It’s been two years since I wrote a week of lists, but I thought I would start this last four months of 2016 with revisit to that old meme. So, starting on the first, the eighth edition of the Week of Lists begins, called the “Turning 40ish Edition” with deep and engaging topics such as this one…
I’ve written lots of fatherhood over the years, but as 40ish hits and the kid swings into the second quarter of her school career, I’m starting to think more strategically about how to be the parent of a tween.
The key points: she’s not a bundle of incoherent, reaction-based toddler anymore. She’s a logical and all-too-intelligent human who is either plotting ways to spend time together… or plotting ways to outsmart me.
5. Your Time is the Most Valuable Gift You Can Give
Barf. Cliche. But, oddly enough… it’s probably true. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m Mr. Moneybags over here –hardly, actually– but let’s just say that my daughter isn’t exactly wanting for much. We’re cozy. We manage. And if I see an activity or a little book that I think she might like, I hesitate, but not because I’m on a budget or something. I hesitate because I don’t want to spoil her. The meandering point of this is simply that while I could buy her pretty much anything her little heart desires (well..within reason. no ponies!) what I honestly have found over the last few years is that what her little heart desires is QT with her old man. The things she really seems to want are, funny enough, things that force us to spend a few hours together: a game we can play or make a video out of, a set of sketch books we can draw in together, or some other oddly concocted craft she’s determined will result in us “playing” together for a Saturday afternoon.
4. Indulge the Faintest Glimmer of Her Hobbies
Falling out of that time-is-valuable point, she has more and more started to be a kid with a scattered, but obvious wheelhouse of interests and blossoming hobbies. That said –and if you read this blog on a semi-regular basis I’ve written about it recently— we’re dealing with a bit of a stationary inertia issue when it comes to finding and pursuing hobbies. A trend among her age. And while I’m not even really sure that its a problem, I’m operating on the mindset that if we, as her parents, don’t even try budge her into something that might become a life-long passion, then we’re doing her a moderate disservice. Yeah, she’ll find something on her own, but if the kid decides, say, that she wants to draw, I’m gonna make sure she’s got access to some paper and pencils.
3. Be Nice to Her Friends
Five years ago all her friends were these little toddler clones of each other. I couldn’t have told one from the other, y’know. Wide eyed little four year old girls that — while each a unique flower of uniqueness and special-ish…ness — were pretty much all little kids. At nine, my daughter has a rainbow of personalities in her circle of friends. Some are shy. Some are not. Some are already mindful and complex individuals, with opinions and ideas and… they, of course, know exactly who I am. Five years ago it would have been a pat-them-on-the-head and smile situation, but at this stage of the game I feel like a dad needs to actually pay attention and learn the names of the whole team. After all, some of these kids are going to be contriving and conspiring behind my back in a few years — I may as well have a bit of a rapport with them.
2. Quit Something Bad & Start Something Good (y’know… as a Role Model)
Ah… the role model thing. Self-improvement is never in itself a terrible idea. A lofty goal. But add one more motivator to the list of that get-fitter, quit-turkey, read-more, spend-less, love-bigger, rage-softer resolution as 40ish hits: your kid. They are actually paying attention. And if you’ve got a clever kid like me, they’re probably tracking you, making notes, and telling everyone they know each time you fail… or, ideally: conquer.
1. Have A Song
I admit that ten years ago I would have thought this was a super-hokey idea. The first time I heard someone suggest it I probably thought, yeah… right. A special father-daughter song. But shortly after the kid was born I started playing her one particular track that I thought was pretty sweet, but not too saccharine that it would get really annoying from over-use. I would play it during bathtime. Then occasionally when we were hanging out. Sometimes we dance in the living room when it comes on. All this time I’d tell her that this was our special song… which I guess it was. I put it on a bunch of mix-CDs that I’d burned for my car. And… well, nine years later, yes… we’ve got this special song. She keeps it on her iPod. She tells me that she listens to it when I’m missed. (Awwwww….) It’s not quite a surrogate father, but it certainly doesn’t hurt my dad-cred when I’m gone for a long run or home late from work.