The festive season is over. Christmas and New Year are a time of enormous excitement for children yet now, as life resumes its normal rhythm, I feel that they can suffer a kind of post-holiday hangover. The return to school, parents going back to work and the false promises of TV advertising seem to lead to disappointment and a sense of emptiness. Family time together once again becomes a precious and limited commodity.
As a proud father, and inspired by the beautiful words of my friend, Esther Sowerby, I’d like to articulate what I believe might a son’s post-Christmas thoughts to his dad.
- Dad, I’m delighted with the games console you bought me for Christmas, so I’m baffled when you criticise me for spending too much time playing it. Set me clear limits so we’ll both know where we stand. What would make me most happy would be if you were to play a game with me – even a retro game. That way, you’d better understand my world, and I, yours.
- Dad, I love being with you but I know that in everyday life, we have limited time together. When you take me to the park on the weekend, can you leave your phone at home? I know that you are always there physically but I want you there in spirit as well.
- Dad, if you have time to take me to football training, please point out my strengths as well as criticise my weaknesses. I know you played a lot of sport in your day. I’d love it if you practiced with me and taught me how to improve.
- Dad, you warn me that social media is dangerous but I see that you are often on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you could take time to guide me through life’s hazards, I’d feel safer. I trust you and see you as my protector.
- Dad, during the Christmas holidays I was allowed fizzy drinks and was often reminded that they are bad for my health. I notice though that you drink beer all year round. I think that the limits would be fairer if they were imposed on both of us.
- Dad, you bought me a complicated board game for Christmas so that I would spend less time in front of the television. You are irritated because it has stayed in the box. What I’d love is for you to turn off the football on TV one Saturday afternoon and learn how to play it with me.
- Dad, over Christmas we ate a lot of chocolate and puddings. Now you tell me I should eat more vegetables. I’d love to prepare a meal with you and make a deal that we include one healthy ingredient each which is our least favourite. We can then laugh together when we pull faces at dinner.
- Dad, now the holidays are over, I have to go back to school. I wonder if you know what I am studying at the moment. When I find my homework hard, I’d be so happy if you’d turn off the TV, PC and phone, sit down and work through it with me.
- Dad, I am grateful for my presents. I think it would be easier to understand gratitude if, as a family, we said thank you for all that we take for granted.
- Dad, I’m thankful that you work hard to buy things for us at Christmas. Now that the gifts are revealed, I find that there’s just one thing I want more than anything money can buy: your heart and soul. If you gave me one simple gift and promised to use it with me, without judgement or criticism but full of encouragement and praise, I’d have the greatest Christmas ever.