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)

Puddle Jumping

imageYesterday evening, after a busy day full of fun, laughter, household jobs, tears, tantrums and physical exhaustion, my two-year-old did something that really made me smile.

My husband had vouchers for a local restaurant that were due to expire in a few days so we took advantage of them and went out for our tea. 
Our children did not misbehave, they just behaved like children, but in a public place we always become more aware of how noisy, funny and messy our girls can be. 
Luckily the restaurant was pretty quiet but I still felt shattered trying to constantly tidy up messes, entertain inquisitive toddlers and quieten them down when needed. 
It’s as if the thoughts of complete strangers are at the forefront of my mind whenever we’re out and about with our girls. 
We had a lovely meal in the end but we were tired and looking forward to going home.
Once outside, our eldest dropped her drink on the floor. Her immediate response was disappointment. 
‘Oh no!’ she cried, ‘I can’t drink it anymore’. 
There was nothing left, the entire contents had spilled. 
Within seconds of me picking it up, her attitude changed completely. 
She looked at the puddle….. And jumped into it. ‘Yay!’ she now squealed, ‘I made a puddle!’ 
I stopped and looked at her, not able to hide my laughter. It was a beautiful thing to behold.
I sometimes wish I could look at the world through the eyes of a child; innocently, with no fear of showing emotion and best of all, able to forget disappointment/sadness/frustration and make the best of a given situation. 
As adults we worry about an awful lot, what people think of us, what will happen in the future, trying to make everyone happy. 
Well, that little two-year-old girl has completely the right attitude, one which I wish I could replicate. 
I worried for no reason in that restaurant, people were very accommodating and only had lovely things to say about our family. I could and should have just enjoyed the experience more. 
And when bad things do happen, which they inevitably will, I’m going to try and jump straight in and splash in the puddles that I make.
  

Stepping back

  We were at our local playgroup this morning where our eldest is used to going and where she has been engaging in solitary play alongside other children for over a year. This morning was the first time I really noticed a difference; she was beginning to interact. I think this is quite a scary time for a mother, it’s one of the first steps to letting your child go. She is only just two, it seems so young, however, it is something that she has to learn. I suppose it’s something all children must learn, the idea of dealing with other children and sharing toys, but this morning it struck me, it is also a learning curve for me. My instinct when I saw another child take her dolly from her was to rush over and snatch it right back. Same as when a little boy took her sun hat from her head in the outdoor area, I wanted to tell him ‘no, don’t be mean!’ and give it back to my baby. There were several occasions where I just wanted to scoop her up in my arms, give her a cuddle and tell her it would all be ok and part of me knew she’d be safer at home. But I was learning. I was learning to sit back and see how she would react to a given situation, I was learning to watch from the side-lines and not intervene. Unless my daughter was in any real danger, I had to train myself to stay where I was, no matter how much it hurt me to see her upset I had to learn when it was ok to act and when it wasn’t. It was one of the longest and hardest mornings of my life, yet also one of the most rewarding. She was happy! At home afterwards she talked about how she liked playgroup, how she had wrapped her dolly up in a blanket and put her to bed, how she had played on the slide and how she had sung songs. At one point during the morning I saw her actually playing with some other girls on the slide and she also shared a bike with a little boy. All these new experiences are necessary yet terrifying and I am learning how to deal with it; how to deal with my baby not being a baby anymore, how to deal with her potentially being upset by other children and how to deal with her learning how to interact with them. Of course she is still very young and of course when she calls ‘mummy’, I will be there. But she is growing up and developing from my baby into a child; a child who will speak to others, a child who will play with others, a child who will laugh and cry and hurt and sing, a little person with her own character who, while helped along by us will also have to do things by herself. And while she is learning I am learning too, right by her side as she develops and grows, and hoping and praying every day that she’ll be alright.