So one of the things I think most difficult to grapple with as a dad is relating to your child[ren] in a way that doesn’t compromise your parent/child dynamic. Being dad is like being the boss in the sense that you want your little one to see you as a person they like (most of the time) but not so adjacent to them that they feel they don’t have to listen to what you say (you can’t be cool ALL the time). In my experience sharing things from your childhood helps accomplish this dynamic pretty nicely. Plus it allows you to become this like HUMAN BEING and it freaks kids out.
So, how do you relate to an 8 year old? Well the first way is to think about what you were like at 8. Kids are universal beings that, at the core, don’t change that much over time. Whatever ran across your mind at 8 is most likely still floating around with your own kids right now. Granted “selfies” “angry birds” and ipads didn’t exist to steal 14 of their 15 second attention span but neither did nintendo, sega genesis or gameboy 30+ years ago.
Wanting to be older than you were, liking a certain girl/boy in your class, learning what curse words were and using them when adults weren’t looking. I am pretty sure these common themes have been static since the great pyramids amongst middle schoolers.
A medium I have always found as an equalizer however is music. It absolutely transcends generations, class, gender and geography. Micheal Jackson now will be Micheal Jackson 50 years from now. So will Bob Marley. So this is a project to I have tried with my daughters to generate conversation [and hopefully strengthen our relationship].
DAD: Pick a specific age in your childhood or let your child pick. It can be when you were a teenager or it could be when you were your child’s age. Search online(billboard.com/google) and find out what the top 20 songs in the country were that year. Make a playlist of those songs and then write them down for your son or daughter.
Pick your top ten songs. Then you guys listen to the playlist together. Ask your son/daughter what they think the songs mean. Then tell them why you chose that particular song to put on the list, explain to them where that specific song TAKES you when you listen to it. Explain your childhood to them that way. Kids are always interested to hear about you……when you weren’t you.
Ask them to pick their favorite song. [Dad this bonds you guys and they’ll feel closer to you]
I’d plan an activity like this for a rainy stuck in the house. Follow it up by making grilled cheese or grilled peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and you should kill a few hours. You couple that with a great movie [Kung Fu Panda maybe?] dinner and a bath and you should have demolished an entire rainy afternoon.
Try it out.
– A Single Dad
PS. If you grew up in the 1990s like I did you might want to stick to RnB records rather than rap. Songs will a lot of cursing you should probably save until you both can process past it.