Do parents have favourites?

Catching leaves

The Girl is really doing my head in at the moment, and to be honest, I’m kind of relieved.

For the first three years of her life, I cuddled her, carried her everywhere, dressed her, slept in her bed with her if she had nightmares or growing pains or just wanted company in the night, let her off eating the rest of her dinner if she didn’t fancy it. My husband, the Fairy Godmother and I even sing to her in glorious three part harmony if we are all around when she wakes up at night. (As you can imagine, this has done nothing to decrease the frequency of nightwaking.)

In short, I have doted on her. She is simply the cutest, squidgiest, most adorable little person to ever dance around on two legs and then fall flat on her face.

Meanwhile, the Boy was difficult.

When he was two, I had a baby to deal with and I had to push him to be more independent. He got on with it and worked out how to dress and undress, climb into the bath by himself and learned to read himself stories for good measure.

When he was three, he started developing a will of Valyrian steel. It drove me nuts. Mainly, I was just outraged that he would defy me at all. For what seems like ages we locked horns. I would lay down the law – he would pursue his own, clearly superior plan. It took The Husband and I over a year to work out the best ways of challenging his behaviour and leading it down better, more acceptable paths.

It seemed to me, on a daily basis, like my interactions with the Boy were mostly negative and my time with the Girl was full of hugs and delight.

I started to worry that I had let myself develop a knee-jerk, negative response to the Boy.

I started to worry that I had A Favourite.

When I was in my early teens there was a period of a few months when I was convinced, with searing jealousy, that my Mum loved my brother more than me. I would catch her looking at him with an adoring look in her eye that spelled it all out plain as day, to my mind. Meanwhile, I felt I was getting all the jobs, the reprimands, the disapproval.

And you know what – maybe I did, at that time. He was a tween and still had a bit of the cute chubby cheeked look while I had just shot up and sprouted spots everywhere. Not so cute. Also, I was a teenager and did more stuff that deserved reprimanding. Also also, I was older and could handle more jobs.

Perhaps, at 3 and 1, the Girl was my favourite of the two. She said adorably cute things and let me dress her and she (mostly) did as I asked. If she was naughty, it wasn’t deliberate.

Fast forward to present day. The Boy at 5 is a delight. He is actually helpful: he can feed the cats, wash up, set the table, pour milk into the Girl’s cereal and has intelligent comments on multiple choice reading exams. He is fascinated by everything, and you can have amazing conversations with him about science and art and religion and you end up feeling like a genius because you know so much (compared to a 5 year old). His favourite pastimes no longer require my input or much supervision: he will play school by himself, he develops and executes craft projects with minimal help and he builds Lego intended for 7 year olds from the “inconstructions”, as he adorably calls them.

The Girl, on the other hand, clearly thinks Valyrian steel is for wimps and sissies and has developed a will made of diamonds. It sparkles so brightly, endears you with its determination and then BAM: she is on the floor wailing, refusing to move when you are already ten minutes late for school pick up.

When she does not want to do something, she will a) ignore you, then b) go limp on the floor refusing to move and c) start crying like you are taking her to prison. And believe me, there are many, very reasonable things that she does not want to do.

The Husband and I are working on strategies, but it may take a year or more to train this one. This time we are more upbeat though. At the table is a 5 year old building Lego, living proof that the threenager can be defeated.

So: do parents have favourites? Yes, yes we do. But who that favourite is depends entirely on who is the most pleasant to be around at the time – which may be different every day.

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When your kids should be bilingual – but aren’t

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Giant Seagull (c) P.M. Kroonenberg

I had high hopes and big dreams.

In my head, my children would, at 3 and 5, be completely fluent in both English and Dutch.

They would speak Dutch to me (grammatical Dutch, with age appropriate vocabulary) and then switch seamlessly to English when talking to Daddy.

They would read Dutch books with me and be card-carrying Annie MG Schmidt fans. They would read Suske & Wiske and excitedly run for the latest Donald Duck magazine in Albert Heijn. Dutch shop assistants would not be able to tell that these children lived in England most of the time.

