Let’s Play

I had tidied up. I had set out the toys. I had made their garden nice, enticing even. 

It looked appealing and, of course, they wanted to play. 

So why was everything that was coming out of my mouth so negative?

I have been through this cycle many times. For the most part, I am fairly chilled. I know that children aren’t deliberately messy just to wind you up, it’s because they’re learning, exploring, it’s what they do. 

However, occasionally they do wind me up. And it’s in those instances that I have to take a step back and remind myself exactly what it is that they are doing. 

Being children!

The other day I got everything ready and then told my girls they could play outside. (Which of course they did, no hesitation) 

  

I sat myself down and suddenly hated the idea that they would mess up what I’d prepared. Sounds ridiculous, I know!

“No, please don’t put sand in the water tray”

“Take those dinosaurs off the grass, they were in the sandpit”

“Why are you taking that out of there?”

“Could you leave those on the table, please?”

Even as I write them down I know how silly I sound. 

Before you judge me, please remember that I am not usually like this. It happens every so often, but not all the time. I sometimes just feel, in my tired, worn-out self on certain days, that everything I have done is being undone. That everything I have so lovingly prepared for them is being ruined.

Again, I ask you not to judge me, it really doesn’t happen that often, but on this occasion I just wanted them to appreciate what was there. 

The whole experience was exhausting!

I felt I couldn’t relax, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t really enjoy anything because I was running around trying to tidy up after them. 

In the garden! 

I must have sounded like a crazy lady to anyone listening. 

  

My girls are three-years-old and twenty-one-months. They weren’t running around the garden spray painting the fences or smashing things up, they were doing what children do best; playing!

  

The whole experience was not fun for me and especially not fun for them.

When it was time to tidy up and go inside I felt like that’s all we’d been doing all day anyway and for what?

The day after I tried a new approach; I left them to it. I was there with them but I didn’t interrupt their play. I didn’t constantly ask them to put things back and I wasn’t the miserable old bore that I had been the day before.

They did nothing dangerous or particularly disruptive, they just played, as children do. They investigated, they explored, they took their shoes off, got messy, stuck empty water buckets on their heads that weren’t actually completely empty. They had fun!

  

  

So what if I had to tip the water tray back into the sandpit or sweep up the paving stones again. It didn’t take that long. In actual fact, when it was time to tidy up, they both loved it. I’d allowed them to just ‘be’ all afternoon and so they were ready to help out. It only took us ten minutes anyway.

Two different days, two different experiences, and I know which one we all preferred.
  

Sometimes it’s ok to let things get a little messy. Sometimes it’s ok to not intervene and just watch from the sidelines. Worrying about mess was fruitless and exhausting, I don’t want to spend my days like that, for their sakes more than mine.

  

Toys are there to be played with. Our garden is ready to be explored. Feeling the difference between wet and dry sand is fun. As long as I remember that, and turn off my ‘panic radar’ when my girls are lost in the land of imagination. 

  

There will always be time at the end of the day for tidying up. But the time for carefree play doesn’t last forever. If I stay in this mindset, our summer will be much more enjoyable.
  

Now, if only I could convince myself of the same kind of thing when it comes to the mess my husband makes.

(And don’t worry, he said it was ok to write that last line)

Little Miss Fearless

    

A couple of months ago we were having some work done on our house and we had scaffolding all around the first floor. The garden was full of tools and equipment and we didn’t go in it for days.

One particular day, one full of cabin-fever and boredom, my husband decided to take the girls into the garden for some fresh air. He left them playing in a safe corner while he tried to tidy up a little. 

I was in the kitchen when I heard him call me. I was in the middle of something but he said it couldn’t wait.

With a smile on his face and a slight look of apprehension he pointed towards the ladders.

The tall ladders.

The ladders that led to the scaffold.

The ladders gripped by little hands.

The ones that little Miss A was halfway up.

In one second I felt such a mixture of emotions. Fear, shock, worry, surprise, yet pride and excitement too.

My husband climbed up slowly behind her so she had a safety-net, though she was unaware of it. 

But she didn’t need one.

