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“Mummy! Mummy! I’m bored!”…those are the words I’ve been hearing most often lately. The drawback of there being an age gap of six years between my daughters is that they cannot really play together. Not yet, anyway. This means that it usually comes down to me to entertain the six year old.With a small baby to take care of, free time comes at a premium. Her sister’s days, on the other hand, have never seemed longer, especially now that summer club has ended. I might not be the best at time management but how do you find hours to play when there’s a pile of laundry waiting to be ironed? These are the thoughts running through my head when I finally manage to prise myself away from my chores and that’s not the only difficulty I have when playing with my daughter.
For children, playing is a sort of job they have to do. It is as important to them as eating is. For me, most of the time it is just a nuisance and waste of time. I say most of the time because on the few occasions I manage to let go and really lose myself in my little one’s world, I really do have fun. The problem with me and most adults I know is that we have forgotten what it was like to be six and imagine ourselves princesses or pirates or explorers walking through a tropical forest. For a six year old, being a princess is still a possibility lurking in their future. For someone my age it is a ridiculous notion. However, when I do allow myself to get into her world of make believe, it becomes the most relaxing form of entertainment. All housework and adult responsibilities are temporarily shelved and forgotten and I am transported back to the innocence I still possessed thirty years ago.
Apart from playing pretend, some of our favourite games are Uno, dominoes and Jenga. These three games really bring out the competitive monster in both of us. Sometimes I let her win but eight times out of ten I want to be the winner. It’s embarrassing but true. Then there are the computer games…or should I say game. We only allow her to play games on one of our mobile phones or on the computer for ten minutes a day. With most of her friends owning their own Nintendo at such a young age, we’re still trying to fight the trend and keep it simple. However, there is one game which we love playing together and which is proving hard to play for only ten minutes. I’m afraid our whole family is addicted to Angry Birds. Don’t ask me how this happened but it did.
One other ‘game’ that sprung from our love of the catapulted birds is drawing them and making up stories about them. Because our thing is drawing and colouring. We sometimes spend hours surrounded by colouring pencils and with papers scattered everywhere. We also love to do collages, which is a great way to recycle unwanted magazines or brochures. With arts and crafts, the control freak in me emerges. I have to bite my tongue not to become Miss Bossypants and ruin the fun for my daughter. And guess what? When I manage to shut up and let her do her thing, the results are far better than when I’m the artistic director.
All of which brings me back to the ‘letting go’ prerequisite when playing with kids. I try to remind myself to forget I’ve got work piling up in the background, forget I’ve got a mortgage to pay, forget my age and just be. I want to enjoy these moments as fully as I can because my children will only be children a few precious years. In no time at all they’ll be slamming the door to their room asking for privacy.