I was not so aware of the extent and level of detail of my Dream, and the height of my expectations, until I had to face up to the fact that reality was falling far, far short of them.

“Mummy, you dragen me,” was for a long time the sum total of my daughter’s Dutch. (“Dragen” means “carry”). At best, we would get one stray Dutch word in the occasional sentence. On our last visit to the Netherlands she managed to crank this up to two, running up to me crying in the playground to tell me that “those jongetjes didn’t want me to spelen.”

Bringing kids up to be bilingual is hard.

I thought it would just happen, if I spoke Dutch to them all the time.

I hadn’t realised how hard it would be to do that: speak Dutch consistently. How my day to day life meant it would sometimes be rude to (when visiting English speaking friends and their children for a play date), or unwise to (in a city tense from terrorist attacks where guttural languages sound suspicious and it is better not to sound foreign), or just too much like hard work (when you can’t think of the words because you don’t speak Dutch much yourself in daily life).

If you want to be consistent, sometimes you need to switch languages constantly, speaking English to your partner and Dutch to the kids when everyone is in the same room at the same time. It’s hard work. And confusing.

I hadn’t realised that my own Dutch would have got so rusty that it was actually harder work to speak my mother tongue than to default to English.

I hadn’t realised that being consistent would be hindered by the kids’ own choice of language, that they would choose English, and that I would absent-mindedly respond in English too.

I have found it hard to come to terms with the result of this, with the reality. That my own children speak my language like a foreigner, if at all. Living here has been an exciting adventure so far, it has made me feel special to be an immigrant here, but my children not speaking Dutch to me makes me feel suddenly isolated. I realise now that I had imagined sharing with them all the little bits of me that don’t translate into English. And I can’t.

However, on our last visit to Opa and Oma they made me see things differently.

“But you are bilingual,” my Dad said. “And you didn’t learn English until you were seven.”

That is when I saw another hidden assumption I had made. I had assumed that this was it. I had thought: they are not fluent now, and so they will never be. I have missed the boat.

Suddenly, I remembered so many other examples of bilingual friends with messy stories: some who became bilingual at 8 or 11 years old because of a move; some with parents who never did; some with siblings who became bilingual while they lagged behind; some who grew up with two languages but ended up more proficient in a third; some who had spoken another language when they were young, lost it and found it again as an adult.

For all of them, being bilingual to some extent ended up defining the course of their life. I know it did for me.

My children’s experience of growing up with English and Dutch will not be what I had planned for them. But it will have a massive impact on who they are and what they do with their lives. I will just have to be patient and watch their own, individual stories unfold.

Tell me about your experiences of bilingualism, or share your words of wisdom below in the comments!

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A little message for Opa and Oma on their mirror: “Eye luv yoo” in Dutch

Should children be able to skip a class?

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(c) Quentin Blake

“Is Back to the Future real?” my son wanted to know.

“No.” I said regretfully. “People don’t know how to travel through time yet.”

“Oh.” The Boy looked disappointed.

“Hey, maybe you will invent time travel one day!” I said.

The Boy laughed modestly. “I might need a bit of help,” he mused. “Maybe Daddy and I can do that next week.”

He is nothing if not ambitious.

But honestly, I would not be surprised if he did invent time travel one day. He has already worked out his own method of doing multiplications at 5 years old, and can add two digit numbers and reads books in two languages and draws world maps with “Rusher” and Mexico on them.

In the Netherlands, if a child is bright and has an autumn birthday, it is not uncommon for them to skip a year. Often this is done right at the start of a new school, so you don’t have to join an already estabished class and be both the youngest and the newest.

In the UK the accepted wisdom seems to be that having an autumn birthday is an advantage – it is better to be the oldest, especially for boys, they say. Also, moving children out of their age group away from their immediate peers is just not done.

However, there is definitely a precedent of a British child successfully skipping not just one, but several years. I present you with: Matilda.

I mean, seriously. Moving her up to the top class, despite her age, was clearly the best thing to do. Differentiation was a nightmare for Miss Honey, she was getting far too invested in that one student to the detriment of the rest of the class and, generally speaking, you don’t want your kid to resort to telekinesis in order to get rid of their excess brain energy.

