I remember a very special meal with my daughter. I didn’t eat anything. It was in what we laughingly called The Tree Hut – really, just a precarious deck nailed together amongst the branches of a backyard tree. Suzy was about six and even though she did not have a crumb of real food to actually serve me, she whipped up an imaginary feast that was as memorable as any I have ever had in a restaurant. I stood on top of the neighbour’s fence that ran next to the tree, clinging to the edge of the hut so my head and shoulder were at her level. She fussed and fiddled with toy cups and plates, giving me a commentary like a TV chef. She would pass me treat after treat, and I would sniff the aroma of each morsel, sigh with appreciation, and then slurp or chew. I was totally in the world she was creating, and she seemed delighted to share it with me.

It scares me now, looking back on it. Not that I could have slipped off the fence and broken my neck, but the very real risk that I could have missed the whole thing. I was so busy and twitchy with things to do that I could easily have passed up the invitation to have afternoon tea with the tiny queen in her treetop palace. Funnily, I cannot remember a single one of those vitally important projects that were screaming for my attention that afternoon, but I can remember the smell of those waxy plastic toy plates.

This parenting gig is hard work and many of us look forward to some far-off payday when it will all have been worthwhile. Maybe we think the reward will be seeing them graduate, or married, or living as happy, independent adults. My kids are at that stage now and, yes, it is very rewarding (though don’t get me started on the ache of empty-nest syndrome) but I am glad I realised early enough that the rewards were actually embedded in the daily grind. Every so often a gem glints amongst the rubble of day-to-day family life. Notice the gems, appreciate them and put them in a mental pocket. Of course we all meant to keep diaries of our kids growing up (failed) but at least my wife kept a notebook of the gems, and we took lots of photos and videos. But the real trick is to spot the gems in the first place. It makes parenting the delight it is meant to be.


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The Parenting Place is delighted to partner with Sentinel Homes to bring you this campaign dedicated to Kiwi mums and dads enjoying their parenting and home life that much more. Enjoy the Little Things is about taking time to appreciate your children in the small moments as well as the big ones. Many of these occur in the home itself – sitting in the lounge deciding what Saturday night movie to put on, staying an extra couple of minutes after they’ve fallen asleep, making pancakes in funny shapes and laughing together about it – and we love celebrating them all. Thanks, Sentinel Homes, for partnering with us.

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About Author

John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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