When you’re with your children in the car do you have the radio on? When they are eating their breakfast do they do so in front of the television? At bedtime do you read them their bedtime story and kiss them good night and run downstairs so you can catch up on all the ironing! We are all guilty of it. Life dictates that there are some points in the day when we simply can’t stop what we are doing and focus all our attention on our children. We can’t let the dishes pile up, we can’t let the washing grow mould and all those little hand prints won’t wipe themselves away. However, there are a few opportunities you could grasp where you can have those precious moments with your children, and really talk to them.
“How long does it take to catch a fish?” by author Bill Byrne is a collection of stories about the relationship between a father and son and their personal journey. The stories are based on conversations Bill was able to have with his son throughout his adolescence, and gives a real insight into the male psyche. These conversations however, would not have been able to take place had the author not siezed those precious moments when all outside noise and interference could be replaced by just yourself and your child talking.
As a mum of boys I am learning very quickly that my eldest son doesn’t want to talk for long periods of time about his feelings or anxieties, so this book enabled me to learn how to use the most ordinary of situations to develop a relationship with him. It made me question how I react in certain situations. For example, Bill writes of an incident where his son had left his homework to the last minute, and that resulted in them both racing around the kitchen cupboards mid school run to try and find items that contained glycerin for a school science project. As a result his son thanked him for not getting mad. I’m confident his son will appreciate this experience more than if his dad had lectured him about not completing the homework and slammed the car door shut.
The book also gave me encouragement to be not too fearful about my sons adolescent friendships and to let them just simply “work it out for themselves”. As a female it is in my very nature to make sure my son is content and happy around his peers. Normally, if he tells me he has been pushed or tripped over I will internalise that thought for days, going over and over in my head about how I can make it better. My head is filled with constant playground images of my poor child sat in the corner of the playground alone. But this simply isn’t the case. As parents we blow up the most trivial of situations in our minds when we should just simply let them get on with it. All too often our over involvement complicates what is just a very natural process of growing up, and getting some bumps and scrapes along the way.
As a parent we can read all the manuals and Google till we get cramp in our fingers, but I don’t think there will be any more sounder advice than that of a parent who quite frankly has “been there and done that” and most importantly will admit to their mistakes.
Every time I walk to the shops with my now 7 month old son I am always stopped by an elderly person who will coo over my baby, and then they immediately morph into their role as the wise old village elder and begin speaking of the old cliche about ‘how fast it goes’ and ‘to enjoy them while they are young.’ We exchange pleasantries and my son and I continue our day. I hear this message repated every day, and despite the exhaustion and the ongoing struggle with my household tasks I vow to cherish every moment.
Bill’s book reaffirms the message of how crucial it is that we listen to our children, and take care not to approach conversations with any negative connotations that stem
from unfavourable experiences in our own childhoods. I would highly recommend it as a reminder to appreciate every little experience with our children however poignant or ordinary, as it won’t be long before we are the wise old person in the street telling the next young parent to “enjoy it while it lasts”