Kiwi entertaining icon Jason Gunn has written a children’s book in the hope of encouraging parents to be more present with their kids. Photo / Supplied
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Jason Gunn knows all too well what it’s like to be a busy parent. Besides a legendary television and radio career he’s raised four children and is now delighting in being a grandfather too.
This week on One Day You’ll Thank Me he shares a clever trick for achieving something when it comes to parenting that’s crucial, yet often missed because of the distractions of our devices: being present.
“I remember someone teaching me, and I did this with my kids and they loved it, and I urge all parents to do it,” he tells the podcast hosts.
“You’re in the car, the phone rings. Your kids give you a look as to say, ‘just let it go, eh?’ You pick the phone up – obviously you’re on hands-free, everybody – and you go, ‘Hi, g’day.’ And you watch your kids [roll their eyes].
“And then you say, ‘Hey, listen, can I stop you there? I actually can’t chat right now ‘cause I’ve got a VIP in the car with me … Can I call you back? Very Important Person in the car with me so I’m going to have to let you go.’
“And you will see your kid go, ‘Are you joking? Who’s the VIP?’ And you go, ‘Dude … you’re the VIP. You’re the very important person … I’m not going to take a work call right now.’
“Honestly … it’s the most awesome thing and your kids go ‘Shut the front door.’”
Gunn says it’s important to “go out of our way to make our kids feel at times like they are the most important thing in our life”.
It’s a lesson that was reiterated to him by his own son who, after Gunn suffered a heart attack and was considering returning to his job in radio, ripped up his father’s contract and urged him to instead focus on spending quality time with his family
“My son, Louis often has this thing he’ll say to me. At critical times in my life, he’d go, ‘Dad, what does success look like?’
The question saw Gunn end his radio career and start his own business. And when his son made the First IV and Gunn was able to travel around the country and watch him play rugby, “he’d come up to me before every game and go, ‘Hey Dad. This is what success looks like.’”
These moments where Gunn experienced the joy of being really present with his children are part of what’s inspired his latest endeavour: writing a children’s book. He and his brother Andrew have come up with the tale of Jason Mason and the World’s Most Powerful Itching Powder.
“I want parents to be present with their kids, read this story with them, do stupid voices with them … I think when children look back at their time with their parents, that’s what they’ll look for … quality time.”
Gunn describes Jason Mason as an ordinary kid who finds himself in extraordinary situations – his favourite premise for a good story.
“So here’s what I love the most. It’s not famous people telling me what ordinary things they do. Cool story, Bro. What I love is when ordinary New Zealanders tell their extraordinary stories. Now, that’s a story I want to listen to, right?
“The best stories are ordinary people who have had extraordinary situations, and this is what Jason Mason is. It’s like he’s a very ordinary kid and he discovers something about his great uncle that’s extraordinary. And ‘cause of that, he gets to go on and do some extraordinary things. And that’s what I love about it.
“I want kids to realise they don’t have to be extraordinary. Really extraordinary things can happen to ordinary people.”
Gunn, whose early years in television saw him master the art of entertaining children, says he hopes his new book, much like his VIP tip, creates an opportunity for parents to put down their devices and engage with their children.
And he says Jason Mason has already garnered some great feedback. “I love it when I hear, ‘Hey, Jase, I’m reading this book with my kids every night, and we’re having such a laugh.’ I go, job done. If one parent reads to one child and gets that quality time, job done.”
- To hear more of Jason Gunn’s clever parenting tips and find out which Kiwi reality show makes him physically ill, listen to this week’s episode of One Day You’ll Thank Me below.