I have been thinking about this issue a lot lately. On the eve of The Boy starting reception, I considered asking if he could go straight into Year 1, as he was already reading and doing Maths at about year 1 level. I was concerned that the school would not be able to help him on with so many other children to guide through the basics at the same time. I was worried about him getting bored.

All the people I spoke to about this said the likelihood of him being moved up was practically zero, so I decided to just resign myself to it and hope for the best. As it turned out, they have excellent extra support in Reception and the Boy has two or three one to one sessions in the week to stretch his literacy and his maths, to fill in the blanks that he definitely has and to move him along. I am delighted at how he is doing and his class teacher is brilliant. Also, he is making friends and the thought of him moving out of that group is sad – I am not sure he would even want to.

But the doubts are creeping back in. Reception has these extra resources, but what will happen further up the school? As a teacher, I have plenty of first hand experience of the wide range of abilities you get in a class, and what you need to do to make sure everyone is learning. I don’t have teaching assistants or extra pairs of hands in my class, so catering to the different levels is all down to me.

It is so easy to just let the capable ones be a little bit bored.

This afternoon I sat with a student who was really struggling. I wanted to help her get just one answer to just one question about a reading text. I was painfully aware that my top two students had finished in minutes and were just keeping themselves occupied. But I had to help the weaker student: if I didn’t, she would lose motivation and lose faith in herself and stop learning. If the stronger students are a bit bored now and then… what then?

My students are adults and very self-motivating.

My students pay for their course and have clear goals they are aiming for. This helps them carry on, even when they are not being stretched enough sometimes.

But children live in the moment. They might be planning to become a fireman or an astronaut, but they won’t relate their literacy or maths sessions to this goal. It is still too distant. The hit on motivation for a weak student, who is struggling with the task at hand, is instant and instantly evident, and teacher support can have an instant effect.

The hit on motivation for an able student who is not being stretched is very slow and very gradual. It is the dimming of a light as their battery is run down and not being recharged. And sometimes, as a teacher, you don’t even notice when the battery is flat. Because the visible effect will be that the able student will just slot into what the class is doing and be more easy to manage. It is so easy to let your gaze slide off this and heave a secret sigh of relief.

Ofsted is not going to put the school into special measures for this and social services are not going to come calling. They might not even notice.

My son is loving school and comes home full of stories and excitement every day. Also, he is not moving plates or furniture around with excess brainpower just yet. He is happy where he is. And I don’t think he is going to end up on drugs or in the gutter if he is not challenged, his love of learning is not encouraged or he is not allowed to keep learning at his own speed. But he might also never cure diseases or invent time travel.

What I’m saying is: the future needs the bright kids to be fully charged, not held back because it is easier.

There are of course many, many questions to be asked about this. Is moving children up actually the solution, or should the battery recharging just happen outside of school, at home? Is it more important to stay with your peers? And do we even want time travel?

What do you think?

3 year old sleepovers

IMG_3011 (3)On the way home from pre-school today, the Girl (3) started arranging play dates from the back seat. I should add that this was completely unprompted by me – clearly these were plans she had been hatching by herself for some time, judging by the level of detail.

Girl: “Mummy, Rosie B. has to come for a play at our house and then for a sleepover the day after tomorrow.”

Me: “Right. Maybe she should just come for a play first. Rosie has never been to our house before, so she might be a bit scared to stay overnight.”

Girl: “But she can sleep next to me, where my cuddlies are, so she doesn’t need to be scared, and I’d switch my turtle light on, so she won’t need to be scared. And then she can come for a sleepover!”

I am very touched by her concern for this girl who is apparently a new and treasured friend, but gently insist that just a simple play date would be fine at first.

Girl: “Alright Mummy, when we get home you can ring Rosie’s Mummy and tell her to come and play and then after that she can come for a sleepover.”

