When Tag-a-long Time is a Treasure

Sometimes the best activities that parents can do with their kids are the things parents also enjoy doing on their own.  No, I’m not talking about the twisted Moms and Dads who force their kids to see movies they shouldn’t, just because the parents want to watch and won’t get a babysitter—or the parents who drag their kids to smoky bar/restaurants and make them sit at a table and color while they get drunk…I’m talking about letting your kids tag along while you do something you want to do, like a favorite sport or hobby, that can also benefit the child.  A beautiful Father’s Day essay in last Sunday’s Parade magazine prompted me to think about this, as writer Harlan Coben fondly recalled how his late father would often take him to a local “luncheonette” on Sundays for “a milkshake and a pack of baseball cards”.  Having had a father from the same generation, I’ll bet Harlan’s father would have gone to that luncheonette with or without him, i.e., that was something he enjoyed doing that he would share with his son once in awhile, which was a thrill and a treat for his son.  Just like when my dad would invite me to join him in fishing at a local lake, or when Andy’s dad would ask Andy to be his caddy at the local golf course, while the family dog trotted along beside them…

 

It made me think, “Have Andy and I been making any ‘tag-a-long memories’ for our kids?” Any of you who have read this blog much over the past year know it didn’t take me long to think of things he does in this regard—his love of bike riding, rollerblading and watching sports on TV are all pastimes he readily shares with anyone willing to join him, which is usually Emmie.  But I had to think hard for me…remember, I’m the one who’s caught up in work, household chores, and shuttling kids around so much that I still struggle to carve out free time for myself, let alone enough time to share it with a kid… 
Hmmm…my favorite things to do are more sedentary than Andy’s and harder to share, but…when both my daughters were younger, in an effort to catch up on my reading and be with them at the same time, I’d announce, “Time for a book party!” and we’d all grab stacks of reading material and flop down in a circle on my bed or head to a park and sit on a blanket, and read silently together…little Emmie would have her board books, Allison had paperbacks like “Superfudge” and “The BFG” and I’d have my old newspapers and past issues of Martha Stewart Living…I think that might count as tag-a-long time, wouldn’t it?

 

But the book parties eventually stopped happening, for several reasons—the girls got older, busier, and so did I, and also, I recall I thought it was too selfish a thing for me to do, that I should have been reading to them during those “parties”, or having them read out loud, and I felt like a bad parent for not giving them enough of my attention, and for having an “ulterior motive” of trying to enjoy my favorite hobby.  Ah, spoken like a true modern, guilt-ridden, overly-kid-focused Mom, huh? Who spent much more time at splash playgrounds, Chuck E. Cheeses, Paint ‘n Party and providing at-home “educational enrichment” for her kids than in doing fun “adult” things for herself…

 

The girls told me later that they loved the book parties and missed them.

 

John Lennon was right.  Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans…and good parenting is often what happens when you’re not trying too hard to be a “good parent”.

 

 

 

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