AH, THE SUMMER HOLIDAYS. That joyous time of year when we all get to spend time together playing in the garden, eating snacks, going to the beach, eating snacks, going away on day trips, eating snacks, getting ice cream, eating snacks and having picnics in a desperate attempt to keep the kids away from screens for as long as possible.
That’s the social media version. Now the above events do happen but they rarely end up like an episode of The Waltons.
In reality, it’s somewhat different.
Week 1. Day 1…
“What are we doing now Mummy?”
Week 1. Day 3…
“All my toys are rubbish.”
Week 1. Day 5…
Then we move into week 2, which evolves into a new area of mental torture. The sibling fights.
Playing in the garden usually starts off well, then you sit down and look comfortable. At this point the kids begin to fight over a football.
“Guys, there are three footballs! Lily go and get another one.” I shout from the comfort of my garden chair.
“NOOOOOOOOOOO! I want the yellow one!” Lily screams.
“Jamie, go and get the other ball please?” I ask optimistically.
“NOOOOOOOOOOO! It’s mine mummy!” Jamie screams.
“Okay, let Jamie play with it for a wee while and then Lily can have it after then.” I say hoping to resolve the situation.
“Yes!” Says Jamie smirking at Lily.
“ Noooooooo!” Roars Lily. “Jamie you are a dose!”
“Mummy! Lily just called me a dose!” Roars Jamie.
Lovely chat. In a desperate attempt to diffuse the situation and sound like a cool and collected parent to all the neighbours who are also sitting outside in their gardens, I calmly say, “Right guys, if you don’t stop it and share the toys we’re going inside.”
“Get lost Jamie.”
“Do one Lily.”
“Okay. Inside. Now.” I say sternly but still keeping a calm demeanour.
“Awwww!” They both chime whilst dragging their heels into the house.
Back door closes.
“Right! That’s it!” I shout. “If you can’t just play nicely for a wee while you’re not getting any treats now EVER AGAIN!”
“Sorry mummy.” Jamie says.
“Sorry.” States Lily.
This is the point when I turn around and notice that all the windows down stairs are wide open and my cool, calm demeanour has been destroyed as all the neighbours have just heard me lose my shit. Again.
That’s when I actually realised that bringing the kids inside was the worst thing to do. They were angry and I was fed up and the fighting just got worse. I read an article on Facebook about the best way to handle the fighting and tantrums..
‘It’s a good thing to allow your children to be bored and to have disagreements. They need to develop their child-led play skills and will find something productive to do on their own…’
Photo of two kids sitting together smiling with buckets and spades.
Hmm. Yeah. The sceptic in me at that point was envisaging an image of Jamie and Lily smiling alright – but whilst battering each other with plastic golf clubs!
“AAAAAGH!” Lily cries. “Mummy! Jamie just said my dolly was ugly!”
Okay, let’s give this child-led play carry-on a shot, I thought.
“Right you two, we’re going to go back outside and play in the garden.” I said.
And I didn’t have to wait too long before putting the theory into practice.
“NOOOOO Jamie, give me that back!” Shouts Lily.
“I had it first!” Roars Jamie. “Muuuuummy, I had it first!”
I just carried on with what I was doing pretending not to take much notice.
I think the kids were more surprised at me not reacting.
“Here Lil, you can have it.” Said Jamie and he wandered off to play with something else.
EH?!!!! Are you kidding me?? I was thinking to myself and feeling super smug that I have just unlocked a secret parent hack. Whoop whoop!
20 minutes later..
“Give me that back!”
“No it’s mine!”
“Muuuuum! Lily scratched me!”
There is only so much ‘child-led play’ I will allow before the day unfolds into casual violence.
“Right Jamie, just let Lily have the toy for a wee while and then you can have it then.” I say trying to remain calm.
“THIS IS RUBBISH!” Roars Jamie whilst hurtling the toy across the garden in his rage.
Touché, I was thinking. Frankly, I’m bored. No wonder the kids are fed up. They have spent the last year or more in and out of lockdowns and had their child-led play tested to the limit!
So the following morning and the usual, “What are we doing today Mummy?” over breakfast.
“I think we should go to the play park this morning and then on the way home we can stop at the coffee shop and get some pancakes. Sound good?” I said while looking at two smiling faces.
“Yeeeeeah!” They both chimed.
Jamie and Lily then spent the next couple of hours happily playing together and being excited about going out. Now while it’s not practical to be taking the kids out every day and doing stuff all the time, I think child-led play has its place but it’s all about balance. Let’s face it, there is no definitive handbook for parenting!
Later that morning, we arrived home after an hour or so at the play park and I was plating up some takeaway pancakes with Nutella and strawberries as a treat.
“You are the best Mummy!” Says Jamie.
I might not be much of a referee but apparently, I’m the best. I’ll take that!