When my children were small they used to love having what we called a ‘family night’. They would drag their mattresses into our bedroom and sleep on the floor. But once in a while we would have a ‘Super family night.’ That involved us all sleeping on the lounge floor together.
There are no logical reasons why four people with perfectly good beds should want to do that; except that it’s fun. But children love those who have the time not only to teach them, but to have fun with them.
Turn that light off!
I would encourage you to surprise your children. Just now, at home I am trying to save a little electricity. I threatened my children with all manner of things but the lights were still left on. That was until last month when I put a chart on the wall with every family member’s name on it.
When you switch off a light that somebody else forgot to turn off, you get a tick. After one week the person with most ticks gets five points and we start again. When you hit thirty points you get a prize.
These days you only have to leave a light on for five seconds and somebody will leap out from behind a pair of curtains and switch it off. The place is enveloped in darkness. We’re all too scared to use electricity!
Now I know what you’re thinking: “It will only last a couple of weeks – they’ll get tired of it.” You’re probably right; but I know this: in ten years’ time when somebody talks about saving power, my children will say, “My father was crazy. You’ll never guess what he had us doing.” And they will laugh at it – again.
It’s the little things …
Fun rarely has to have a large price ticket attached to it. Fun is borrowing a tent and sleeping in the garden. It’s going to the cinema on a school night once a year, it’s having water fights, and saying, “The next car we pass will be driven by the kind of man that Gemma will marry.” As you pull up to the car opposite you all gaze into it. The children fall about helplessly and you try to keep a little composure.
“Fun rarely has to have a large price ticket attached to it. Fun is borrowing a tent and sleeping in the garden.”
I admit there could be dangers with all of those examples. You could get pneumonia in the garden, and we know it’s not good to stay up late on school nights, and the water could hit an electricity cable and send the whole neighbourhood up in flames, and the man in the car could be an axe-murderer who takes your car number. But it will probably be OK … and you will laugh with your children.
The day will surely come when you will cry with them. They may be thirteen or thirty and you will have your arms around each other as the family goes through some tough time together. There is no home that is immune from such experiences. But home life needs to be a tapestry of tough times and moments of helpless laughter.
When they were very young, you used to tickle them.
Don’t ever stop.
Extract used with permission from ‘The Sixty Minute Father’ by Rob Parsons (Hodder and Stoughton). Available from the Care for the Family shop