The Other Letter

By Cathy Drumore

On Facebook recently, I saw that someone had posted a link to a Spanish IKEA Christmas advertisement, “The Other Letter“. For those who haven’t seen it, children are asked to write a Santa-style list of what they want for Christmas, which is predictably full of “I want” toys. The children are then asked to write a letter to their parents, which they find much more difficult to write, but the result is consistent: when the children’s parents read out the letters, the children’s wish-lists all involve parents spending more time with them. Pope Francis was recently quoted as urging Dads to spend more time with their children, concerned that our children may feel “orphaned” with respect to values and role models.

I’ve always believed in the principle of spending time with my children, but then reality intrudes. Long hours at work, mountainous washing, insistent homework, meal preparation and taxiing kids to and from sport and other activities have precluded my being able to spend the amount of time I would like with my own children.

The interesting thing about this concept is the value that we place on our time. Most parents would agree that we would like to give our children the world, yet the constraints of work, house and garden, sport and other priorities mean that we rate spending “fun” time with our children fairly low. Instead, we make sure that our kids have “the best” in other ways: home, car, toys, technology and schooling. In essence, our kids are worth our money but not our time.

Ironically, spending time on character or skill-building activities with our kids can be very economical. For example, when we stayed in Canberra for the second week of the holidays, we camped at the Cotter Campground (incredibly cheap) and took a number of interesting bush walks that educated and increased endurance. Camping itself is an experience and the lack of Wi-Fi (and electricity) for those days was good for both kids and Mum!

Don’t get me wrong – I love my school and do the job I do because I feel that I’m making a positive contribution to the lives of the young people I teach. But in the end, I remind myself that if we don’t take our duty to our own children equally seriously, we are in danger of failing our life’s work, for our children are part of us, and we have the same responsibility to them as we have to ourselves.