Just Time

Anthony Yeo, the late “Father” of family counseling in Singapore, once deposited a timeless nugget of wisdom in my life some eon back.  He said kids don’t really understand “quality” time. Just time. How wise!

We delude ourselves into thinking that we can “schedule” quality time with our kids don’t we?  That special moment when our kid comes home from school, slams open the front door and screech out his victory war cry for having scored the final goal for his class soccer match.  Or when our daughter comes home dragging a wagon load of sorrows because some kid spreads a rumour which hurts  her deeply, and is just longing for that dry shoulder to sob on, or a listening ear, just CANNOT be programmed.

Our better senses tell us so.  Perhaps that’s one reason why Singaporean parents constantly feel stressed – fighting the uphill battle of trying to programme quality time.

Yes, we have the handphone, the internet, and the sms to communicate.  But nobody can transmit electronically the warmth of a smile, or the bond of laughter or the depth of sorrow.  We just need to be there!

Benjamin Spock has another thing to add about spending time with kids.  He reckons that much of child learning happens spontaneously.  He calls it “incidental learning”.

So many things happen in the course of a normal day, it’s never “normal”!  That odd moment when the kid sees something sensual on TV which stimulates him, which then offers parents the chance to chip in with a quip or two about sex or boy-girl matters just cannot be scheduled !

A car broke down this morning along Farrer Road in the thick of heavy traffic.  Clearly I can see the driver frantically seeking help on his handphone.  In our day and age, there’s little we cannot order or get through the mobile phone.  Nonetheless, it wouldn’t hurt to ask, I thought to myself.  I slowed down and yelled out my window if the exasperated driver needed assistance.  Surprisingly, he did.  He happened not to have any vehicle breakdown emergency number with him.  I shouted out a number to him.  My son whom I was sending to school was next to me.  I had the chance to show him simple basic thoughtfulness, a fellow driver helping another driver.  Which perhaps is more effective that a 6 hour classroom session on civics.  Incidental learning yet again this morning!

Thus my dear fellow fathers, yes, spend quality time with your kid.  BUT remember to plan to just spend as much time with your kid as you can.  And when you are with the kid, be there.  Not with your newspaper or smart phone.  Heed Anthony’s advice, kids just need time.  And kids are young only ONCE.  There will come a time (and probably soon) when they don’t even want to get time with us!

Reflection pointers for fathers to think about…

Values are ‘caught’ not ‘taught’, developmental psychologists tell us, however as fathers are we there often enough for our children to ‘catch’ the values that we want to impart to them. If not you may have to resort to nag, nag, nag… and how effective is that.

Action pointers for fathers to consider…

  1. Plan a weekly time with each of your child with extended hours together. Make it an activity that he/she enjoys and incorporate interaction into these activities.
  2. Be open to areas that you can exemplify healthy acts (Charity, helpfulness, generous heart etc…). Let your child see it and learn it through a real life hero. The father.

By Philip Siow, Centre for Fathering

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