Our children bring us so much joy. And yet often, in this world of social media; Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, it’s easy to measure yourself up against friends, ‘influencers,’ friends of friends and come to the conclusion that what your children are doing (or not), and what they should be doing are two very different things, and somehow that is a failing on your behalf.
Are they awake and ready at 8.30 am for their online registration, are they engaging with the online learning and submitting their work? Are you enjoying baking together or creating intricate art and craft projects? Are they happy to join you in a wet, windy, muddy walk? In our current situation it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, that we should fill every minute doing a ‘job,’ something that must be done, something that is likely for someone else. After all, there is so much to do, even when we’re not supposed to be doing anything??!!
When we feel fraught, often trying to get our children to do what we think they should be doing inevitably leads to a situation where no one is having fun!
Jude talks about allowing herself the time to enjoy her children playing, and the importance of sometimes making herself the priority. After all, in order to look after someone else, you must first be able to look after yourself… (Sarah, Scheme Manager)
So, what I’ve leant about enjoying my children…
It doesn’t seem to happen when I’m trying to get them involved in what I want to do. And it doesn’t seem to happen when I try and make them do what I feel like they “should” be doing.
This week they’ve spent vast amounts of happy time playing “chaos tag” together in the garden. An extraordinary cross between tag, stuck-in-the-mud and rock/paper/scissors, it’s an egalitarian game where there is no particular advantage in being older, stronger or faster. Also, it goes on for ever, and no-one seems to win. These must be the secrets of their success.
This game had been popular at school (remember the days when our children went to school…?!) but my kids have added an extra layer of complexity. They “score” the rock/paper/scissors element by using some old mini traffic cones they found in the garden.
So, when I look out of my kitchen window, I see four children with small orange traffic cones on the ends of one arm, tossing said cones to one another, then playing rock/paper scissors with the other arm. They have a whale of a time doing this, often dissolving into peals of laughter at their own enthusiasm for the sheer absurdity of the activity.
I’m always tempted to rush off and get the housework done while they are happily occupied. But doing the housework whenever the kids are happy means I have a cleanish house but only spend grouchy time with my children.
So, once or twice, I have stopped and sat or stood watching them play chaos tag, and it has genuinely filled my heart with joy.
The other joyful times have been when I have decided to do something I myself wanted to do – try out a cake recipe, or make a rainbow collage, for example, and I have not asked or required the children to do it with me. Sometimes they have joined in, or watched me intermittently, but often they have ignored me, and done their own thing. Weirdly, the strength it takes for me to concentrate “selfishly” on my own task, involving them only at their instigation, has centred me, and I have found rare satisfaction.
So perhaps this is the conclusion – the way to enjoy my children is to enjoy myself?
I am trying to relax, have perspective. I am embracing my inner chaos tag. Purposeless joy. When you find it, don’t rush away and do housework instead…