Today's thoughts come to you as a result of a conversation that I just had with a friend, who I don't think even knows about my blog. She's a stay at home mom, with two young boys. She's incredibly devoted to them, and pretty much spends every waking moment in their presence. And yet, tonight she was telling me that she's worried that she doesn't play with them enough.
Being me, I didn't have anything wise or reassuring to tell her right away. All I could think to say is that I think she's a wonderful mom, and of course her boys are going to have great memories of growing up with her. pththtttt! Yeah, right. I'm not a mom, so what do I know? I'm sure she bought every word that I said.
I'll tell you what, though - after I got off the phone with her, I realized that I know a lot. I may not be a mom, but I was a kid once and I was lucky enough to have the most awesomest of dads.
My dad, back in the day, was a radiologist. He worked really long hours, so he used to shake me awake in the mornings and then be gone by the time I was up and about. He'd get home in the evenings, just before dinner, and then after we ate he usually went into his home office and spent the night studying medical journals. He was a busy guy.
But. He made time when he had to. Whether he was at the office, the hospital or at home, there was always a spare chair near his desk. There was never a time when I didn't feel as though I could park myself beside him and keep him company. I often went to work with him on the weekends, and I particularly liked going to the hospital. He'd go through film after film, reading his diagnosises into a tape recorder and pointing out breaks and fractures to me as he'd go. If I was lucky, he'd be working in the room at the hospital that had George - a human skeleton - in the closet.
My dad did other things for us too. He took us on trips. He built us stilts and bought us a unicycle (neither of which I ever mastered). He used to shovel paths into the neighbourhood outdoor skating rink so that we could play a complicated, circular version of duck duck goose on skates. He'd listen in when I played the piano or violin, and call me on it every time I was sharp or flat. (I know, because I sometimes deliberately played off key to see if he was paying attention.) When I was older, we gardened together. We walked the dog. In the winter, he shovelled the snow to the very edge of the driveway, and I followed behind to push it over the side.
You know what I don't remember doing? I don't remember playing board games or cards with my dad. I remember car rides as he drove me to music lessons or symphony practice. Picking beans in the summer. Swapping books with him, as early as grade 7 or 8. Playing in the father-daughter tournament at the golf course. Catching shit because I never did my homework. I remember him walking the Calgary hospital grounds with me, holding my hand and keeping me company as I fought so damn hard to go home, and trying to explain to me why I had to stay. I remember when he "discovered" a mouse problem in the garage, which meant I got to keep the stray cat I'd found. Trips to the mall, where Dad and I would take off and leave the rest of the family behind. Going out for ribs at a seafood joint, before we went to hear the Edmonton Symphony. All that was fun, but I think the best memories of all were those from that room at the local hospital, watching him work and hanging out with George.
So, if you're a mom - if you're dad - don't sweat so much about what you're doing with your kids. Sure, you need to have fun together; but most of all, you just need to be with them. Include them in what you're doing, and give them your time. That's what my dad did for me, and I think he did a great job.
Happy Father's Day, Dad.
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