Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees when you’re parenting round the clock. It’s the hardest of hard work, but amongst the carnage there are moments of pure magic, happy parenting and pride. This is the second of a two part post. In the first part, I touched on the first five of those magic moments.
So, having already covered making up after arguments, nonsensical family jokes and celebrity neighbours, the second half of my collection looks at five more of the everyday parenting times that bring a smile to my face.
6. Time on the sofa
It may seem like an obvious one – everyone enjoys time on the sofa – but when you’re bringing up a family and spending half your life ferrying small people to various clubs, events or activities, down time in front of the TV is precious.
It’s also increasingly become more of a challenge to arrange for us all to be in the same place, at the same time, without other commitments or devices to distract us. Sadly, families today also simply don’t watch TV like they used to.
It’s no longer a case of coming together to watch the Dukes of Hazard or the Generation Game, because children and families’ TV-viewing lives are no longer ruled by a schedule. Online streaming means that TV and movies can be watched at any time, on any device. So, rather than all staring at the same screen and enjoying the same programme, families are now gathered together, all on different devices watching or doing different things. Yes, it’s time together, but it’s not quality time together.
This is why the occasions when we do come together to watch something – with phones switched off – are special. We cuddle up on the sofa, dig in to some unhealthy snacks and share in an experience together. We laugh at the funny bits, cover our eyes at the scary bits (I don’t do scary movies) and talk about it afterwards.
It’s so simple and so wonderful.
7. The school run
After eight years of the school run, we only have one term left before our youngest leaves primary school and our daily mile-long walk together is consigned to history. I will be heartbroken.
Although the eight years have involved more than a few barnstorming arguments over forgotten PE Kit, missing school books and unbrushed teeth, my wife and I have loved every walk in the rain, wind, snow and sun.
Holding hands with our kids and talking about the day, or walking quietly if that’s the mood of the morning, each walk is precious. Our route never changes, we walk with the same people, we say good morning to those we pass and we have made up names for the characters we meet.
Each morning, for example, we engage Cat Bag Lady in a race down the road. She has no idea she is in the race, but she is. Before we leave home, we wonder where we’ll see her. Will she be ahead or behind us? Can we catch her up if we’re running late? And, what’s in the bag? She has become as much a part of our morning routine as putting on our coats.
I love the time our 25-minute walk gives us, to talk about the big things and the little things. For seven years it was with my son and daughter, the three, often four, of us walking in pairs along the pavements of our quiet town. We’d talk about school, family, friends, holidays, weekends, worries and nonsensical things. Sometimes we’d walk in silence, and sometimes we’d walk at speed to make up for the missed alarm or the missing shoe.
The child-free walk home, meanwhile, would give my wife and I time to talk about the things we needed to do; the shopping, the house work, the weekend plans. Or, if I’m alone, it’s time to mindfully listen to the birdsong around me, or to think through the work day ahead.
Once it comes to an end and our youngest walks independently to Secondary School, my wife and I have already talked about what we’ll do. We will continue to walk, not to school – because that’s going to start looking a bit weird – but around the neighbourhood, ensuring we start the day with the same level of endorphins from the physical activity. We will, however, have to put up with talking to each other rather than the children.
8. Exercising together
When they were tiny, just keeping our children alive was enough. The challenge of feeding, cleaning, soothing, entertaining, watching and tidying up after newborns and toddlers is all consuming. They’re tireless energy means that they are on the go all the time and only sleep when their energy tanks are exhausted.
At 12-years-old, however, the challenge is to get them to do anything other than sitting infront of whatever device they are glued to. So, instead of runing after them all the time, our aim is now to get them running with us.
Thankfully, we’ve managed to persuade them both to join our running club and now we regularly run together.
My son and I enjoy heading into the woods and exploring the wealth of off-road trails we are lucky enough to have on our doorstep. We charge up hills, down hills, through mud, over fallen trees and along tracks, stopping for the occasional photo or to work out where we’re going next.
I love seeing my children enjoying a sport I love and doing so with an energy and ease I can only dream of. We’re outdoors together, we’re running together and we’re doing our mental and physical fitness the world of good.
Indeed, I’ve known for years that running helps me to destress and I see the same in my kids now too. So often the tensions of everyday life arise when too much time is spent indoors. They might not realise it, but screens and gaming make our kids stressed. After running, they’re different people. It relaxes them and the arguements that might otherwise have happened, don’t.
9. A complement from a stranger
Sometimes we think our kids are a nightmare. They argue, they never clean up after themselves, they refuse to do what you ask them, they answer back and they are emotionally unpredictable. However, every now and again, they make an impression on someone that results in an unexpected complement, and you remember just what wonderful human beings they are.
It might be after you pick them up from a play date, or from an after school activity. But when the parent, coach, organiser or complete stranger takes a second to stop you and say how well your child did; how well behaved or polite they were; how they helped someone else or did something kind and thoughtful – it’s enough to fill your heart with pride.
It doesn’t, of course, explain why they are sometimes Mr Hyde with you and Dr Jekyll with others, but for every time they answer back to you, it’s good to know that they can be nice. That somewhere inside that mass of hormones, there is a good person who is kind and thoughful, and who does you proud.
10. Unprompted help
Last on the list, because it is probably the rarest of the top ten moments of parenting hapiness, but those once-in-a-blue-moon occasions when your child helps you with something, without any kind of prompting, cajouling or bribing, are joyous.
As I write this, I am struggling to think of a specific occasion, but I know that they have happened in the past and that, every time they do, they’ve made me smile.
Young children have no real concept of doing things for others, if there’s nothing in it for them. There developing brains cannot compute why they should bother if there is no reward at the end of the task. However, just occasionally – perhaps when they spot you on your knees struggling to pick up the shopping after the bags broke, or losing the battle against a piece of flatpack furniture – they might just say; “do you want a hand Dad?”
After you’ve got over the shock and accepted the helping hand, you’re once again reminded that this young person is a grown up in training, that eventually they will think of others before themselves. Of course, it usually doesn’t last long and before you know it they’re asking for food or plugged back into the PlayStation.
But every happy parenting moment is always great while it lasts. So, enjoy and savour every one, and feel free to add yours to this list in the comments below.
Read next: Happy Parenting Moments – Part One