My 12 year old daughter asked if she could bake a cake the other evening, so I said 'yes', on condition that she also tidied up after herself i.e. wash up and put all the ingredients away. She was making marzipan cake (it tastes nicer than it sounds).
I hovered in the kitchen, lending a hand here and there and when the cake went into the oven she set about tidying and washing up. We have a dishwasher which is usually filled and emptied by one person. It was already on a wash cycle so we decided to clean up the old fashioned way.
'I will wash and you dry', I said. As I said that I had the most vivid flashback to when I was in our small kitchen at home in Cavan, either washing-up or drying the dishes with my Mum. There was only room for two of us in the kitchen so it was a half of hour of my Mum's ear, during which we would chat - well I would talk and she would listen.
It struck me, as I was filling the basin with hot water and putting in some washing-up liquid, how much time-saving, modern appliances have almost destroyed a lot of the natural, everyday opportunities that parents, mothers especially, have with their kids!
It took us about 45 minutes to wash, dry and put everything away and during that time my daughter and I had a good old chat about all sorts - well she talked and I listened. It is often during these impromptu chats that concerns and worries get aired and shared, and these moments are so very valuable.
Don't get me wrong, we do talk, but sometimes it's a contrived almost un-natural way, because we live our lives in such haste! It really made me think that I will have to start building in more natural opportunities like that to chat with her and her brother as they grow up.
It's really good to talk, but it's so much richer to listen, really listen to your kids.