It’s not often that a feature in a women’s magazine makes me go YES!, let alone weekly fashion glossy Grazia. I love the very good journalism in it, and have a subscription, but as a nearly-38-year old mum of two smalls who has greeted her Kew and Boden Years with relief, I am winging it a bit as far as being the mag’s target audience goes. This afternoon, however, I not only said YES!, aloud, but also snorted tea up my nostril in a manner about as far from cool, stylish and insouciant as it’s possible to be.
The cause of this double outburst was a feature by the rather brilliant Caitlin Moran (she of the newspaper columns and the billion Twitter followers) debunking some of the myths of motherhood, for those women who haven’t got children yet and may or may not be longing for them. In particular, the sheer mindnumbing boredom of many aspects of the very early years. I quote: ‘Asked now, I can’t really remember what stupid stuff they were into – I can only remember them repeatedly trying to post tiny bits of Lego into the VHS player which, to be honest, now strikes me as fun, but I do remember it being long and tedious. Not once did those babies run into the room shouting, “F**k work, dude! Let’s go and see the Pet Shop Boys! In PARIS!’
This resonated with me, all the way down my nasal passages. (Not only because I heart the Pet Shop Boys and they are roughly 50% of the reason I just spent a stupid amount on Viagogo on tickets to see Take That at Wembley supported by PSB. I cunningly positioned them as a Father’s Day pressie, since I am taking DH and my sis along). It rang a big bell because not five hours previously, I had been lamenting to my Health Creation Mentor, Kit, that I think I’ve forgotten how to play. Because otherwise why would I find playing with my beautiful, funny, clever, edible children so damn boring?
‘I need to get in touch with my inner child again!’ I thought, and then, as usual when I have one of my Big Ideas, I ordered the relevant book off Amazon to be sent forthwith to my Kindle (in this case Playful Parenting by someone with a middle initial, which probably means it will be a bit American and ghastly). Yup, I thought I needed a book to learn how to play again. Which was a big fat clue staring me in the face because truly, when I was an actual child, I would also much rather have had my head in a book than the sort of things I feel I should be doing with DD and DS. You know, sitting down playing educational board games, going to the park, craft sessions, ball games, playing farms with toy animals, jigsaws, all that ‘quality time’ stuff. I didn’t like playing much as a kid, so why would I want to do it now?
Which got me thinking about the things I did like doing when I was Mini Pinchy, and which might translate into me spending more authentic fun time with the nippers than if I was playing Snakes and Ladders like some Stepford Mummy with a glazed smile while secretly thinking about food preparation/laundry/hospital appointments/blogging/taking a hot Latin lover (I’m joking, darling, obvs. I have HALF a TIT.)
Ergo. Reading. I read to the kids a lot. They like looking at books and talking about books. The house is full of books. DD is doing terribly well with learning to read. So this one has a big tick next to it. Ooh, that’s a good start. Next up, drawing. DD is addicted to drawing. She is rarely more than five minutes from whipping up a masterpiece. I used to love drawing, and painting, but haven’t done much of either lately. Perhaps I could indulge in some Caran D’Ache pencils and join DD with the doodling, or even dust off the paints. She would be enchanted, and I would have another little creative outlet. Sounds like a plan.
DS has absolutely no interest in drawing, or art generally, but he is just as creative than DD in other ways, role playing with various character toys, for example (last night his shoe was a space ship for Fireman Sam. Fair enough.) And he is very, very happy to watch an entire Toy Story movie, fully immersed, and likes it best if he is doing it with my arm around him. Next time, rather than fretting about the to-do list, perhaps I could just sit and watch with him, and talk about it together.
The kids like the park, but are not fussed about swings. I liked parks a bit when I was little, but actually the thing I was interested in was climbing, whether on a climbing frame or scrambling up a tree. And me and my sis spent most of our childhood weekends in the woods building camps, which I loved, and which the kiddies are probably old enough to start enjoying too, now. Perhaps we could find some cool woods to hang out in at the weekends, with logs and trees to climb on and hide under. We’ve recently discovered the arboretum at Wisley and I actually felt the same sense of adventure as my four- and two year old, exploring under the trees and collecting pine cones to make a ‘display’ at home.
Plus, I do like Lego, and I’m not averse to Barbie and her acres of pink plastic tat. I like playing tea parties, especially with real tea and biscuits out of tiny cups and plates. I like cutting up magazines and doing collages and scrap books. I like making paper aeroplanes. I like paddling. I like lying on my back on the grass and spotting shapes in the clouds. I like baking.
So perhaps it’s not a case of being ‘not good enough’ (again) at doing what I think I should be doing with the kiddies. Perhaps it’s a case of spending time doing more of what I genuinely love doing, and taking them along for the ride. Showing them the magic of the stuff that floated my boat when I was young, and getting a slice of the wonder myself. Of seeing what we have in common as fellow human beings. If I let them, they might even introduce me to stuff I never knew I liked doing. I doubt that I’m ever going to love playing vets as much as reading Grazia with a cuppa, to be honest, but let’s give it a go. Bring on the games!
Fab post! I can relate – there are lots of things I DO love doing (drawing/painting/reading/being out in nature) but when they want to the other stuff (watching Peppa Pig ad infinitum, going around and around and around…. the garden on bikes/scooters)? I knit or crochet and chat to them while THEY do it. Far more productive and relaxing all round.
There is way too much pressure on the modern parent to be all things to their children. We are asked to believe that we must be the best at playing with them, when they are more than able to play well with or without us. It is actually OK for our children to do fun things without us taking a central role; so long as we are around to keep them safe and mop up if they hurt themselves during the more adventurous stuff they do.
origami book (with paper) for children – great for making boxes, frogs, balloons, kites and and and 54 other things that we haven’t got through yet (paper’s part of the kit and it’s pretty enough and fun enough for both boys and girls). The balloon is being planned as a water bomb onto daddy (with great giggles), but don’t tell him I told you…
lego is fantabulous. Who would have known a speedboat would have wings and a propeller and turn into a star wars ship then a magic house, then a boat then a cooker that spoke french (recent holiday). I big heart those bricks and all the shapes in between.
I want to play more, but then monster doesn’t always want me to, especially when it comes to building dens out bamboo canes, cushions and blankets. I am just required to drink the tea and eat the food when offered! I too would rather sit with [real] cupoftea and watch, and ok, I admit, I do. But I have also been known to pick and mix friends’ ideas and games and given them a go at home. Not always to great results, but often laughter. Cooking together, for example, is great, but anything with chocolate requires double the amount and a camera for the mess!! And I still can’t get monster to eat tomatoes. Somethings are still out of bounds..
Whatever you’re doing is, I am sure, just right. You have happy, smiling, thoughtful, interested, enthusiastic little people right? You’re doing a brilliant job then. I say go for it with a smile and your normal level of increadible enthusiasm and you’re onto a winner whatever you end up doing!!
Sorry, the preview para to the comment above should read. Some things that we’ve found helpful: