Post New Year and with the house to ourselves (Himself is off sailing at the National Championships in Canberra), the BA and I have been working on a jigsaw puzzle. I am a great believer in things like jigsaw puzzles; not only do they sharpen visual/spatial awareness (BA! Does it LOOK like it's going to fit in there??????) but they create space and time for togetherness and a sense of shared experience. They are also prevent you from doing petty tasks like folding the washing but that's another story.
One of the first movies I ever saw was Mary Poppins and even at the tender age of 7 or so I saw clearly the message of shared experience.
The final sequence, as the workaholic but disgraced father throws propriety to the wind and rushes off to fly a kite with his family, resounds clearly in my soul.
It never fails to bring tears to my eyes, which is interesting in itself. Why does this still affect me after all these years?
I think perhaps, as a child whose father could be away for weeks at a time, I felt the 'wrongness' of the 'present but absent' father. When my father was at home, and when he was engaged with us, it was the most exhilarating and affirming of times. How could a father be at home and yet leave interaction with his children, to someone else? It struck a discordant note in my open, childish heart. To this day I'm not sure if it was because I resented my father's times away, or because I genuinely felt the wrong for the Banks children. Whatever the reason, the resolution of this, the most fundamental of parenting errors, still pushes all my buttons.
Maybe the source of my open wound is the relationship I observe from weekend to weekend as the Small Boy and his father play the timeless father and son game of 'why don't you play with me?' tag. It goes like this:
Son: Can you take me to the skate park?
Father: But I only see you on the weekends and now you spend all your time up there....
Son: Why don't you stay and watch me?
Father: No I've got work to do.
(son has returned from skate park near tea time and is on the computer. Father is cooking)
Me: Why don't you go and help Dad with the dinner?
Son: Nah. I don't want to (eyes never leaving the screen)
Me: Well, he doesn't get to see you much and you've been out all day, he hasn't had a chance to talk to you
Son: (eyes still on screen) He never talks to me anyway, even when I am here.
Father: (approaching Son who has been playing X Box for 2 hours) Do you want to come to the football with me?
Son: (eyes never leaving the screen) Can I bring a friend to talk to?
Son wants to see a particular kid's movie for his birthday. He is all excited. He gets to go with his Dad! He loves the movie. As it ends.....
Son: that was SO COOOOL
Dad: That was the worst movie I've ever sen. It had no plot, no discernible heroes or villains and was just a lot of special effects.
Son: (face falls)
As a parent who spends inordinate amounts of time with her child (probably more than is healthy at our respective ages) I find this painful to watch; the constant reaching and rebuttal from each of them. At least Son No2 and his father have sailing in common. Himself's attempt to make that connection with Small Boy was an abject failure.
When Himself and Small Boy tried sailing together, Small Boy had a bad experience the second time (first time was good) and then gave up. At this point Himself should have insisted he try one more time and then ensured that the primary focus of the day was the shared experience. Not winning >:-( Instead, Himself said he didn't want to 'force him' to do something he didn't like. Hellloooooooo? Cleaning his teeth? Going to bed at a reasonable hour? Not crossing the road without looking both ways???????
One has to orchestrate these moments sometimes. The BA is a 'watchoholic' whose first resort for entertainment is the DVD player. As Flaming Sword parent I have to make suggestions and then carry them through, knowing that once they are in action she will enjoy them. Thus it is with jigsaws. And gardening. And going to the gym.
The only positive thing I can think of is that Himself agreed to coach Small Boy's basketball team last term.
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