As I write this, it’s half term. The time when teachers get a well-deserved rest, and parents are suddenly thrown headfirst into a whirlwind of complex childcare arrangements and endless attempts to entertain their children (and often one or two belonging to other people as well).
I was lucky enough to have some time off work to spend with the kids this half term, and was hell-bent on making sure we enjoyed our time together. However, after a day or two (possibly more like an hour or two, but it felt like a while…) of giving in to the can we do’s and the can we have’s I noticed that my purse felt decidedly light, and recoiled in shock at the sight of my bank balance. It was then that I cast my mind back to my own childhood, and began to get a bit more imaginative with the entertainment…
I reinvented myself as a Blue Peter presenter and we spent a happy afternoon baking and making models from cardboard boxes, toilet roll inners, much glue, and some paint. The next day was spent at the park kicking piles of leaves and rolling down hills (resulting in lots of giggling, some filthy clothes, and only a very minor head injury). I even introduced them to the wonders of communication via two yoghurt pots and a piece of string, which caused more astonishment and intrigue than my iPhone ever has.
Our enjoyable budget days started me thinking about how childhood has changed over the years, and how the current economic climate, although difficult in so many ways, may have some hidden positives (albeit deeply hidden). I look back on my childhood with fond memories, and it wasn’t full of gadgets, holidays and expensive days out. My brother and I would spend hours building dens from blankets and boxes, creating our own musical instruments, or concocting delicious mud pies in the garden.
This article appeared in the Dec 2011 / Jan 2012 edition of All Things Local.
The thing with kids is, they have no preconceived ideas about how life should be, but they expect what they get used to – and the more they’re given the more they come to expect. And as parents it’s easy to fall into this trap of feeling guilty if we don’t give them what they want. It’s a vicious circle. Don’t get me wrong, I know that as a parent (especially when you work as well) it’s very hard to find the time and energy to get creative or leap around the park like an excited six year old, but when you do manage it, it’s surprisingly liberating!
The other great thing about spending some time getting back to basics is that the special outings become so much more special. We did treat the kids to a day at a theme park, and there was a noticeable absence of ‘can we have’s, ‘pleeease Mum’s, and tears at home time. There was a real sense of enjoyment and, dare I say it, gratitude.
With Christmas fast approaching I have no doubt that there’s much spoiling to come (I’m already clearing out the toy boxes in preparation), but after my half-term reality check I’m going to really make an effort to embrace the simple (and cheaper) pleasures in life over the festive season. I’m not planning on depriving my children of what’s on their Christmas lists (that wouldn’t be fair, especially considering what’s on mine…), but I will make sure they understand how lucky they are, and that their gifts are appreciated.
And I’ll show them how much fun you can have making your own decorations and baking mince pies, even if nine times out of ten they’re totally inedible.