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We are in Australia to do some speaking — some of it to business and professional groups and some to church groups. As is always the case when traveling, we miss home and miss some of the things that we think make America the best place to live, and the mountains of Utah the best place within the best place.
But we also generally find much to admire in other places and other cultures as we travel, and Australia is certainly no exception. Each time we are here, we are impressed anew with the natural friendliness of the Aussies, and with the robust, outdoors and sports-oriented lives most of them seem to live. And so often their leisure and recreation is family focused. They may be the epitome of the old adage that “the family that plays together stays together.” We will get to attend the Australian Open next week, and it is, in many ways, our favorite tennis tournament in the world because of its laid-back, friendly, family oriented atmosphere.
What we are always looking for, as you might guess, are good families and good parenting. We saw a great example on a boat we were on the other day. A dad was there with his young son — a boy who looked to be 5 or 6 years old. They were just thoroughly enjoying each other and completely focused on each other. The boy was asking questions — about the boat, about the ocean, about the sky, about everything. And the dad was delighted with the questions, turning most of them back toward the child with phrases such as, “Well, what do you think?” or “That’s a great question, son, what made you think of that question?”
There was a lot of teaching going on, but it didn’t feel like teaching — it felt like friendship and caring and love. It felt like that little guy was everything to his dad, and it felt like the dad was the boy’s hero. I loved watching them. When the boat docked, they walked off hand in hand, talking and laughing. Relationships like that take time and effort to develop, but the benefits for both parent and child last forever.
It made me think of another parent-child relationship I (Richard) had observed on a double-decker bus in London this past fall. We were there to give a speech on family relationships, but I think I learned more from that one dad and his little daughter than I could ever teach in a speech. I was sitting at the front of the top level of the bus, and across the aisle from me was a very cute and very British little girl (the accent makes preschoolers particularly adorable).
The attentive dad was pointing at a building as the bus passed, and he said to his daughter:
“That is where Mummy lived before she knew Daddy.”
The little girl, somewhat confused, said, “Well, did I know Mummy then?”
Beaming down at her, arm around her little shoulders, he answered, “Oh, no, honey, I had to get to know Mummy before you could come to live with us.”
Trying to grasp that, she said, “So I didn’t know you then either, Daddy?”
“No, sweetie, I wasn’t living in London before I met Mummy.”
“Where did I live then, Daddy?”
He thought about that for a moment and then answered, “Well, back then you lived mostly in my imagination.”
He paused, stroking her little cheek, and I saw a tear come to his eye as he said, “And you are even more perfect than I imagined, and I love you more than I ever thought I could love anyone.”
Then this little British girl on the bus reached up, pulled her daddy’s face down and kissed him.
Moments like that are worth more than gold. Relationships like that are worth more than any accomplishment or accolade. And observing them restores one’s faith in humanity and renews the hope that we can all remember that parenting is the most important thing we will ever do.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors and founders of JoySchools.com who speak worldwide on family issues. Their new books are “The Turning” and “Life in Full.” See valuesparenting.com or eyrealm.com.