Calling all parents out there- are you with me on this? You come in, knackered, having been to the park/soft-play/swimming pool and the kids start up: ‘Will you help me with my lego?’ ‘Can you play Mr Funny Face with me?’ (No, because I flipping HATE Mr Funny Face,) and I get a bit peeved because I’m just through the door and there’s laundry and dishes and tidying and all I want to do is put Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’ on the iplayer and disappear for an hour.
I’ll admit it: I’m not good at this. We seem to take our kids out A LOT, and between parkrun and jaunts round the countryside at the weekend, I feel I’ve served my time as an actively engaged parent. Lately we’ve been exploring Cregagh Glen beside where we live, because it’s brilliant to be able to actually walk somewhere, and cut out the car journey. But the wee ones love it when we actually sit down in the house and play games with them and truthfully, I don’t often make the time for it. When I’ve done their homework, or taken them for ice-cream, I feel entitled to my own time and send them off to watch TV or amuse themselves. It’s not as if they don’t have a mountain of toys scattered around the house, and anyway, isn’t creative free-play good for children?
However, I appreciate that learning to play games is a skill, and it’s undeniably fun for them. I still remember playing ‘Happy Families’ and ‘Whist’ with my mum and my grandmother. My granddad taught me how to play draughts and I used to love playing chess with my dad and brother, especially on the odd occasion when I hammered them. The other evening my dad was up and he and the little one were having a game of draughts. ‘She’s catching on quick,’ he remarked, and I felt ever so proud.
Another benefit to playing a game is that it calms them down before bed. Jigsaws and lego require a degree of concentration, which settles them more than watching TV.
Today we came down to Bangor after school and I was all for taking them for a walk on the beach to do a ‘Litter Pick’ as part of my ‘Do One Thing.’ I went off this notion sharpish though, when I stepped out of the car and felt the chill of the wind on my cheeks. The tide was in too. ‘That’s one for another day,’ I thought.
So retro jigsaws in front of the fire it was. I left my phone in the other room, and we played Connect Four and cards we had when I was wee and it was all quite lovely. I felt quite virtuous, which doesn’t happen very much. They were more than happy to sit down to some homework and I didn’t have to watch a single episode of ‘Sam and Cat’, there latest show of choice which grates upon me something shocking. I also hunted out some games mine have outgrown and I’m going to try and off-load them on my friends who are coming to my ‘Swap-shop’ on Friday night. I call that a result for a Monday afternoon.