In my head I am imagining what the Girl and Rosie might be like together at pre-school. Have they become close friends this term? I ask her if they sat together at lunch and what they play together, but the Girl’s brain is still whirring on the play date problem. Before long another solution presents itself.

“Okay Mummy, let’s ask Lily, the one with the white hair, to come for a sleepover. She doesn’t get scared.”

How foolish of me. Obviously, the important thing was the sleepover, not the friend.

Life Game: What’s Cool and What’s Lame

What’s up Gamers?

I’ve done it! I’ve got to Level 3 of Life Game and I’m becoming quite a pro. I’ve got to the stage where I can watch n00bs blundering about the training levels at Toddler Groups, trying to do Walk or Crawl (badly), and I can have a laugh at them or go up and give them some pointers.

I have also got to a point in the game where I have a pretty clear idea about what I like and what I don’t like. And I don’t see why anyone should try to make me do the bits of the game that are Lame. So in this episode of my Life Game Hacks, I thought I’d give you a run down of the bits I like and the bits I don’t like, and some tips on how to get any interfering busy-bodies (read: The Mummy) to butt out and let you get on with painting your underarms purple or whatever it was you were doing.

COOL STUFF

Painting – What could be more glorious than covering a piece of paper in bright colours using a brush? And your hands. And your knees. And then covering the table, the chair, the floor, your clothes, your hair, your arms and whatever you can get to before the Mummy is alerted to what you’re doing (she calls it Making a Mess but I say potato potahto). Painting is photo (9).JPGawesome.

Cake – With icing please. And every day please. And once I’ve licked the icing off you can pick the discarded spongy bit up off the floor yourself because I don’t need it anymore, thanks.

Teefee – Best. Thing. Ever. Princesses, Barbie, doggies, kitties, beautiful girls with starry Manga eyes, and they all go around rescuing people and eating cupcakes. It’s like my imagination has come to life! And you don’t have to make the characters talk for once so you can just sit back and recuperate some health points.

Tip! Teefee also gives you useful updates on what you could buy in the Shops (with your Mummy’s credits of course). When you spot an item from the Teefee, just point at it and shout at the top of your voice LOOK LOOK LOOK Mummy! It gets her to interact with the item, though I’m still working out how to actually move it to my inventory. Will keep you updated.

Role play – Why be yourself when you can so easily pretend to be someone else? When you interact with an NPC and they address you by your name, just give them a blast of your Charisma and say: “Do you mean: Dora?” You can use any TV character name of course. My current favourite is Princess Leia. Insist that all henchman and other players change their screen names to match your new identity, for instance, The Brother has to be Luke, the Daddy has to be Darth Vader and the Fairy Godmother is, obviously, Cheesebacca.

LAME STUFF

Stickers and colouring – The Mummy seems to think that these are somehow just as fun as Painting and should be an acceptable alternative. But she clearly does not understand what is so fun about Painting. How can you make a decent mess with stickers or crayons? Why would you want to colour inside the lines?? (Yuck)

Comics – Once you’ve got the toy off they’re pretty much useless. Juvenile stuff. I much prefer a decent novel: a bit of David Mitchell or Kate Atkinson will do.

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Preferred outfit in sub-zero temperatures

Warm clothes – ZOMG will they quit already with the coats and jumpers? Don’t they know that they cover up my pretty dresses?? I need to wear a dress, pref a summer dress, not trousers because they are for boys. That is stuff you know when you get to Level 3. Also, socks are nasty and unnecessary, just take them off anytime you can and abandon them wherever.

Playing with stuff I am allowed to play with – Where is the fun in that? Sure, I wanted to play with Skye, but once the Brother gave me his big cuddly Skye, I only got half the experience points for holding her. I had to start sneaking over to his Paw Patrol box to get the little Skye out, because that still gave me the triple experience for doing Thief missions.

Lame Stuff Avoidance Techniques

Here are some ways you can make it clear to the Mummy that her suggestions are lame:

1. When offered unacceptable dinner options, shout: “I SAID I not want dis food!!” Then push the bowl away. You can do this with drink as well, of course: “I SAID I want JUICE!” Then push the offending cup of water across the table so it tips over and soaks the Mummy’s supposedly important papers (my paintings look much more beautiful and she puts those in the recycling so I think this is only fair).

