Your child’s attendance at school is recorded every day. Present or absent, the two and a half thousand or so days of school over twelve years will be marked down in ledgers. The teachers do this as part of their job, but they know there’s more to school than simply attending.
Kids must participate
I have a vague memory of going to Sunday school as a small child. So vague that I can’t remember anything about the lessons apart from colouring in a bearded guy wearing sandals once. But at the end of the year I was called up to the front of church to receive my prize for attending: a story book which (mystifyingly) had nothing to do with the Bible, but was about a hamster going on holiday to the seaside. The book had a sticker inside the cover: Attendance Award.
I can remember more about the hamster book than an entire year’s worth of Sunday school classes.
Participating in the lives of children is tricky. As parents, we try and get them started, teach them independence. Much like the teachers don’t want us doing our kid’s projects for them, we have to allow them space to learn on their own
under our guidance. Participation isn't about dominating and dictating, but rather investing time in some prompting, nudging, encouraging and occasionally correcting the child.
You may have had this experience: I was helping my daughter and her friend complete a school project on the weekend. They had to make apple jam. She’s very conscientious, so she was insisting that they do the preparation and cooking and that I observe. So I stood back and only pitched in when asked. My attendance and participation was on their terms, in the same way that it is when a toddler has a tea party and insists that you have seven make-believe
cups of tea and fourteen imaginary biscuits. You just have to play along.
Many of us as parents get the urge to skip the attendance register occasionally and bunk; just get away for the day and do something for kicks, but it does feel comforting to get back into reality again. There’s that odd feeling you get when you’re out of town for work or just out for the evening and you miss your kids. A deep ache that fills you and you’d do anything to have them right there with you, sharing the moment.
I guess I was going to suggest that participation is far more important than attendance in this crazy school of parenting, but sometimes just being there is wonderful too. Observing and appreciating the humans your kids are becoming, and being available for them to involve you on their terms. “Attending to” sometimes means being involved, and not merely standing passively by.
I'm not entirely sure what relevance the hamster book has to this, apart from suggesting that sometimes just attending can have its own special rewards. What’s the most amazing thing you've ever observed your child doing without you interfering? Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could win a R250 kalahari.com voucher.