Don’t Just Be There, Be Present

dont just be there be presentCaution, this post is self righetous and condecending. My day started at 5:00. At 6 I picked up Ean from bed and by 6:30 we were out for our morning run. Then it was the normal routine of getting home, saying bye to mom when she goes to work, breakfast (don’t forget the fresh juice!), a bit of downtime and by 9:30 we were at the park til’ noon, then supermarket and home for a nap, during which I did my regular work, emailing and planning.

Ana had a doctor’s  appointment so she couldn’t make it home for our usual lunch date but was sent home after the doctor´s at 14:00, to which I decided on a celebratory BBQ that took longer than expected (2 hours!). After lunch Ana wasn’t feeling well (don’t you dare blame the BBQ) and went to lie down and rest. It was 18:00 when I took Ean to the park so Ana could have some peace and quiet and this is where my rant begins.

I’m one of those cooky parents, the type who doesn’t hesitate to drop down and wrestle and tickle my kid on the middle of the ground or run around with him over my head, that’s just who, how and what I am as a person, a clown and I don’t expect you other fathers to be exactly like me.

But let’s get one thing straight, I work my ass off from sunrise just like you, whatever it is you do during the day. You are perhaps making and shaping money but I’m making and shaping a human being so let’s not pretend I sit on my ass eating KitKat (my vice!) and watching Netflix while my son stares at a computer screen getting brainwashed by that godforsaken finger family (seriously, they are freaky!)

So we enter the playground on same terms, all beit I show up in trainers/flipflops, t-shirt and shorts, not a suit. You, just like me, brought life into this world but for whatever reason which escapes me, you think it’s a good idea to just stay on your phone the whole time and be completely passive while your kids are playing.

There I am, chasing and playing with Ean and his beloved ball around the playground when out of nowhere a boy, a complete stranger to me, takes up the chase and now it’s the three of us playing! There’s no goal, no rules, we’re just throwing the ball between us, I put it under my t-shirt and they chase me. The only reason I know this boy is his is because he stopped him from throwing the ball into the sea.

The game continues, I’m throwing Ean in the air, bouncing the ball on both kids heads, dribbling behind my back, tricking them to lunge for the ball and flick it up in the air as they scream of laughter and excitement and the chase continues. They pull me down on the ground, Ean is on my chest, the boy is grabbing the ball and behind Ean, right over my knees, comes a girl and strattles me.

I grab onto her so she doesn’t fall off while I’m wiggling around on my back with Ean on top of my chest and the other boy throws the ball to me. I bounce the ball off of Ean’s head and throw away the ball, I lift first Ean and then the girl off me and chase after the ball. This game continued for a solid 30 minutes or so.

We take a water pause so I can catch my breath and spend the next half hour kicking the ball around randomly between us four. You want to guess who was the father of the girl? Correct, they were siblings I guess and as they were walking away, a few parents made some comments about what had just happened. One of them said: so he just stood there on the phone while you played with his kids?

Yes, I replied and jokingly added: I guess I should start charging for my services, I don’t even know them!

We stayed for another half hour, dancing to Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake with some kids stopping for a second to listen and some adults swaying side to side to the music as the sun slowly said its goodbyes behind St Julians.

Now I don’t mind at all being the crazy uncle at the playground that everyone giggles at, it’s my treat and my pleasure. Nor do I expect anyone else to be as silly as I am, I don’t mind, this is just who I am. But for the love of halumi, what posesses you to completely ignore your children and let a total stranger play, be jumped and embraced by them? Maybe even at least out of respect for me, ask, hey is this okay? Yes, yes of course it’s okay, the more the marrier, in fact let’s all just have a dance party right now! (seriously, I need to get a bigger bluetooth speaker)

In fact, a second girl wanted to get in on the playing but she was a bit shy to engage but as opposed to the passive father, this dad was trying to engage her, to kick the ball as I passed it to her and he was communicating with me at the same time, getting involved, you know… like a normal father should. Later on, as we were playing music there was an adorable moment where she wanted to dance with Ean but was too shy to come closer, remaining between her fathers legs and Ean got really shy and self concious and came close to me and continued dancing, so there they stood with 10 meters apart, swaying to the music with us parents smiling in unison. It was adooorable!

Okay, I guess at least Mr Passive took his kids to the park so they could play but to so blatently ignore your child is just sad. It’s these things that fill our childrens hearts with joy and love for us, as we embrace their world and step out of our comfort zone, out of our work clothes and just hang out with our kids. I hope he at least does something with them when they get home because these missed moments will never return.

Speaking as a child of parents who HAD TO work 12-14 hours per day for our family to survive, I know the value of having your parent not just there, but to be present in heart and mind too.  So please, carpe diem, YOLO or whatever you want to call it, but pay attention and be present in your childrens lives, before it’s too late.