2. Cry. Just roll around on the floor or the sofa and do Crying, making as much noise as possible.

3. Hit. If no NPCs are within range, just whack the sofa or a toy. They have fewer hit points and break more easily so that has the added bonus of making a mess (again)

Well, there you go, it was a long one but I hope this points you in the right direction.

Got any requests for my next update? Let me know in the comments if there is a tricky bit of Life Game you are struggling with and I’ll do you a walk-through in my next post.

xoxox

The Girl

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Sinterklaas: Is there any point celebrating a foreign festival?

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I am an immigrant, but my children are not.

“Tomorrow is Christmas!” my daughter cheered in the car.

“No, it’s not Christmas, it’s Sinterklaas,” I explained for the millionth time.

“But Santa is coming,” she said, hopeful, confused, worried.

“Not Santa, Sinterklaas!” I said, struggling to keep a note of exasperation out of my voice. It was meant to be fun, after all. And I wondered whether I should just not have bothered trying to celebrate a Dutch festival in England.

Hands down my favourite day of the year growing up was 5 December, the eve of Sinterklaas’s birthday, the patron saint of children.

That evening it would be dark outside, but inside there would be a happy glow. There were vast quantities of special sweets on the coffee table, sweets that were only available this time of year: marzipan figures, fondant, little spiced biscuits and other stuff I still don’t really have the English vocabulary to accurately describe (banketletter, anyone?).

My mum would play Sinterklaas songs on the piano (distracting us so we wouldn’t notice that one of the adults had mysteriously disappeared for a moment) and we would all sing along until suddenly, there was a loud knock on the door. My brother and I would race to the front door and outside we would find a big basket of presents.

After dragging it inside, we all took turns finding a present, reading out the poem that came with it while everyone listened and then open the present to find out what was inside. Other more artistically and practically gifted families would make elaborate craft projects and hide the present in there.

photo (8)As we are all language freaks, the poems were a big deal for my family and we loved coming up with ingenious rhymes. When my brother and I were old enough to give presents ourselves, our aim every year was to emulate my parents’ poetic style so that no one could guess who the present was from by the quality of the verse.

Coming to the UK, I was a little distressed to find that unwrapping presents at Christmas didn’t seem to have that same reverence for each gift. Rather than taking turns, it seemed to be more of a rip-away free for all to get to the contents, and I realised it was because there was no poetry and no craft involved. Although lovingly chosen and wrapped, nobody had been forced to spend hours sweating blood at a computer trying to find something to rhyme with ‘scarf’.

Before we actually had kids I had always blithely assumed that Sinterklaas was naturally something we would celebrate with them: the ideal children’s festival.

But it has turned out to be harder than I thought it would be.

Santa is everywhere in December. His mythology is rehearsed alongside the Christmas story at school, among friends, in the shops, on TV. Expectations are built up, grotto’s in schools and shopping centres encourage them to express their Christmas wishes to the man in the red suit with the white beard. The Boy’s reception class has an elf, sells Santa stamps, has a postbox for letters.

Who the hell is Sinterklaas? Nobody mentions him.

I hadn’t realised how necessary the context and the build up is for the enjoyment of the day. In the Netherlands, children do Sinterklaas crafts in class, practise the songs, watch the Saint’s arrival in the country on TV mid-November, put their shoe by the chimney with a wish list for Sinterklaas and a carrot for the horse and find sweets in it in the morning, get a visit from Sinterklaas in class, watch the Sinterklaas News on TV. And on the 4th of December, all their friends go home with eager anticipation, looking forward to what is to come the next day, building up each other’s excitement.

We, on the other hand, just had a conversation in the car on Friday.

Me: “Tomorrow you can put your shoe by the chimney, because Sinterklaas is coming!”

Boy (5): “Yay! Will I get my cuddly minion? Oh… no… I asked Santa for that.”

Girl (3): “Yay! It’s Christmas tomorrow! Santa is coming!”

