Before I had children, I used to think I was pretty good with kids. I considered myself to be fun and imaginative and children used to warm to me quite easily. I enjoyed babysitting from a young age and even considered a career in child care at one point.
Being the oldest of four, I guess I naturally took on quite a nurturing role within my family. I have three younger brothers and so I was kind of a second mum in a lot of ways, and I enjoyed that. It was fun to take care of them and play games and boss them around a bit.
When it came to having my own children, I had it all planned out what kind of mother I would be. I felt like I had years of experience behind me (ha) and that I knew what I was doing. I would be quite structured with discipline, but would also make sure I was a good amount of ‘goofy’ with my kids too. I thought I had figured out the perfect balance of seriousness and fun and that my kids would just respond appropriately to whatever environment I surrounded them with.
Having my own children has been so different to how I could have imagined it would be. As all of us parents know, looking after other peoples children and looking after your own are worlds apart. It’s just so different. I’m not saying different in a bad way, it’s amazing. The love and the joy I feel is pretty much incomparable to anything else I have ever felt.
BUT. I am really rubbish at playing with my kids! I feel like such a terrible mum to even admit that I just find it hard to get real enjoyment from sitting and playing with them for long periods of time. I can start playing a game with them but then I just get bored really quickly. Ah, I can’t believe I’m writing about this.
I love seeing my children play together, especially when they are enjoying imaginary play. Today they have been ice cream shop owners and we have had lots of delicious ice cream at £2 a cone. I love to see them really engaging in what they are doing and taking it so seriously, it’s wonderful. I just can’t seem to let myself properly join in for any length of time. I try and encourage them to just play with each other rather than include me. I know! Awful isn’t it! It seems so often that I am more concerned with tidying the kitchen or getting ready to go out or checking my instagram.
This evening, my husband gave me a gentle reprimand for how I reacted to something during the bedtime routine. We went out for dinner to a friends house this afternoon, which was really nice. It meant that we got home a little later than the usual bedtime so it was straight upstairs and time for bed. I was trying to just get pyjamas on and teeth brushed so that I could kiss them good night and go and do everything I needed (wanted) to do. My kids listen to audio books at night time and there is a particular one with some funny music that George loves to dance to. He wanted to put it on and dance to it. Without thinking, I just told him no because it was already late. My husband said quietly that George really loves to dance and we could just do it quickly. So we did. All four of us held hands and jumped around the room and danced to the funny music. The children were absolutely thrilled and it was a really special moment.
Once we had gone out and closed the door, my husband started to talk to me about my reaction and it really hit me what he said. He said that in that moment, the children don’t care that it’s late. They’re not thinking about what they will be doing tomorrow. They are just thinking that right then, all they want to dance with their mummy and daddy. Nothing else mattered to them, and why should it? It doesn’t mean anything to them if I say that we have to get up early in the morning. Or if I tell them that it’s an hour past bedtime. I sometimes talk to them as if I expect them to just look at me and say;
‘We have to get up early tomorrow? Why didn’t you say that mum? We will get straight into bed, in that case, because we don’t want to be tired in the morning.’
It has really humbled me, actually, and made me want to try harder to engage with them in those moments when I would rather be doing something else. I am the one stopping myself from enjoying these times and so I am the one that needs to change.