Need to do better

I have a son who is full of life, bursting with energy … and has a toy box full of mangled toys.

Some may say the toy box goes with the first two attributes, but it doesn’t.

It goes with no one teaching him how to play with the toys.

I GO TO WORK every day and make sure both of my children have all they need to be healthy. They also get plenty of the material items they want, which seems particularly important to my 12-year-old daughter.

This is part of the reason my son has a box full of toys – they’re puzzles with pieces missing, train tracks with mismatched parts and learning toys that have taught him nothing.

For the last two years, I’ve said to myself over and over “I need to sit down and play with my boy.”

SOMEWHERE ALONG THE way, like many adults, my definition of wholesome time with the kids has shifted from actual time with the kids to incorporating them into things I need to get done.

For instance, I feel like I’m doing a good thing when I let my daughter tag along with me at work (some days all I really do is drive) if she doesn’t have school. That’s because she’s so happy to be with me.

But I’ll tune her out and be fleeting when she talks to me about her friends or favorite music.

If I can find a way to have my son stick by my side while I’m working around the house, I feel like I’m being a good parent.

But I don’t routinely sit down with him to assemble the multiple puzzles we bought for him at Christmas.

CHILDREN NEED PARENTS who can be children with them. They need teachers, guides and support, but they also need these people who can be on their level at times. This is common sense. I knew that before I was a parent because my parents were this for me.

It’s too easy, however, to go to work, pay the bills, keep the lawn mowed, make home repairs and say, “I’m taking care of my family.” It’s like you are, but you aren’t.

I would like to:

  1. Go to work
  2. Pay the bills
  3. Take care of the house
  4. Be the guy who my family loves

Reality is, when my 12-year-old daughter was 3, I was nearly a decade younger and had more energy. I also had fewer people who wanted my time.

My daughter is loaded with fond memories of us playing in the sandbox, reading on the front porch and painting with me at the kitchen table.

Today I am older and have fallen mildly out of shape, my job is more demanding and I have others who need me to be the person who brought us together. I have to make it a point to remember this list and do it, no matter how tired I am at the end of the work day.

I need to do puzzles with my son. I need to cherish conversations with my daughter. I need to be Hollie’s friend more often than I am, although we generally do all right with this.

While this will be forced at first, it will eventually become second nature. Parenting is a natural skill, but every skill needs the occasional polishing.

It’s not so natural that it doesn’t take effort.

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