I realised I should have dialled down my expectations and dialled up the preparation for the big day.

I realised I would have to accept that our Sinterklaas would never be more than the briefest of nods towards what I had as a child, and that Christmas would be the big present-event for them. The 5th of December: just day 5 of the advent calendar with bonus, confusing traditions.

I can’t recreate this very precious little bit of my Dutch childhood for them.

Maybe in time, though, it will become something they treasure. They will buy a little present for each other and there will be whispers and sneaking and secrecy on the 4th, as they hide in their rooms with their laptops writing one poem only but huffing and sighing and delighting in equal measure. Then there will be a special evening, with sweets that they don’t get any other time of the year, and songs that none of their friends know but they do. Perhaps one of them will learn to play the piano and accompany us.

And perhaps it will be a special part of our lives anyway.  Different, but special.photo 1 (9).JPG

The Real Reasons I was Cross Today

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I got cross a lot today, kids, and this is why.

It wasn’t because you ran ahead out of sight.

Well, it was because you ran ahead out of sight.

But mostly it was because you tried to justify it, because you tried to absolve yourself, by saying it wasn’t you, it was the choo choo train you were riding, which didn’t have a stop before the bend so you couldn’t get off. I was cross because you kept insisting the train was real and it really wasn’t your choice, your responsibility.

And it wasn’t because you spilled the water.

Well, it was also because you spilled the water.

But mostly it was because you spilled the water and walked away and didn’t tell me, and by the time I noticed, the water had soaked through Mog’s Christmas, an exercise book, the Disney Princess colouring book, a cut out Elsa and Anna and a full set of lidless felt tips.

And I got even more cross because you didn’t seem bothered that all that stuff was ruined or that I was cross with you.

And it wasn’t because you wouldn’t tie your shoelaces.

It was because you didn’t even want to have a go. Because you said you would do it yourself tomorrow or the day after but I ‘had’ to do it today. It was because you wanted to take a day off from the responsibilities of being 5.

To be honest,

I also got cross because I too get tired of taking responsibility for stuff. And sometimes I wish you kids would make all that a bit easier by doing your bit.

And sometimes I am jealous,
and I wish there was someone that I could
hold my foot up to and say:
you do it.
I’m not in the mood today.
Can you please tie my shoelaces?

You can’t marry your sister

LoveThe Boy is really into asking awkward questions at awkward times.

Just as our friends were saying their vows, unamplified at an outdoor wedding, he asks in a piercing voice: “Why did the people want to kill Jesus?”

Or on a ferry, surrounded by bored people with nothing better to do than eavesdrop on the moral and social education of our son, he wants to know the ins and outs of who can marry who. “Why can’t I marry my sister?” he asks, puzzled. I do my best by explaining that there are different kinds of love. Friend love and family love and the special love that you have for the person you marry.

He nods sagely. “You can NEVER marry your friends.”

“Well,” I back-paddle. “You might find that you start to feel that special love for one of your friends.”

He ponders this. “So why can’t I marry my sister?”

I try to give a sanitized child-friendly explanation of the dangers of mating with someone with very similar DNA. He doesn’t get it all but slowly the awareness seems to sink in that you can’t marry people who are already family.

It’s okay though. The Boy isn’t really planning to marry his sister. He has already chosen his future bride. They had been friends since they were very little and when they discovered there was such a thing as marriage they felt the choice was obvious. It is all decided between them: they will live in a big house in Wales with their 100 children and us parents are expected to visit regularly.

It’s very cute and I wonder sometimes how long this will go on for. Perhaps they will find new and different friends now that they are at different schools and their friendship will dull and the dreams of a house packed with children amid the rolling hills will fade until they are forgotten. Or perhaps they will stay close through the years and when hormones stir they will become Boyfriend and Girlfriend. I have seen this too among my friends’ children.

Today, the Boy asked: “Mama, how do you fall in love with someone?”

I braced myself and plunged in, preparing myself to help him work out future feelings for his chosen bride: “Well, when you see them you get butterflies in your tummy and you love spending time with them. You love looking at them and talking to them and hearing their voice and you want to cuddle them and hold them close all the time.”

