Six-year-old Clare was excited to spend winter break with her grandparents in Florida. Her father Dan had meetings in Florida that week, so he and Clare flew down and back together.
Once in Florida, Clare was given to the care of her doting grandparents. Together, they enjoyed breakfast with Mickey Mouse, two days in Disney’s Magic Kingdom and an afternoon at a dinosaur park.
When Dan concluded his business, he reunited with Clare to enjoy one final morning together before flying home.
Dan had mused about how they might spend that morning. Should he take Clare to Epcot Center? Sea World? Maybe Typhoon Lagoon?
His wife urged him to keep it simple. “Just play together in the hotel pool,” she suggested. “More is not necessarily better.”
Dan didn’t like that idea. He wanted to be the cool dad who took his daughter on her first roller coaster, or to Reptile World or the land of Harry Potter.
In the end, he took his wife’s advice. For more than two hours, father and daughter played together like dolphins in a pool they had all to themselves.
Once home, Clare’s mother asked about the trip. “It was your first plane ride,” she remarked, “and your first fireworks, and your first visit to Disney World. What was your favorite part?”
Without hesitation, Clare replied, “The best part was playing in the pool with my dad.”
Sometimes simple is best.
Most kids don’t want gee-whiz activities as much as they want their parents’ undivided attention, their love and their time. To a child, love and time are the same thing.
Not long ago, a group of parents and their kids were asked, “If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, whom would you choose?” Their replies were videotaped.
The parents selected an assortment of people, including Jesus, Rosa Parks, Beethoven and Galileo. After completing their answers, the parents watched the video of their children’s responses. Overwhelmingly, the kids said that if they could choose anyone, they would have dinner with their parents.
Family dinners are a powerful way to spend time with our kids. Studies repeatedly show that teens who eat dinner with their family get better grades in school and are less likely to get into drugs and alcohol.
As people of faith who want to pass along the faith to the next generation, it’s essential that we set aside distractions and give undivided attention to our children. Rake leaves together. Teach your child how to dribble a soccer ball or tie nautical knots. Play checkers.
One of the best parent-child activities is reading a book. A child’s ability to comprehend is greater than his or her ability to read, so while a first-grader might be able to read Go Spot, Go, he or she can understand C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. When a parent curls up with a child and a good book, magic happens.
It boils down to this: a child spells love: T-I-M-E.