I ask myself regularly, “How is this family going? How am I doing as a parent?” This is usually after I’ve shouted at the children or thrown my hands up in frustration at some instruction ignored, or a lack of thanks for a dinner cooked or an amazing experience just lived, but somehow not appreciated.
It was after one such amazing experience I got to thinking about the time we have been given, as parents, to weave our own colourful, family story. Each shared experience seems to weave another line into the tapestry that becomes our family legacy and can hold us together in the future. These experiences we share now will be the moments we remember tomorrow and that will live on through retelling. They are the memories that make us a family.
Let me sketch the scene – the Cricket World Cup is in full swing and we basically live down the road from Eden Park. Hamish and I decide to buy a bunch of cheap tickets to the semi-final, just in case. Even if it’s not us playing, it’ll be good to go along and be a part of such a significant event. You know this story – the New Zealand cricket team gets a chance at glory. We collect the kids from school early, pack snacks, raincoats and umbrellas and head to the train station. Our family is going along for the ride. The atmosphere at the stadium is electric – the crowd is pumped – this is the real deal, collective hope, the dream of reaching the ICC final for the first time in our history.
The first three hours are spent answering typical kid questions – What time did the game start? How long have we been playing? How long will the game go for? This scenario drives me slightly batty. In the end, most of the hours are spent cheering, snacking, chanting, taking kids to the toilets, clapping and resisting pleas for merchandise. Oh and did I mention absorbing the rain delay? When the Black Caps are halfway through, it looks less likely that we’ll win. I consider the fact that it’s a school night and the eight, nine and 11 year olds are pretty tired, and think – perhaps we ought to go home this time and watch the end of the game on telly. We put off the decision for five more overs – no one mentions going home again, and the rest, as you know, is history.
At close to midnight, we are walking to the train station as a family filled with joy, and the reality that dreams do come true, that keeping the faith is a beautiful thing – especially when that faith is rewarded with a dramatic, last minute, win. Hamish was filming us on his phone when the winning six was struck – the footage shows the incredible transformation from tension and tenterhooks to elation, tears of relief, squeals of delight, jumping with joy, hugging total strangers and all around happiness. It’s exciting to watch – you can’t help but smile at the footage. In essence we invested nearly 10 hours of effort for a couple of minutes of pure joy. And boy, it was worth it!
In truth, none of the waiting, being rained on, or any other minor irritation will be recalled in the years to come – the true success of that night for me was that we shared that moment together. With the help of the Black Caps and 40,000 other spectators, we managed to create a memory for our family that will last our whole lives. It will be retold and recalled, pointed to as a sign of the closeness of our family. I think it’s true to say that this particular time, the effort paid off. All those times you sit together for dinner, the times you traipse the troops to a game or beach or an event, when you invest the time – every once in a while the magic happens. We were never closer as a family than at that minute, and that is something to be thankful for in itself.
In the clear bright light of day, as parents we have around 15-20 years to create these ‘family of origin’ memories. It feels helpful to quantify the time – because this is our opportunity to make memorable experiences in any number of ways: through simple traditions, shared passions or special occasions . All are an opportunity to invest our time, and weave a variety of great threads into each child’s story as well as our family story. I love my family tapestry – it’s not complete, but it’s already full of colour.