|Yes, that's me.... playing on the beach|
Mummy; will you come and play?
I really really hope it isn't just me that gets a little tired of the mantra coming from my two girls far too many (in my opinion) times a day: "Mummy; will you come and play?".
I have always been conscious that I am a parent. Even when the girls were really little and I was playing "Incy Wincy Spider" up their arms, I knew that I wasn't there to just be their playmate.
I am very aware of the burden of responsibility I have as a parent to teach them how to grow up to be kind, considerate, polite, intelligent, knowledgeable, courteous, civil members of society. I know that I can't do that AND be their best mate at the same time.
Or; let me elaborate further; I know I can't always be their best friend. A lot of the time I will have to pull rank to be successful as a parent and I know that my words won't hold as much weight if I spend a lot of my time trying to also be their best bud.
Teaching life skills
Another life skill I want to teach them is tricky to explain in one word. It's the skill of having patience, thinking for oneself and occupying oneself. It's the opposite of instant gratification. Children only learn this through practise. being encouraged to wait for things; learning to queue; learning to entertain oneself. Perhaps "self sufficiency" comes closest to explaining what I mean.
I consider myself fairly good at this one. I was nearly 8 years old when my sister was born, so I knew how to spend hours entertaining myself with Lego, Wendy houses, playing dolls, teddy bear picnics, and later in life I happily read, write, choreograph and so on, without the need for external stimuli. It probably explains why, when I do venture into the world of computer games I prefer the sort where you create and build things, rather than shooting, blowing up and racing cars. Smurf Village is a current addiction.
So, since our girls are only 2 years apart, I do encourage them to entertain themselves and learn to play and use their imagination. I don't want to 'entertain' them every moment of the day as they won't then learn patience, nor have the opportunity to think for themselves. They have each other to play with, which can be a great thing, but sometimes I encourage them to play their own games independently. I should make it clear that I do a fair amount of playing, but it is in short stints -like a quick 5 minute racing game across the back lawn, or a couple of rounds of Snakes and Ladders.
Regardless of all this sensible thinking, I still feel something of a heel when, come the moment that my kids want to play, it's the last thing I want to do at that moment in time. I feel like I should WANT to play.
I want to play sometimes obviously. But, more often than not I just don't feel like putting in the effort, for, as any carer will tell you, playing games with a 4 year old and a 6 year old can be hard work. Particularly on those occasions when they ask; "will you play with us Mummy?" and I make the effort and say "OK, what are we playing?" And they say, "we don't know what to play." Quite honestly, in those moments, I have been know to say "well let me know when you've decided" and settled back down on the sofa.
What your dad might say
Apparently there is plenty of research that tells us that we 'entertain' our offspring so much these days in the UK that it is detrimental to their development. Really? I respond sarcastically - I wonder how much of my taxes they spent working out that obvious conclusion. I refer you to my thoughts on self-sufficiency above. My dad could have told the researchers this too.
Anyone's dad who is around 60 years old will tell you that "when they were a kid their parents didn't play games with them. They played out with their mates, in the garden making dens, down the park, messing about down by the brook climbing trees and generally exploring." What a pity those Enid Blyton style days of letting the children explore and roam the local village are gone. I hope that we take note of what we have lost in this new world of closed front gates and paranoid parents. Let's not aggravate the loss of that freedom by micro-parenting our children.
Next time they "want to play", it might be time to suggest they go out into the garden and make themselves a den. As for us parents? Well maybe we get to be people again, and not solely servants to our kids.
What do you think?
What do you think? Do you think you should want to play with your kids and feel bad when actually you just want to be left to read the paper, do chores undisturbed and have adult conversations with your own, same generation, friends? Or do you spend all your time entertaining your children and wish you could step away and encourage them to entertain themselves a bit more? Have you experienced that heart-sinking feeling when you've just sat down after a long day and they ask the 'question'?
Is it a cultural thing? Do we, in the UK, entertain our children more than, say, French parents?
Let me know your thoughts. I'd love to hear from you.