"We didn't bring you all this way for you to sit up a tree with a book" she would yell at me.
I'd be delighted for Katie to sit up a tree with a book. Chances are it wouldn't be with a book nowadays. It would be with a smart-phone or an IPad or Kindle. If I'm still physically able to, at the point she is old enough to partake of this wonderfully peaceful exercise, I might even climb up and join her, although I'd have to ensure I had enough charge on my Kindle!
It seems to me that children don't necessarily play these days in the way we used to. Don't get me wrong, I'm not harking back to the "good ol days" with some evangelical rosy-tinted glasses but I do think life was simpler and we used to know how to entertain ourselves. We had to. We didn't have grown-ups to play with us necessarily - most of the grown-ups I knew back then were busy talking to each other and not interested in us kids. I can't remember my mum ever sitting down and reading with me or playing games. We did used to watch "Top of the Pops" and "Dallas" together though. We didn't have lots of TV time as we only had three channels until the early 80's. We had games like Operation and Buckeroo and Monopoly and they came out at Christmas etc but I don't have lots of memories of sitting down and playing them. Children weren't at the centre of life as they are these days. We were expected to "know our place" Parenting was sadly, mostly Victorian (it was in my case). Playing was for when we were with our friends and not our parents although I do remember being dangled upside down or tickled (both of which I totally hated!).
How the world has changed and how different it is for adopters!
Parenting these days has done a 180 degree flip and is very child focused. We are encouraged to play with our children and spend "quality time" together. I enjoy playtime with Katie. I waited for a very long time to become a parent and I want to be involved. For adopters (as well as other parents I'm sure) playtime is our bonding time. It's a time when we can encourage our children to learn to use eye contact or touch in a non-threatening way. We can help our children develop their motor and communication skills. We can use play therapies such as Theraplay to help our children relearn and reprogramme negative and damaging experiences. We can let them be in charge for a period of time and help build up their self-esteem. We can have fun! It is also a time when we (the alleged grown ups) can indulge ourselves in a child-like world and forget (albeit very briefly) about our adult lives and responsibilities. Making a child laugh is one of the best experiences in the world. Hearing the sound of their laughter, full of total glee and abandon with no pretences, is precious. I adore hearing Katie laugh. She laughs like one of those giggle toys that used to be quite popular. It stops people in their tracks and makes them smile!
The tools we have in our armoury make playtime so much easier although we don't need to be as resourceful, unless you're a supermum with the most amazing crafty skills and don't feel threatened by an empty toilet roll; cardboard box and sticky backed plastic as I do We have a trampoline (currently unused due to the unseasonably cold and wet weather). We have a LeapPad and DS and an IPad. We have books and dolls and babies and Lego and cars and tons of Princess dressing up dresses and soft toys and games especially designed to enable learning. We have play-dates and Jenga. We bake cakes and sometimes do some mark making and play Play-Doh or watch TV. With exception to the latter, I am a one-woman entertainment centre.
Is all this one-to-one attention actually good for Katie in the long run though? Obviously, in part, the answer is a resounding "Yes" but what about her ability to self-entertain? As a parent I actually also need to give her time to become bored to enable her to develop these skills and enjoy some of the amazing things that can come out of time spent without entertainment. As a young person I spent a lot of time writing very dodgy poetry when I was alone. I have to say that gives me some adult amusement to read nowadays!
This ability to sit within the feeling of boredom is quite a topical issue this week. Research is showing that our modern culture of 24/7 entertainment options and socialisation isn't actually good for children because they are missing out on spending creative inner time. Just sitting and staring out of a window can lead to amazingly creative outcomes.
In a BBC news article Dr Belton, who is an expert in the impact of emotions on behaviour and learning at the University of East Anglia, said "boredom could be an "uncomfortable feeling" and that society had "developed an expectation of being constantly occupied and constantly stimulated".
But she warned that being creative "involves being able to develop internal stimulus".
"Nature abhors a vacuum and we try to fill it," she said. "Some young people who do not have the interior resources or the responses to deal with that boredom creatively then sometimes end up smashing up bus shelters or taking cars out for a joyride."
This is a serious concern and we as parents need to question where the balance lies and we also need to be strong enough to encourage our children to entertain themselves without the aid of modern technology.
In a Mumsnet Guest Blog post Dr Belton also writes:
"With school holidays approaching, parents will be expecting wails of, “I’m bored - there’s nothing to do!” Stretched budgets may also make expensive outings impossible. If so, take heart. Parents tend to feel responsible for their children being occupied at all times - but being constantly busy or entertained is not helpful for children’s development. Yes, children thrive on stimulus from babyhood onwards, but one can have too much of a good thing. Children also need still, quiet time to learn from their experiences, to think their own thoughts, to get to know the world around them."
This is really reassuring because Katie has now learnt the "B" word. I actually hate that word. I remember many years ago being told that "only boring people get bored" and I find myself saying it back to her with some frequency. She has reached that
Wish me luck. I'm taking heart from a favourite TV programme of my generation "Why Don't You?"
Why don't you just turn off your television set and
go and do something less boring instead......
Good advice I think. What do you think?