Time is the best gift you can give a child
This week, my daughter and I made a pompom. You know, one of those mad, multi-coloured things constructed with wool and cardboard that we all used to make before such quaint activities were usurped by the PS, the DS and the iStuff.
I groaned inwardly when she came home with a doughnut-shaped circle nearly the size of her head. As a child of the ’70s, I know the bigger the hole, the more wool winding. This wasn’t a pompom we were making; it was an RSI-inducing fluffy football (thanks, Ms F).
So, for a week, we wound and threaded and knotted and chatted, pausing only to dispatch her father for more wool supplies (don’t send a man to buy textiles unless you want variations on brown). This morning, as she trotted off to school, it was hard to tell who was more puffed up – my daughter or the massive woolly doughnut that, by day’s end, will be a pompom.
I can’t help but think that everything good and right and whole is woven into that furry ball. Not only is it cheap, recycled and eco-friendly (notwithstanding the endless kettle boiling required for fortifying cups of tea), it’s been a lesson in delayed gratification. It took patience, perseverance and time.
Oh, so much time.
Ask anyone – parents, couples, singles – and they’ll tell you time is the one thing we don’t have. We’re beholden to our busy-ness, so much so that Unicef recently found that children are trapped in a cycle of ‘compulsive consumerism’ as parents buy them stuff to compensate for their long working hours.
Admittedly, the report was a thunderous warning to parents in Britain – ranked the worst country in the industrialised world in which to be a child. But a closer look at the research shows that we share some alarming similarities with our broken mother country.
Only 51.3 per cent of Australian 15-year-olds say their parents spend time “just talking to them” several times a week, compared with 60.5 per cent of UK teens. We fare slightly better on eating with our teens – nearly 70 per cent share their main meals with their parents several times a week, versus 66.7 per cent in the UK. Perhaps the youth riots that made headlines wouldn’t happen here, but what sort of society produces teen girls who bash each other up, knocking out teeth and breaking noses, so they can upload their disturbing spectacle on YouTube?
Yes, parents are exhausted and we often opt for the most convenient and least combative measures to raise our children. But, if not us, what defence is there against materialism or the insidious elements of technology? Unicef’s research found the happiest kids were those who spent time outdoors with their families, saved up to buy things and helped out with chores. Funnily enough, all things that take thought, instruction and time from parents.
In the constant tussle between work and home, I often forget what a privilege it is to be a parent – to have in my hands and my heart two small souls I’m just borrowing; who I have for a short time to guide and teach and enjoy. Children for whom a tickle, a chat or a paper heart slipped into a lunch box is so much more important than anything I have to do. Truly, what child ever died from too much love?
That’s why – despite deadlines looming – I’m off with my scissors to my daughter’s school. Because nothing that needs doing today is as joyous as seeing 30 massive pompoms come to life.
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