In my last post I talked about our trip to the seaside, what I didn’t mention was that we went on a coach with a community group that Karen is involved with. We went because a member of the group had come into some money through a small inheritance, but instead of spending it on herself wanted everyone in the group to benefit, and so paid for the coach trip.
I found this to be incredibly humbling. Here was someone who has never really had much in her life wanting to do something for all her friends on the rare occasion that she did. To add to this she did it anonymously (we only know because of Karen’s position in the group). I feel that this is somehow at odds with how we often come to understand the world through a cynical lens.
It struck me that this gesture had a bigger effect than people having a terrific day out, and we certainly had that. It also inspired us to think what we would do when we were in a similar situation, and it also helped to bond the group together. When we share experiences and spend time together we more often than not become closer to people.
This is something we try to do as a family. We try to spend time together by eating together as much as possible, playing together, and going out on day trips together. It helps us to get to know each other better, and hopefully understand each other.
This, particularly for Karen and me, means that we have to try to be selfless; to put aside the 1001 things that we have to do or want to do in order to spend time together. I can’t deny that sometimes I resent this, and feel guilty for it. But I also know that when I do throw myself wholeheartedly into family time, then I really enjoy it; and when the reward is a closer bond with your wife and children then it seems like a no brainer.
The idea that relationships are only as good as the work you put into them is something that I’ve had very strongly reinforced for me since I became a father. In order to enjoy the cuddles and the affection of my children it’s not enough not just to be there, I really need to engage with them as well.
This isn’t always easy. Being a parent isn’t always easy. But when it goes right, there isn’t a better feeling in the world when your children reward you with their obvious love and a connection with you as a parent. Then selflessness actually doesn’t seem to be that selfless after all, because the benefits are amazing.
I’m sure that the person who paid for our trip to the seaside got an enormous amount of pleasure from seeing how much we enjoyed our day. It’s not why she did it, but she got her reward in the happy and tired faces as we slept on the coach on the way home.