The Joy of Parenting - Having the Right Perspective
I think enjoyment starts with having the right perspective of our family lives. Rather than seeing our family as just another chore, another responsibility, another list of things to do; we should see these years as precious opportunities to really celebrate life together with the ones we love.
One truth I am convinced of is this; in spite of all the challenges, worries, stressors, anxieties and frustrations that come with parenting, most of us are going to really miss all the fun times we enjoyed with our children as they were growing up. The time we have with them is really so limited when you think about it. The years pass by so quickly and before we know it they’re all grown up. That’s why we should savour and treasure every minute we have with our children.
A family that laughs together ….
Having a good sense of humour helps lighten the mood during family time. While there are times to be serious, there are certainly times to be funny and light hearted. Sometimes we take ourselves a little too seriously and it is healthy to sometimes to laugh at ourselves, especially when we have had a stressful day. Laughter, really is the best medicine. It is none other than Mahatma Gandhi who said, “If I didn’t have a sense of humour, I would have long ago committed suicide.”
It is important when we are with our children to practise healthy humour that does not humiliate or degrade or embarrass our children or any member of the family. It is alright to laugh WITH one another, but not to laugh AT one another. Humour is about having a good time together but not at the expense of someone else.
Once in a while it is nice to surprise the family with something they all enjoy. It could be a surprise holiday. I remember the most exciting times when we were growing up was being fetched from school by our parents on a Friday afternoon and being told that instead of going home, we were going for a weekend holiday somewhere. There is a real sense of adventure and anticipation when a family embarks on such a journey together.
On a smaller scale you could surprise the family with a family outing during the weekend. Day expeditions to the park, the zoo, the mall, the waterfalls, the amusement park all welcome diversions for the whole family.
Exploring new horizons
It is always exciting to try new things or to visit new places. Parents can encourage this spirit of adventure in the family by making it a part of the family culture to regularly try new things.
The Wong family learns about a new country every month by having a cultural dinner in which they eat the food of a particular country, listen to their music and even try to dress like them. “We had a Turkish dinner the other night at the house”, explains Mr. Wong, “the children all helped decorate the house with a Turkish motif and they helped us prepare some Turkish dishes based on recipes my son downloaded from the internet.”
Mr. and Mrs. David make it a point to visit a new place on the first weekend of every month with their children. “Last month, we visited the bird park, which was my daughter’s choice, and next month my son wanted to swim in a waterfall so we have chosen the waterfalls near Klang Gates. The idea is to let the children decide on something new and fun they want to do.”
Both the Wong and the David’s family model the importance of having the children play an active role in deciding what to do and in carrying out the activity. I’ve always advocated in this column the importance of child initiated activities because they create a family culture that encourages the child to be proactive, to try new things without fear of failure.
Some of the most fun and exciting games families can play do not cost any money at all. They just require a vivid imagination and some resourcefulness. Making tents in the living room using bed-sheets and furniture, building castles with pillows and chairs; these are simple games that young children love because they engage their imagination.
I love the book by Lat that illustrates all the games he used to play as a child when he was growing up in the kampung (village). My five-year-old daughter actually loves that book; she can spend a long time just flipping through the illustrations in that book because the games fascinate her. It reminds us what inventiveness and imagination on the part of our children can achieve.
I think parents should re-learn the simple art of playing games. Most of us played dozens of games when we were growing up; whether they be skipping, or catching, or marbles, or bottle caps. They involved skill, intelligence and planning, but most of all they were incredibly fun to play. We should pass these games down to the next generation.
My daughter loves inventing mini-games that she makes the rest of the family do. She uses simple household objects like pencils and paper, books and balls, slippers and socks, straws and cups, and she thinks of new, fun challenges all the time. When we were growing up, we used to call these tele-matches, or creative games. I think it is wonderful when children are allowed to create new games. Parents should be sporting enough to play along and encourage this sense of imagination.
Families need to enjoy being together. In the end though, all it takes is for us to set aside time and put aside all our work and worries, so that we can be free to really enjoy ourselves with the people we love. Joy is not something that can be manufactured using some formula, so it is important that fun activities are not “regimented”. In other words, you cannot force everyone to have fun according to some timetable.
All of us have our own way of having fun. The important thing is that we find ways to have fun with our children while the opportunities are still there. Parenting after all is a joy to behold.