When I was a child, one of my favourite books was Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World. I can still remember the cover of the old library edition that my Daddy read to me when I was 7 years old. It was a pen and ink illustration of an autumn wood, in which most of the russet and golden coloured leaves still clung doggedly to the branches, while some others had drifted to the ground creating a carpet which would rustle under foot. In the centre of the illustration, surrounded by the strongly coloured leaves, was a clearing in which the two figures of Danny and his wonderfully imaginative father stood; the father stooped slightly towards the small boy as they walked through the woods holding hands. This cover did a phenomenal job of conveying what is at the heart of this book, which is the beautiful relationship created through a child’s unconditional love and admiration for a parent, and that parent’s reciprocal love and the attentive, unpatronising manner he takes towards his son.
When I read it to my own children quite recently, I was particularly struck by Dahl’s message at the very end of the story. What it says is:
to Children Who Have Read This Book
When you grow up
and have children of your own
do please remember
a stodgy parent is no fun at all
What a child wants
is a parent who is
I just love the sentiment behind this, and I believe that its simplicity belies a deep truth. Kids need to be understood. Kids need to be allowed to play and experiment. Kids need to be given time and attention. Kids need to have fun.
Here are a few of my ideas for ‘SPARKY’ parenting:
- Next time the rain has set in and gathered in dips and hollows of the pavement, get your wellies on and take the kids out for a puddle stomp.
- Forget about looking silly. Lose yourself in the moment and that moment will become a treasured memory when your child has grown up and flown the nest.
- Turn the volume up on the stereo and dance badly but enthusiastically.
- Read a story out loud at any point during the day. It doesn’t need to be restricted to bedtime! The only rule is you must do voices.
- Follow your kid’s lead and let them help you to rediscover your curiosity in life the universe and everything. Squat down low, get up close, ask questions, find out answers, but above all, awaken wonder.
How do you stay ‘SPARKY’? What memories do you have of your own ‘SPARKY’ parents?