What kids really need…

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Kids.  Challenging creatures at the best of times.  Or are they?  Maybe they’re just products of a world, which throws at them too much of what they DON’T need and not enough of what they DO need?

A fast paced world.

I’m always a bit surprised that my kids actually want to spend time with me.

Not because I have low self-esteem issues.  But rather because I feel that a lot of the time I’m a bit grumpy and not much fun to be around.  A lot of you said you felt the same when I posted The Monotony of Motherhood.

As a working mum, I spend too much of my time rushing my girls.  Shouting at them to be quicker at eating breakfast/getting dressed/putting their shoes on.  Shifting them from pillar to post.  Before school clubs.  After school clubs.  Anywhere that will have them.  There is a lot of adrenaline in our house, put it that way.

To be fair to them and me, they cope pretty well with it and I don’t think it’s done them any harm.  

If nothing else, it’s teaching them to live in a world that, let’s face it, never stands still and is likely to only get faster paced, not slower.

Pointing the finger at myself.

Since starting maternity leave I’ve noticed a change in the dynamic of our house.  A favourable one.  We are all just a little bit happier.  A bit more relaxed.

The girls haven’t changed.  Daddy Pig hasn’t changed (actually, that’s a lie, he might have got lazier).  Which leaves one person responsible.  ME.  Yikes, I hate admitting that I may have been the problem all along.

I have more time to give to them.  To listen to them.  To read with them.  To play with them.  Something I ALWAYS put off because I’m just too busy.  And because, honestly, I’ve never really known how to play with them.  Never been in the moment long enough to find out.

Before a train needs catching, a cottage pie’s needed rescuing or a bath needs running.

A big fat ‘F’ for fail.

When I wrote The Top 10 Things Mothers Feel Guilty About (still the most popular post on my blog), the thing that topped all of our guilt lists was not playing with our kids enough.  It’s something that baffles even the most capable of women.  It’s something that I think we often don’t know how to do.

We can throw our kids into a million paid activities – swimming, gym, sensory, soft play (the list goes on) – but ask us to actually sit down with our kids in the comfort of our own homes and play, something that doesn’t cost a thing, and there’s a good few of us who would get a big fat ‘F’ for fail.

I’m most definitely one of them.

Daytrip to a prison exercise yard.

Then last weekend we had an epiphany.  When after a busy day on Saturday, neither Daddy Pig nor I had the energy to do much on Sunday.  We pitched up in the garden.  With the girls.  All day.  And played.

Our garden is a bit like a prison exercise yard.  A typical London courtyard.  Small, concreted and certainly not the sort of place Mary Mary Quite Contrary would hang out.  Because nothing ever grows.  Nothing.

My point?  That we had little more than our garden sofa, a couple of loungers for the girls, some balls and a few balloons to occupy them.  That was it.  Yet my, were they happy.

We had ambitions to take them to the park.  Because we always feel that we should take them somewhere.  Do something.  Usually paying (a lot) for the privilege.  But they didn’t want to go.

All they wanted to do was hang out at home.  With us.  Mummy and Daddy.  Who, for once, weren’t rushing about but were just happy being with them.  We sang songs.  We let balloons off over the fence (sorry neighbours).  We let ourselves go.  The kids even joined in.

We gave The Waltons a run for their money.

Throwing ‘time’ at the problem.

By 6.00 PM on a Sunday, Daddy Pig and I are usually arguing over who does the washing up.  We both want to do it so we get out of doing bathtime.  Not that Sunday.  Neither of us really wanted to miss out on a bit more time with the kids.  Who, for once, hadn’t turned into Gremlins come bedtime.

In the scheme of ‘exciting’ days we’ve had, it wasn’t up there with some of the fabulous (and pricey) things we’ve done with the girls.  Did you not hear me when I said we spent the day in a prison exercise yard?  But for us and them too, it was certainly one of our happiest.  Because we all just slotted in together.  With minimal effort on anyone’s part.

My parents have always marvelled at how differently kids are brought up today.  At how kid-centric family life now is.  How kids don’t fit in with the parents, but we fit in with them.  

We centre our worlds around what we perceive their needs to be.  Needs, which we often anticipate to be so much more complex than in fact they are.  When actually there would be more harmony if we were all ourselves a little more and we threw ‘time’ around where we’re often inclined to throw money.  

If Sunday showed us anything, it showed us this.

Kids don’t always need the activities.  The toys.  The daytrips.

It turns out that they just need US.

How do you spend time with your kids?  Playfully?  Freely?  Or expensively?  Do you feel you’ve got the balance right?  Leave a comment below and come and like Surviving Life and Motherhood on Facebook.  Where you’ll find out what parents really need… usually a four letter word beginning with W and ending in E.

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