She made it all the way onto the scaffold, turned around and waved.

The smile on her little face was beautiful.

We are realising, now that our little Miss A is 20 months old, just how different she is from her sister.

Miss C uses her imagination lots, she loves getting messy outside and role-playing but she was never really a climber. She can be quite shy by nature and was always very good at listening to us if we thought something was too dangerous.

But were those things ever really ‘too dangerous’?

As new parents we obviously wanted to keep our baby safe, to protect her and not see her get hurt. It’s normal, all parents feel it.

But now we have her opposite in our second child and we are learning that sometimes it’s ok to let them try.

  
 
I don’t think we were holding Miss C back, she is by nature more reserved anyway, but we were a lot more cautious.

Our baby (which I think she will always be called while she is the youngest, no matter how old she is) is a bit of a daredevil!

Miss C tried to climb out of her cot once, slipped and bumped her head and didn’t do it again.

Miss A did the exact same thing, told us she’d bumped her head but went ahead and climbed out again thirty minutes later.

She is a risk-taker, a trier, she is absolutely fearless and consequently much stronger (physically) than her sister was at the same age.

We find her standing on windowsills, climbing onto boxes, balancing on chairs and basically just trying new things. 

  
 
Sometimes it results in a few bumps and bruises but we are learning when it’s ok to intervene (like the time she opened the front door by herself and stepped outside – she can reach the handle now so we have to keep it locked) and when it’s ok to take a step back.

We are there for her, we are the safety-net, whether she knows it or not, and we would never put her in serious danger. But doing certain things by herself is allowing her to learn her own limits, to know her own strength and what she is capable of.

It is actually amazing to witness.

When she was climbing up those ladders her coordination was brilliant! Her strong little legs got her all the way up to the top and I’m happy I got to see it.

I am certain she is going to keep taking risks like that, risks that she just sees as ‘opportunities’. 

I am certain also that she’s going to give us many more heart-stopping moments.

And we don’t want to stand in her way when we don’t have to.

This is a new challenge for us, to watch our second daughter climb and run and dive straight into things without fear. We don’t ever want to squash her enthusiasm and we are learning to find the right balance now between safety and freedom.

But we are so proud of our little daredevil, our happy, brave, excited, fun-loving little mischief.

She certainly keeps things interesting!

I hope her strength and determination never leave her, I hope she will carry on taking risks and bringing smiles to everyone’s faces, just as she does now.

We just have to remember to let her. 

   
“The more risks you allow your children to make, the better they learn to look after themselves” – Roald Dahl

Weekend in June

This weekend has been messy and exciting, this weekend has been fun and tiring, this weekend has been everything a sunny weekend for children should be. It reminded me of my childhood.

There is something about sunny weather that seems to make everything that little bit brighter. The neighbours are out, music can be heard playing from other gardens, and children are throwing water at each other and having a ball!
Little arms and legs are shining with sun-cream. Bare feet parading across the garden are getting wet and dirty. Fingers are sticky with drippy ice-cream. Our garden is full of childhood experiences that I remember with such fondness.
A paddling pool full of water creates so much excitement for our girls and their cousins. Grown-ups can chat while children squeal with delight at water splashing in their little faces.
All food is consumed outside, sandwiches in the sunshine just somehow taste that little bit better.
Friendships are strengthened, outdoor experiences are a delight, picnic blankets are out, and children play!
They just play.
They get messy, they get dirty, they get covered. And they have fun.
This weekend has been exhausting in the best possible way. Taking tired children to bed, washing sun-cream, sand and soil off their worn-out bodies, seeing them cry when their friends have to go home, it all matters. It’s all important.
It’s all creating memories!
I remember the feelings, the sunshine, the playing, the tiredness, I remember all of it from when I was little. And I hope my girls will remember too.
I hope we’re creating a magical summer for them. I hope they feel happy and excited.
I hope these feelings stay with them forever.
This weekend has been messy and exciting, this weekend has been fun and tiring, this weekend has been everything a sunny weekend for children should be. It reminded me of my childhood.
I hope it’s shaping theirs.