An Open Letter to My Kids:
I have blinked and you are grown or nearly grown. I want to play Suck the Sock or kick the sponge ball down the corridor but you are off and out with your friends, to high school, to parties, or to your jobs. I don’t feel abandoned though; just glad that you are happy and confident and enjoying life.
Remember the Crocodile Game? As toddlers you would beg to play it every night when I came in from work. I would be the crocodile, on all-fours lurking on the floor. You would run back and forth between the front room chairs and sofa before the monster croc could catch you. If he did he would trap you, pinned to the floor, and pretend to bite your legs or belly as you screamed out for your siblings to save you. You would team up together to fight off the croc and pull the victim to safety.
Now that you are older, I hope you realise that the Crocodile Game had life lessons built into it. I know, I know, teachers can’t switch it off; but the lessons the game taught you were not about spelling or multiplication tables or where Qatar is on the map. The game taught you lessons about life, about your relationship with each other. They are lessons that will serve you well now and long after I am gone.
As toddlers you would hover on the edge of the front room chair, peering over to see where the monster was hiding. You would dare each other to go first, to make that run across the crocodile’s lair and to the safety of the sofa. Even as very young children you would judge the situation and calculate the risk. You would squeal half with excitement, half with fear as you dared the others, (and dared yourself) to cross over to refuge. The fear was a big part of the game. It was fun. I have always tried to teach you to make mild fear something to harness, to use for your own good.
And when one of you was captured by the beast, the others would swarm to attack the monster. Meanwhile another would pull the helpless victim to safety. The crocodile would in turn capture one of the rescuers and the cycle would start again.
That was many years ago. It seems like days ago to me but the calendar tells me it was, in fact, last century. But the rules of the Crocodile Game still apply and will continue to apply when you are 25, 35, 65 years old.
First, harness your fear. Do not be afraid to take calculated risks based on informed decisions. There will be times when you can make the run across the room to the safety of the sofa and times you should stay put and wait it out. Making that run is exhilarating. It is the times when we as humans feel most alive. To remain on the sofa for the entire game would be boring. If the Crocodile Game did not involve that element of fear, of taking a chance, you surely would not have begged to play each evening. It would have been too safe. It would have been dull. Life should be lived and tingle our senses. Only boring people get bored.
Secondly, you learned that when one of you is in trouble, the others need to lend their help. Individually, the monster can devour you. But collectively you are strong, strong enough to beat the crocodile. Keep aware of each other. Keep watch over each other. Love one another.
Third, fun is free. We never used a computer or an IPod when we played. We didn’t text our friends the results. We didn’t worry about what we wore or what handbag we had. It was just us, a family, playing together.
Thank you for the Fathers’ Day cards and pressies. The dart board to decide what we would do today was a good idea. I am a bit disappointed that all my daughters failed to even hit the board and instead knocked my Father’s Day cards to the ground, but sports never were a strong suit for my girls. I am also disappointed that on the one day of the year when I get to have the TV remote, my dart landed on ‘Hand over the Remote.’ Easy come, easy go; que sera sera.
You all know that I don’t do soppy very well. Equally you know that you, along with your mother, are the most important people in my life. I would do anything for you and because of you.
My work has kept me away longer than I would have liked down the years. God knows I missed my share of school open evenings. It wasn’t due to lack of interest. It was more to do with the fact I knew you were loved, nurtured, supported and that there were hundreds, thousands of other children who couldn’t say the same. I was out, somewhere in this city, wrestling their crocodiles.
Yes, there are monsters out there in the real world. I wish I could tell you there wasn’t but if I did, I would be lying to you. Life is tough and hard, but equally it is joyous and fun and full of laughter. And the good news is: the joyous part is stronger.
I have no fatherly advice for you, dear saucepans. All you need to remember are the rules of The Crocodile Game:
- Be happy. Laugh as much as you can. Have fun.
- Love one another.
- Make your choices wisely. Take calculated risks.
- Be tolerant.There are people in the world who need help and you can help them.
This was the home that raised you.
You are warriors. Together you can beat the monsters. I promise.