My mom and dad have a daily habit of walking. If possible, they do so twice a day, early in the morning and after dinner. In the mornings, swimming is part of that routine, especially for my dad. He will rarely miss being in the pool to do his laps. Being the incredibly disciplined person he is, sticking to a schedule is a priority. He invites my mom to do the same and together, they have enjoyed this daily form of exercise.
No matter where they are in the world (for as long as they aren’t in transit or attending an event or seminar) they will try to exercise.
When we were growing up my parents encouraged my siblings and I to walk with them, too. Mom and dad used this time to connect with us and get to know us better. Informal, relaxed, and outdoors, these elements were conducive to conversation.
So it became a family habit to walk and talk. We would often share with them what was going on in our lives as we made our way up and down the hills of Antipolo (where we spent most of our childhood). Walking time was synonymous with family bonding time.
My siblings and I are all married now and we have families of our own. But whenever we are at my parents’ place for a visit, they ask us to join them for these walks.
Saturday morning was one of those occasions. Mom and dad asked Edric and I if we wanted to go for a walk. They had just gotten back from their trip to the US and hoped to reconnect with us.
I saw my dad dressed to go for a swim at the park. (His usual attire is a t-shirt, cap, and trunks with a pair of goggles in one hand.)
Since Edric and I were also eager to find out how their trip went, we rounded up the kids. “Let’s go walking!”
We got them to join in on the morning’s exercise. It was drizzling. Everyone took an umbrella (except for me because I don’t like using umbrellas unless I absolutely need to carry one) and we headed towards the park.
On the way, my parents told us about the conference they went to and about visiting with my sister and her family. However, for most of the distance, they wanted to know how we were. They wanted to listen to our stories.
My dad actually walked to the park and back without going for a swim. Although he was dressed up for it, he decided he would accompany us all the way back to the house first. He didn’t want our conversation to be cut short. At first, I thought it was due to the rain. But when we arrived at the house, I heard him tell his driver that he needed to be dropped off at the park. He was still going to go swimming.
“Why didn’t you swim when we were there earlier?” I asked him.
“I wanted to be with you guys,” was his reply.
He knew that if he had gone swimming then Edric, mom, the kids and I would have walked back to the house without him. And he didn’t want to be absent while we continued talking. More than that, he wanted to convey that we were important.
I hugged him. “Thanks dad.”
It may not seem like such a big deal but it was to me. I know how routine and goal-oriented my dad is. When he walks to the park, he goes there to swim. That’s his agenda. It is very unusual for him to allow disruptions in his schedule. So postponing his swim was a sweet gesture. He wanted to extend the opportunity to talk to Edric and I and be with our kids. It made me feel very loved.
It’s a blessing that we still get to share these walks from time to time. And I don’t think I will ever outgrow them. More than the actual exercise, it’s the fellowship that my siblings and I (and our spouses) enjoy. It still matters alot to us that mom and dad want to be tuned in to what’s going on in our lives.
As a parent myself, I know how much my own children value the time and attention Edric and I give to them. When we block off our schedules to be with them it tells them they are a priority. Even doing simple things like walking together, playing board games, sitting around the dinner table or telling stories make a powerful impact. In fact they like it alot more than receiving material presents from us because they have our undivided attention and presence. This is more precious to them.
Children long for this kind of assurance, to feel special…even grown up children. No one quite outgrows the desire to be loved and cherished by their own parents. And it doesn’t take expensive gifts to communicate this. More often than not it is the gifts of time, attention, genuine interest and concern that children want from their mom and dad.