Play.

scooterIf you search in the dictionary for the technical definition of the word ‘relationship’ you’ll find:

Relationship                                   [ri-ley-shuh n-ship]

The way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected.

On the surface this means that we define our relationships by titles such as ‘spouse’, ‘sibling’, ’colleague’ or ‘friend’.   But what if we dug a little deeper into the way that we connect with each other?

Let me explain.  You may have two good friends, but the relationships you have with each, are likely be totally different based on the way you are connected.  It could be the interests you share in common, the experiences you’ve had together, geographic or situational correlations.… but anchoring all of these, is history.

The memories that we share form the structure of the bridges that connect us.  So if connection equals relationship, then making memories equals building relationships.  It’s not rocket science.

When it comes to our children, I’ve always tried to remember that a ‘great relationship’ with my sons is not a given.  It’s not an automatic result of my title as ‘mother’.  Plenty of men grow up with average or even negative relationships with their mothers.  A great relationship is something that is built, nurtured and earned.  It is not something you wake up with one day accidentally.

Getting it right can feel like a difficult dance.  I hear parents anguish over the right amount of discipline versus the right amount of leniency.  Are we being too relaxed or too stern, too permissive or too structured?  Are we supposed to be teachers, coaches, mentors or friends?

Probably a little bit of all.  But in the end, there’s only one thing that in my experience, trumps everything when it comes to building relationships with our kids:

Play.  

It doesn’t matter what you play.  Climb a tree, build a lego spaceship, chase each other with the hose.  Ride scooters in the street till dark.

Just to be clear, I’m talking about much more than just ‘doing things’ with our kids.  There’s a big difference between taking your kids to the beach and actually getting busy building a sand castle with them.  The only genuine way to connect with a child is to step into their world.  And then maybe when they grow up, they’ll want to be part of ours.

I once heard someone say that children spell ‘love’ with the letters: T-I-M-E.  And with the currency of ‘time’ being at an all time high, it’s what we do with that time that makes it really count.

I begun to do some research on the benefits of ‘play’ for this article, but it just got too boring.  Co-ordination, experiential science and maths, creativity, tactile development, sensory exposure… I mean, yes, all these things are great.  But how about just doing something because it’s ‘fun’ to do together?

I looked outside my window and my sons were playing scooter soccer on the street with friends.  Screw the research; if I ever need ideas on great things to do with my kids, all I need to do is join them. 

Getting on a scooter is scary enough without also trying to manoeuvre a ball towards a goal and avoid getting tackled.  But whatever, I’ll get on scooters, I’ll get grazes and cuts up a tree, I’ll get tackled for a ball, I’ll watch Pokemon and play Minecraft.  I’ll read books that are gross and laugh madly when I step on dog poo.  I’ll sit on the garage floor with chalk and draw bums.

I’ll stop waiting for the kids to grow up, and instead, I’ll find ways to remember that I too, was young once.  I don’t ever want to get so busy being a ‘parent’, that I forget to also be their friend.

It doesn’t even matter if they tell you that you suck on a scooter , or that you kick a ball like a princess.  Trust me, a relationship is building.   And so on the days that your ten year old requires discipline, or your teenager requires guidance… you’ve already built a bridge.

 

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