The greatest gift you can give your child is time.
After having spent the last few years teaching children, observing them and listening in on their lives as they gossip with their friends and then having two boys of my own, I truly believe children should have two things in their life (apart from love, a home, clothes on their back and food on the table). They should have the time to experience their life at their pace, exploring everything around them, sit and use their imagination and learn how to deal with boredom, but they should also have time with you, no gimmicks, no gadgets, no distractions, just pure unadulterated you.
I remember growing up and spending A LOT of time at home, I wasn’t really allowed out to friends houses or for sleepovers, I wasn’t allowed to play on their street or venture far from the two lamp posts on our road. So I spent a lot of time in my room or in the garden. I do have siblings so now and again we would play but being the eldest of four I was happy in my own company. What did I learn from spending so much time without all the external stimuli that being out and about would bring? I learnt to deal with boredom, I learnt to use my imagination. I would read and write, I would colour and draw, I would spend hours organising and tidying my desk ready to compile the next greatest novel. I would read books back to back, my Saturdays after work when I was a young teen would see me run to the library to borrow as many books as I was allowed so I was stocked up for the week before running back home not to be too late that would warrant me “grounded” – wouldn’t have mattered anyway I was never allowed anywhere anyway.
Having so much time where my own mum couldn’t be with us meant I was able to entertain myself, hour upon hour, day upon day. Even now I am quite happy in my own company plodding along finding things to do.
This is something I want to instill in my boys, I’m not saying I’m going to deprive them of going places, doing things and seeing friends, that is far from what I want but I do believe there needs to be a balance. We live in a society where we must push our children to experience everything now, they must have sensory play, explorative discoveries, go to (toddler friendly) theme parks, have well planned excursions here, there and everywhere, they have to be doing it all now! I know I’m guilty of riding this bandwagon for I have paid out for the classes, gone to the play centres and scoured websites for places to visit. Desperate for the boys not to get bored we “have” to mix it up and find something new…but wait a minute, is this really necessary?
How many times have you been so desperate to get out the house that amongst the chaos you have literally ripped your child away from an activity where they were happy and engrossed? All because you had to get to a class/playdate/trip out. I’ve done this so many times, I’ve watched as they have literally stepped across the line from being bored tiny terrors to starting to use their imagination as they gather their toys together and play a new game, and what do I do? drag them away from their world of make believe and force them into their shoes and coats and march them out the door. No wonder they have a meltdown….which means I then have a meltdown…why did I do this? They were happy!
Having my second boy hasn’t made me lazy, it’s made me see, it’s made me slow down and watch what’s going on and catch a glimpse into their world. Sometimes I’m not giving them the time to just be them, to just explore and find something to do. Yes ok, when they are clambering round my ankles whining I’m all for shoving us out the door and going somewhere but when they are happy entertaining themselves I’m all for being quite fluid with the day.
I tend to now plan an activity that we may do at some point in the day, we may go out and feed the ducks,
Go to the farm,
Eat sandwiches at the park,
Or get a slice of cake,
But whatever we do, I like to do it at their pace, if I have no deadlines to meet why rush about?!?
If we do venture to farms or trips out I ask my eldest what he wants to do, why bring them to such places and frog march them round making sure they see EVERYTHING, let them be happy doing what they are doing.
The whole journey can be an adventure, and so it should be.
So here comes the second aspect of what I feel children vitally need – our time, our undivided time, time where we join in, become part of the adventure, become a key role in whatever game they play.
Sometimes they just want us to splash in a puddle with them…why not?
Sometimes they just want us stood by their side as they explore. They just want us there!
I remember the hours upon hours sat next to my own mum when I was younger watching her make curtains after curtains, string together blind after blind, cutting, pinning, sewing. The only way I could spend time with her would be to sit there as she didn’t have time to play, didn’t have time for stories or drawing or just sitting together. I remember desperately wanting her company, a cuddle but the only thing I could do was sit by her side.
I don’t want that for my boys, I don’t want them to beg for me, to plead with me to play with them, to hang around desperate to just exist in my company. I want enjoy their company and dive into their imaginative world’s. I want to remember what it’s like to be young, carefree without a worry in the world. I want their memories of me to be one where I was in the thick of it with them not a shadow in the background.
Sometimes we get so swept up in everything around us we forget to slow down and enjoy the simple things. We rush from place to place, desperately filling up their social calendars with things to do, places to go, people to see, have we scheduled in time to do nothing?
I have the final few weeks left of my maternity leave approaching and I know I will be frantically trying to fit in all the things I want to do with boys before I’m sucked into the hum drum of work, I know I will be planning meet ups with friends that I will no longer see so regularly, but I’m also going to plan in time to just do nothing, stay at home, play in the garden, do whatever takes our fancy.
I want to enjoy the time I have with them, give them my time, let them have their time.