Every day, tell your child you love them, read to them and take them for a walk
As Adam’s heart took its last beat, I kissed him, a kiss I knew had to last for eternity
Through his books, Benji Bennett encourages parents of young children to spend 10 minutes at the end of each day reading to their children, telling them how much they are loved each night before they sleep. Photograph: Maxwells
The day my life changed forever was in August 2007. It was after another fun-filled day of pirates, sandcastles and swims at the beach that I found myself watching my two older boys Harry and Adam jump on haystacks they had patiently built from clumps of freshly-cut grass.
As Robbie, the youngest, looked on, wishing he was big enough to join in, the glow of the warm evening sun softly kissed their golden skin goodnight as it dipped behind the hill and the air gently moved. I drew a smile on my face, raised my glass to the heavens and with Jackie by my side I toasted our good fortune and happiness. I was invincible.
Three days later my world was destroyed. Three days later the pain was so intense I wanted to die, three days later my beautiful, energetic, happy, giggly little Adam was gone, taken suddenly by an undiagnosed brain tumor. Adam’s sun had set for the last time. My happy bubble was burst.
At the very moment when Adam’s heart took its last beat, I kissed him, a kiss that I knew had to last for eternity. It was exactly at that moment I realised how lucky we were that we had told Adam we loved him every single day. Truly grateful that I had the opportunity to pack a lifetime of love, laughter and fun into his four short years, I immediately felt an overwhelming need to share with parents the importance of spending time reading with their children, stimulating their senses with nature and telling them they are loved every day.
So, inspired by Adam’s message of love, laughter and fun in the family I began to write. The more I wrote the more my tears blurred the page as I tried to create a unique, loving and happy reading experience for parents to share with their children at the end of each day. The simple idea that a child would be told they are loved by a parent every night in Adam’s memory helped me come to terms with why he had to go.
Ten years on, after thousands of conversations and correspondence from the most amazing parents and grandparents, I find myself reflecting on my journey and Adam’s message with the publication of my new book, Adam Saves the Seasons. Two Irish Book Awards, 500,000 book sales globally and a recent podium place on Amazon.com for book sales in the US give me reason to be happy.
However, my thoughts wander to the place in my mind where my own happy childhood memories embrace my experiences of being a parent and I realise how difficult it is now to a raise happy content child. Information overload has us parents in a state of fear and anxiety that our child will be the one suffering from stress, technology addiction, obesity, depression, low self-esteem, learning difficulties, lack of confidence, increases in childhood anxiety – the list goes on and on.
But when my childhood memories combine with my experiences of parenting my four wonderful children, one constant theme keeps emerging. No matter what a child’s medical condition maybe, expressions of love, shared reading and interactions with nature and the great outdoors seem to be the recurring key ingredients to raising a happy, well-adjusted child. As I have said a thousand times to thousands of people on my travels over the past 10 years, if you read to them, tell them you love them and take them outdoors for a walk every day you are doing something right.
This is the essence of Adam’s message and it is this philosophy in action that has inspired my new book and has helped me, and many other families deal with the daily challenges of family life. It is my hope to connect with new parents of young babies to help them develop positive habits in the early years and build a powerful, emotional and unbreakable bond with their children.
Adam Saves the Seasons is available for €9.99 from adamscloud.com and all good bookshops nationwide. This book is in support of Barnardos