Saturday night. Both kids went on a sleepover. We had the night to ourselves. This is good practice for when we become empty nesters, I thought. We decided to have a bath and started to talk about a novel that we’d both been listening to. Somehow the conversation turned to the kids and his concern about the kids having a life of too much play and not enough structure.
Many times I heard criticism. Many times, I heard messages of “You’re not …. enough” “You’re too….”. That isn’t what he said, but with a strong inner critic who is quick to hear blame and criticism that is what I heard. This time, I took a breath and I remembered.
Turn towards the discomfort, lean in, stay open, be curious. Tell me more, I said. What do you mean when you say that?, I asked. Are you saying …? Are you worried because …? Are you concerned about..? Are you wanting them to grow up with …?
There were times it got tense. We both got defensive. I can do this, I reminded myself. Keep trying. Stay open. Inquire. It ebbed and flowed. We reminded each other to lower our voices when we started to get loud and tense. And we navigated our way through. And at the end, the bath water was luke-warm and we both had new perspectives.
I realised that I would like to be more aware of their need for rest and downtime and not to always give in to their frequent requests for playmates and sleepovers every time they get bored. He had more of a sense of the importance of unstructured play for both children and adults. Also, that it’s ok for him to tell them what he needs and not just to prioritise to what they want in school holidays (he’s the daytime daddy).
He told me of beautiful memories from his childhood of making planes and boats from sticks, of cooking rice in the garden in a tin can and his longing for our kids to have experiences like this and not just a life of screens and technology ruling their free time.
And so we shared, we learned, we opened, we breathed, we grew and we came together in mutual understanding and wider perspectives. It was worth the discomfort and it was worth the risk.