His eyes shone in recognition.

“Yes!” he said. “That is how I feel about you, Mummy.”

Love. We’re still working on it.

Shock discovery: children are actual people

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One of the strange things about children is that they are real people.

I know it sounds obvious but bear with me.

They start off so totally dependent on you, with such limited methods of communication, that you spend quite a bit of time interpreting them and providing them with a voice that is not their own. “Oh, he’s just tired.” “Look, he looks so grumpy in that top, he obviously doesn’t like it.” “Oswald just adores Beethoven, don’t you Oswald?” I am totally guilty as charged, just read the Life Game posts.

It actually becomes a life long task for a parent to learn to accept your children as independent individuals with thoughts and ideas of their own.

When I started our summer of fun stuff, I had imagined myself in the role of Fun Bringer and Haver of Great Ideas. I filled our box with activities that I had come up with while the kids were asleep, hoping to surprise and delight them.

Instead, over the past two weeks, they have been surprising and delighting me. We have done about 7 or 8 cards since my last post, but our days have been full of fun and good ideas. Their good ideas. In fact, I found myself starting to write them down. And then making new cards, for next year, with the great games they came up with this summer.

There was the puppet show.

photo 2 (6)It came out of nowhere. One minute we were in the car, driving back from a boring supermarket trip. The next they were shouting: “Let’s have a puppet show!” And we were digging up the finger puppets and making a rudimentary theatre (a box lid on a kid’s chair with a quilt draped over it, in case you want to replicate our success), followed by a retelling of Goldilocks and the three bears using a princess, a tiger, an elephant and a lamb.

There was a plane outside, then a plane indoors. The pilot was a massive cuddly koala bear and the destination was, as always, Nediland (The Netherlands).

There were concerts of beautifully ambitious piano concertos, composed on the spot by one child and interrupted by the other. Then they would swap over.

There was Numberland. The floor was absolutely covered in numbers of all shapes and sizes and materials. It was a little traumatic for Mummy and Daddy, who tidied it all away as soon as the Boy was in bed.photo 3 (4)

There were many board games, which the Girl now understood enough to actually be a plausible participant in.

This just scratches the surface. Children have an amazing imagination. They are totally independent, totally new people, never seen before and utterly unique. Who was I to think they needed my ideas to have a great summer? Thank goodness I have them here, to brighten mine.

If you want to follow our summer Play-Along in greater detail, come and join me on Facebook, where I report on our activities as they happen.

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It wasn’t sofa naps, it was hospital: First Week of Play-Along

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I did warn you last week. I did say that sometimes the Summer Play-Along might be interrupted.

When I wrote that, though, I was thinking more along the lines of being too lazy to do craft activities. I wasn’t expecting it to be interrupted by a two day stay in the Children’s Ward of our favourite hospital. An infection caused an asthma flare up and Tuesday found us in A&E with the Boy on oxygen and hourly nebulisers. We got out two days later, as always feeling tearfully grateful for the wonderful nurses and doctors who looked after him, and the amazing play facilities provided for the children on the ward, while simultaneously being so so very happy to be back home.

Here is a little overview of what we did manage to do at home:

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And there was playing in the hospital as well, even if it wasn’t from The Box. The Boy made Numberjacks and minions out of paper, and The Girl fell in love with her “own little girl piggy”. When she came, supposedly to visit her brother, she ignored my arms held out ready for a big hug, thinking she would have missed me overnight, and searched the room for the pig. The pig got a hug, not me.

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What I have learned from this first week of summer activities is that sometimes just committing to doing something special every day is enough to make it happen, even if it wasn’t what you prepared earlier. Having steeled myself mentally for putting in a bit of effort every day made me more inclined to say yes to other things the children suggested or thinking up extra plans. We made rainbow pancakes from a Peppa Pig magazine and played Chloe’s Closet in the play tent, we made a 4 times table poster (every day is a school day for the Boy!) and played chase in the garden.

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Here’s hoping for a more normal week next week!