4 I will dedicate one full, uninterrupted hour each day to playing with my kids.
One week into the New Year and I fear I might have miscalculated this resolution already. In crafting it I made the possibly mistaken assumption that the kids actually want me to play with them more. Case in point, my attempt last night to read more of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the kids before bed. A book they are quite enjoying, I expected my offer to be irresistible but instead it was met with a blunt, stereo, “Nope, we’re playing,” before returning to their imaginary world, forgetting my very existence.
I suppose, as no doubt some of you are dying to say, that I could have joined them in their imaginative play. Fair enough, but this particular scenario involved small forts built from couch cushions and throw pillows. Until I succeed with resolution 5, and likely still afterwards, I am just too big to fit. Besides, at what point do you let happily playing children be? If we are mindful to let sleeping dogs lie, surely letting happy kids play is similarly wise.
I Will Be A Better Dad
Resolution 4 is another revamp from my ill-fated 2015 resolutions. Last year I had a wishy-washy resolution to be a better dad. It was a genuine desire on my part born from a self-assessed underperformance as a Dad. Which isn’t to say I believed myself to be a bad Dad, I just felt I could do better, particularly when it comes to engaging with them in play outside the daily interactivity of parent and child.
I knew in my head what I was meaning but I wasn’t comfortable spelling it out for the world to read and that led to the lame, vague “I will be a better Dad.” I mean, how do you actually critique such a goal at year’s end anyway? Obviously I did nothing of the sort when all was said and done and another goose egg on the 2015 accomplishment front was earned.
This year I’m putting a specific commitment to this important resolution. I will dedicate one solid, consecutive hour each day to playing with my kids with no distractions or pauses, no checking the phone or peering online. It will be just me and the kids making memories that will last a lifetime. Or until school starts the next day.
In some ways this is a peculiar resolution. I’m a stay-at-home dad and have been for nearly eight years now. I’ve done a lot of playing with the kids over those years. I imagine I’ve played with my kids more than many a working parent simply by virtue of the hours I’ve spent around them as the primary caregiver. Still, I feel like that play has been too infrequent and piecemeal. Like many new parents committing to the stay-at-home role, I jumped into my new job fully intending to be the greatest Dad in the history of all social species to ever exist. I would be a real life version of whichever television Dad is considered the high water mark of fatherhood now that halo over Clifford Huxtable has been shattered. I would be attentive, nurturing, loving, and fun. I would teach, comfort, raise, and play. I would be advisor and friend, solid father and crazy uncle. My children would adore me, other parents would envy me or perhaps curse me, and my wife would worship me.
Unimaginably Rewarding Yet Equally Boring
Life would have other ideas. I was all of those things at various times, but greatest Dad ever? Not a chance. Yeah, I got sick, but mostly being a stay-at-home parent is a lot different than you think it will be. It’s not hard, but it is hard. It can be far more rewarding than you’d even imagined yet equally as boring. As routine takes over and the novelty wears off, pretty soon you find life just sort of happens and suddenly the kids are both in school and you’re doubting whether you lived up to the expectations you had for yourself going in.
My kids are now 8 and 6 years old. They spend a great deal of time playing with each other and with their friends. On weekends they’ll scurry off to the basement or second themselves in their bedrooms for hours on end playing some imagined mashup of recently viewed movies and favourite books. After school they’ll often spend an hour playing with friends at the playground. I’m with them when they do this, of course; the dutiful father gossiping with other parents while our kids revel in the outdoors. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the kids and I’m happy that I can provide this for them, but I’m hardly playing with them.
They also have sports which takes up a lot of their time; hello great Canadian hockey parent. And obviously school is now a pseudo-full-time job for them ten months of the year. The available time to even attempt to achieve this resolution is growing slimmer every month. This reality seems only to have been emphasized now that I’m focused on doing more with them. It will be a greater challenge than I anticipated.
Food Prep Can Be Fun
Still, it’s a worthy challenge and one I won’t give up on. I probably should have committed to this a few years ago, before the kids’ first forays into the bigger world that awaits them. Better late than never, in this case. With a little effort and imaginative planning on my part, I can make this happen. I help coach both their hockey teams which is kind of playing with them though hardly uninterrupted. And play with pre-tween kids can involve more than carousing in the basement. Even food prep for supper can be made fun and educational for when they are old enough to be lovingly but firmly thrust into the big world completely.
If I fail at this resolution it will only be a result of the judges being too literal in the definition of play. To me, the important part of the resolution is the uninterrupted engagement with my kids. This is something I can and will and must do. Hopefully a great deal of it will actually be play, an activity of which there are endless possibilities. Mostly, though, it’ll be an hour each day where the kids and I are interacting, experiencing, and simply being with each other.