Filling the parenting gaps
Sharing parenting duties with my ex, I am sure to miss a few details, says this dad of three.
‘She took her first step today!’
‘Come to the phone, sweetie, Daddy wants to say hello…’
‘What do you mean, he’s won an award?’

Missing links. Those are what happen after the sharp-focus of the first few days after birth. You know how it goes: You’ve made sure that every minute detail of the first few hours is prepared for and documented. Everything is recorded in Facebook pages, online photo albums, or the old fashioned way: locks of hair and ribbons lovingly glued into books. And then life gets in the way.

There’s the anticipation of first word, smile, tooth and step, and then the disappointment of one of the parents missing one of these milestone moments. Maybe an early birth even coincided with Dad’s business trip. Another time you go to the shop for nappies and come back to find you’ve just missed something: We kick ourselves for missing out, but we can’t treat babies like a TV series. We don’t have everything on disk, and can’t press pause. Life with a child is fast, chaotic and complicated. Blink, and you miss things.

This has been made clear to me as someone who shares parenting. Not only do I miss out on what happens while I am off earning a living, but sometimes days go by where I don’t even see my children. It’s not quite as bad as “Hasn’t he grown?!” but some days it feels like I have missed out on some important moments.

Keeping the chat flowing

I’ve learned from this experience, though. My ex and I try to keep each other informed of important things happening in the children’s development and schooling, and for the rest, I chat to them.

It’s not about asking ‘how was school?’ The reflex answer is always ‘fine’, but rather to have a conversation. I ask them about the movies they’ve seen, their friends and what they’ve been up to. Their ages vary, so the responses range from happy nonsense: babbling about colours, noises and food, to complex diary reenactments. Little biographies.

I love hearing them tell me what life is like seen through their eyes. I don’t want to watch them the way I would characters in a movie. When they speak to me, they include me in their day, and this is so much more rewarding than a feeling of not knowing everything. I ask them questions, and they are learning to ask questions about my life, too. I hope that as we chat, they feel that they are getting to know me, and that the time we spend together will be rewarding for them.

Memories aren’t always made of rosettes, trophies or finishing-lines. Sometimes, just being there, and making the most of the time you have is more precious, and makes up for missing links. I’m proud of them for living life, for creating their own personalities, and for being brave enough to learn, and willing to share it with me through their own eyes.

How do you make sure you don’t miss out on the big and little milestones in your children’s lives?

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