I’d wished my own childhood away with the hopes of more engagement from my parents, then spent the childhood of my own kids thinking ‘what the hell am I doing?’ I relived the horror of my upbringing, feeling like a stunned mullet as I identified each stage from the opposite role. I couldn’t wait for the next stage to end, then it really was all over. With no life experience to draw on, I had no chance to modify the trajectory of their lives. All the missed opportunities to engage and enrich by slowing down to listen, validate and just enjoy. Now I’m raising my grandson.
So, we’re taking part in this 30 Day Slow Down Childhood Challenge. It really spoke to my heart when I saw it on Facebook, so I signed up. Seeing the calendar on paper makes it sound so simple, but the lessons are quite profound.
Day one is all about making your child laugh. How hard can that be? I realised we’d been living the last year making it from day to day, one problem to the next. I pushed aside opportunities to bring myself down to my grandson’s level when he asked. Simple things like building a hut in the lounge, tying a tarpaulin between the bushes to eat under, or to tickle him in a contrived way bringing a bout of belly laughter. The kind of activities that make no sense in a day that demands so many meals, cleaning up, and making sure everyone’s physical needs are met.
I consciously had to make an effort to lock eyes with him. Listening to his faltering attempts to tell a joke I’d heard a hundred times, I had to retain my element of surprise. The urge to correct was over-bearing as I bit my lips together in anticipation. I feigned a hearty laugh, all the while thinking about the work I needed to get done before getting the groceries. Right then I noticed his face had lit up as I’d been made privy to a tiny piece of his six year old world. Grinning widely, he slipped his small, warm hands in mine.
‘I love it when you laugh with me, nana.’
Our rewards were instant.
© Words & Photography by Paula M Cunniffe, New Zealand.
This article may be republished with permission from the author.