Have you ever seen those families with magic around them? The parents you want to be?
I’m sitting next to such a family in the Chicago airport right now. Two kids, maybe six years old, are travelling with their father. The kids decided to work on their weaving: the cool stretchy loops that eventually form pot holders. Brother and sister are helping each other learn. She told him, “I used to think you did it this way, but it’s wrong. You actually do it this way.” He listened intently.
The dad is one of the most patient fathers I’ve ever sat near. He’s talking to them about their weaving, showing them how to use a wire tool to make the weaving easier. The tone of patience and love in his voice is profound, after what must have been a long trip travelling alone with two young children. Rather than being annoyed or even quietly reading his book while his children play, he’s sitting next to them, weaving pot holders in the airport. Right now his kids are gathered around his lap watching him weave.
I saw another family like this once. Mother and two children, two and three years old, were in my mom’s dance studio. In that studio lobby, I’ve seen a lot of parents get frustrated with their children, firmly disciplining them while trying to write a check or change the daughter’s shoes. Or, on the opposite extreme, letting the children run completely amuck.
(The dad next to me just told his children, “You know, this is a really good book. I read a page of it every month. Do you think I’ll ever finish?”)
This mom sat down on a bench with her kids in front of her and patiently explained to them why they shouldn’t wander around the studio when other children were present. They listened to her so intently and obeyed completely.
Obviously, no family is like these all of the time! Children get tired and parents get annoyed. But, the attitude of incredible love and of patience and of an intense interest in what the children are experiencing is one I want to internalize.
(I’m like a magpie. I pick up pretty things I see laying around and incorporate them into my personality.)
My roommate is, I believe, in love with Dostoyevsky. She tells me that his family sat down to dinner together every night, and his wife and he kept the conversation to topics the children could understand. Reading C.S. Lewis’ letters to children also reveals an incredible love and understanding. Rather than loving children as a foreign entity and stooping down to their level, these incredibly intelligent men and women are a part of their world. They neither “stoop down” to their level nor “raise” the child up to “grown up” conversation; child and adult inhabit the same fantastical world.