In my work, I travel a lot. I’m in and out of cabs, trains, and planes regularly. Whenever I catch a taxi, my occupation invariably comes up. I write and speak about parenting. And when my cabbie finds out how I earn a living, the driver almost always asks me for parenting advice. (For free! They never offer to pay for it:) ) Recently, though, I was asked something unexpected. While normally the driver might tell me all about the drama he has been experiencing with one of his children, this time my ride simply said,
“What’s the one thing parents should do for their kids that matters more than anything else?”
Then he added,
“So, when I go home after my shift, what’s the one thing I should do with my kids?”
These questions were unusual. Normally parents want to know how they can get their children to behave in ways that benefit mum and dad. Whether it’s tantrums, chores, schoolwork, extra-curricular motivation, or whatever, most parents ask me questions about how to make their kids better. But this man wanted to know how he could behave to benefit his children. He wanted to be a better dad. (I know that most parents who ask me how to make their kids better do it with the best of intentions, and they are good, devoted parents. But few parents ask me “what can I do for my children?”) The driver had three children, aged 2, 5, and 10. I thought about his two questions for a second – if that – and then responded:
“The most important thing you can do for your kids is to love them. And show that you love them by giving them your best self, and your best time.”
Then I gave him my advice for what to do when he knocked-off work that afternoon:
“When you walk in that door, put on your happiest dad face. Then call out to the children, lay down on the floor, and let them jump all over you for at least ten minutes. It will change your day, and it will change their day.”
More than almost anything, children feel our love when we invite them into our world and let them spend time with us there. Or, when we enter their world and spend time with them, there. One of my favourite parenting quotes is this:
To a child, love is spelled T – I – M – E.
It is a simple lesson. This is a reminder. Tonight (or now), pull yourself away from the screen, look into your children’s eyes, and tell them that you love them more than anything. Then walk together, play together, ride a bike together, make something, cook something, experiment, or just ‘be’ together. Whether your kids are 2 months, 2 years, 12 years, or 22 years, it’s a universal need. Give them your time. Do it now. Try it. It will change their day, and yours. It might even change your lives.