But if we want to make a lasting difference for them then we’ll focus on creating memories. We’ll play games that end in side-splitting laughter, we’ll have the time of our lives racing around the park (and probably get drenched on the way home!), we’ll read endless bedtime stories until the story-teller’s voice or eyelids give up, or we’ll sit and talk about the latest animated blockbuster that we’ve just enjoyed together. Or maybe – as I’ve recently seen posted by a friend on Facebook – we’ll fall asleep cuddled up together on the sofa.

I’ve talked in a previous post about allowing our kids to take the lead in setting the agenda and how/when we play together. Perhaps there is no greater opportunity than the Christmas holidays to allow your kids to set the tone and take a new approach to how you spend your time together.

Please don’t read this post as a guilt trip if you’re feeling like you’ve not been very ‘present’ in creating memories with your kids during the past few days (heck, if an afternoon snooze to sleep off a lunchtime tipple is criminal then I’d be incarcerated every Christmas!). But with whatever holiday time you’ve got left this festive period, it’s never too late to do some more fun/silly/crazy/memorable things that will enrich your child’s life and enhance your relationship with them.

You may even feel prompted to make a New Year’s resolution to give your kids more ‘presence’ in 2013. But if you do, please make sure it’s one you at least try to keep!

Are we nearly there yet?

The phrase in the title of this post is one that sends shivers down the spines of most parents, especially when uttered by your offspring just a short while into a long journey. That sense of dread and foreboding can sink even the most buoyant of hearts.

Some of you may even have heard that phrase uttered by your children on journeys this weekend when travelling to visit friends or family for Christmas. For our kids, these words are often nothing more than an over-flowing of excited expectation about what awaits them at the end of the journey. Or just plain boredom!

Advent calendarAt this time of year, that sense of expectation is probably at an annual high as your kids wait for all that’s in store on 25 December (as heightened by this mysterious and unnecessary 25th door on my daughter’s advent calendar!)

However, that’s not really what this post is all about.

We can all learn ways to deal with those back-seat-of-the-car protestations, but perhaps that phrase has a much deeper meaning when it flies through the head of many parents.

So often we long for the end of the current ‘phase’ of parenting. We strain our eyes to see the distant horizon, or limp along towards the oasis in the desert when we crave for things start to get easier. Have you ever found yourself looking forward to the months or years around he corner (‘We must nearly be there by now!’), and forgetting to completely engage with the challenges and joys of whatever you and your kids are going through in the present?

I’ve heard all the wisdom of more experienced parents with their jaded views of the different phases of their kids’ lives : ‘It never gets easier’, ‘You never stop worrying’, or even ‘The only thing that changes is they get more expensive’. I’m not going to argue with those who have the battle scars to prove it, but is that really what it’s all about? Do I have to settle for that disheartening view of my children’s development, while I develop as a parent? No, gladly.

Several friends have recently set out on the parenting journey for the first time, and I’ve been trying to recall what those first few phases are like. The main thing that springs to mind is the constant re-adjustment as the routine changes, or as you try new ways of dealing with the seismic changes in your child’s eating/sleeping/playing habits (which can appear to be almost daily). I regularly found myself thinking ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ when totally desperate to get enough rest in order to function the following day!

But (as the voices of experience suggest) do we ever actually get ‘there’? Is there a time in the future when I can look forward to serenity and peace in my life and parenting?

Maybe not, but I can choose to relish each phase of parenting to the maximum. I can choose to enjoy the delight in my kids’ eyes as they explore, learn and experience new things. I can choose to endure the tough times because that perseverance of getting through together (with my wife and children) will strengthen the bonds between us and be the foundation of the better times that lie ahead.

Even though the end of your difficult ‘phase’ may sometimes feel a long way off, don’t just sit there and wait for the journey to end. We all know that’s a sure-fire way of making the subsequent period of time seem to last forever!

So, whichever part of the journey you’re on, and however arduous it may feel at the moment, hang in there! And have a Happy Christmas.

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