For half of the school week I drop off and pick up my five year old twin girls from school. When I pick them up I always ask the same question. What did you do in school today? 99 times out of 100 I get the same reply which is a wall of silence or nothing or I can’t remember.
The other day came as a huge surprise to me. I’m not sure if they were learning about family in school, but R announced to me whilst sitting in the back of the car. “Dad?”, yes R I said. She replied with, “I have 12 members in my family”. “Ok,” I replied, “so who are they then?” R replied, “Hold on, I’m working it out in my head”. After a few moments of thought, R started to name her family which included her mummy and daddy, her four siblings, her aunty and uncle and her two cousins and of course her nana. I said is there anybody else then? R replied, “No, that’s it. No more.”
I thought ok then, but later on that night I thought about it and actually it was very interesting how she had named just these people because if I’m honest there were some ommissions and it got me thinking about why that is.
Getting inside a five year olds mind is totally fascinating. Trying to work out why they think the things they do, and this particular topic I tried to work out why she had only picked these people as her family. It struck me very quickly as to why.
When you are five years old life is all about constants and habit. The 12 people she named in her family are very constant in her life. Her one sister is living away at university but she knows that and accepts that she won’t see her as often, but FaceTime is brilliant at keeping the relationship constant and both the girls in fairness always get very excited when they know she is coming home. Their brother is very important to them and they know that he will always have tea with them on a Monday. I’m dreading this September when he goes to university as he won’t be home to have tea with the girls. Their nana normally comes to lunch on a Sunday and they always ask if she is coming to Sunday lunch.
My conclusion on R’s statement which I actually thought was quite thought provoking for a five year old child is that if you want to be a part of a small child’s life you have to be consistent, very constant in their lives and by that I mean regular visits and not too much time between the visits because otherwise they will soon forget who you are.
Their attention span at five years old is short and they will quickly forget you. Everybody deserves family, but when it comes to children, adult family members need to make the effort. Sadly so often they don’t and then wonder why they don’t have a relationship.
Young children’s perception of family is completely based upon continuity and the minute a family stops visiting on a regular basis. They simply don’t see them as family anymore. Children see the truth every time.
Yes it does annoy me when family turns up every six or seven weeks, usually with crap toys and then ignores my girls and disappears within the hour, my usual thought is why bother.
Would love to know your thoughts.