Raising a child is tough. It’s rewarding as well, of course, for those moments when you feel a genuine connection over something you’ve done together. But it’s not always about stuff you do together; it’s about nurturing your children’s ability to do things without you as well.
That’s a hard balance to find; it certainly has been for me as a single parent, and I imagine it’s equally as difficult for two-parent families – how do you get the balance right between both parents in terms of spending time with your precious child? How do you make sure you’re spending time with them that actually means something, as well as giving them the space to broaden their minds and not need you for continuous entertainment throughout the day.
I struggle finding that balance between the two; my son has lived with me for the past eight months, and in the beginning, I was the only person he knew down here in his new home. This entire area was strange and unknown to him; he relied on me entirely to get him around, make sure he was fed, and ensure he was enjoying himself.
But now, months on, he is forming a social network. He has a group of friends at school that seem decent and kind and fun, he has family around him that he is extremely fond of, and a school he is enjoying a lot. He doesn’t need me every moment of the day, because he isn’t with me every second now – as is only right and proper.
But, of course, I’m concerned about his emotional development as much as anything else. When he’s home and comfortable, I want him to be able to entertain himself for a while; there will be times when we’re together, playing games, watching TV, or talking over dinner. But there’ll be other times when I need to do some ironing or do some washing up or just do some writing; that’s taken something of a back seat to everything else that’s going on.
When I’m doing those things, how can my son feel able to entertain himself? He comes from a foster home that was a lot busier than ours; there’s only two of us, and he likes being part of activities. So to ask him to find ways of entertaining himself can be difficult; I’m starting in small doses and helping him build up his inner resilience. That’s key for me; I want to see him expand his inner strength and be confident in his own company when he needs to be.
But to do that without sacrificing time together is the other key factor; I became a dad because I want to be involved in my son’s life, and I want him to be involved in mine. If you’re not willing to do that, then why the hell are you a parent at all? Don’t get me started …
I enjoy my son’s company; he’s a genuine pleasure to be around. I sometimes wonder if I will ever fully understand what’s going on in his head; he’s deep and complex, but pretends not to be. He’s eight, for heaven’s sake – complexity is not something that is necessary for a boy of his age, but I will try and show the virtues of that over time. I can only do that by being present; by showing him that it means to be a decent human being.
It’s not just down to me; there are other important people in his life that will influence his character and who he will want to spend time with. But if I can get it right most of the time, and be there for him whilst teaching him resilience, then I know he will grow up into an intelligent, compassionate, well-rounded adult. I can’t wait to meet the man he’s going to become.