Last night Sasha (15¼) and I (56½) were lying around on my bed, wrestling, tickling, laughing, teasing, joking, eating, WhatsApping, Instagramming, mocking and all that while watching bits of 27 Dresses when I turned to her and I said, “You know what Bubster? I really like you!”
“Duh!” she said. “You are my father, you are supposed to like me.”
“No,” I replied. “As your father I am supposed to love you, nobody says I have to like you. I just happen to like you, too.”
We debated the subject for a few minutes and I said, “Don’t worry, I will write about it tomorrow and maybe you will understand what I am saying.”
Sasha and I have quite a strange and wonderful relationship, she being wonderful and me being… well me being me. I have been single for almost seven years now and in that time, even though we do not see each other as much as we both would like, we have learned to enjoy every second of it. The crazy adventure days, the building stuff together days, the walking aimlessly around the market days, the cooking long, slow meal days and the days when we just do nothing.
“As your father I am supposed to love you, nobody says I have to like you. I just happen to like you, too.”
You see, she’s a good kid and I LIKE HER! She has a sense of duty, she has a sense of self, and she has a sense of caring – and a great sense of humour. Which I may add is often directed at her father and the quirks and idiosyncrasies that she sees in me. She is my mirror.
I often observe parents interacting with their children and I think: “Wow, you really don’t like that kid much do you, and it shows.” It shows in their interaction; it shows in the way they talk to each other; it shows in the type of language they use even if it is meant to be in jest – and it shows in the way the child reacts with his or her world around them. You can’t keep calling your child “hey arsehole”; you can’t keep saying “don’t be so stupid!” without it rubbing off on them. You can’t bully them covertly or overtly without them starting to believe it is okay to bully others. Those bullies at school have to learn that skill somewhere.
When I watch a parent interact with a child that they clearly don’t like, I wonder if the parent realises that the child is a mirror of them. “Despite our best efforts to prevent it, our children are going to grow up just like us.” That is not entirely true; many will make conscious decisions to break patterns and not carry our burden into their lives but, on the whole, they are a product of their parents.
Not all kids are easy to like; not all behaviour is easy to tolerate and Sasha is no angel (I am very happy to say). She is full of mischief and forgetful, she can be argumentative. If I was asked to describe her in one line, I would say “not very good at carrying out instructions”. You see? Now you know where she gets that from. I am pretty sure that I too do not always get it right, but I would like to offer a little advice and guidance to some of the parents out there, single or divorced.
This moment is fleeting and you will never have it again. Not every second has to be filled with purpose and activity, but don’t waste too many of them in front of the TV or in front of your phone. We gave up DSTV about three years ago and that alone has given us hours and hours of time to fill together.
If you want to be in someone’s memory tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today. Take a very special interest in their world; it is filled with wonder and amazement. Keep asking questions like “How was your day?” “What you been doing?” “How are your friends?” She is 15 and I have learned that “nothing” and “not much” are very acceptable answers, but they won’t stop me from asking just in case today is the day she wants to or needs to talk about something.
Don’t run down the other parent no matter what you think of them. Our children know they are made up of two halves of the parents that brought them into this world. When you tell them that your other half or your ex-other half is stupid, irresponsible, an arsehole, a mistake [in fact insert any of your own choice descriptions here] you are telling them that they are part that too. Just stop it! You are doing your own credibility no good.
Stop telling them to “grow up” and rather go find your inner child again. Go and do some fun, wacky things with them; show them it is ok to get it wrong even make a fool of yourself now and again (God knows I don’t have to try very hard at that). It doesn’t take much money (God knows, I have learned that lesson too) so stop using that as an excuse. The world is filled with beautiful parks, strange markets, friends and family that would love to share that time with you.
Learn to like them and give them a few reasons to like you! No, it’s not a popularity contest and you won’t suddenly lose control or your role as the parent. They won’t suddenly disrespect you or your instructions; in fact, you may just find the opposite. Perhaps learn to love and like yourself again and it will flow so easily.
It’s not always easy being a parent but I wouldn’t swap it for the world. Good morning Sasha, I hope this clears it up for you.
Mike Said is a marketer, public speaker, committed dad and part-time adrenaline junky, who dedicates his blog to his only daughter, Sasha. When she came into his life 15 years ago, he was going to teach her right from wrong and how to be a good person. He was going to teach her to live her life to the full, to see the fun in all she does, to suck the marrow from the bones of life and to never waste a single second. Little did he realise she would be the one to teach him all these things and more. You can find him at www.daddyblogger.co.za or www.mikesaidwhat.co.za