It’s raining again. To be honest this is hardly surprising since the schools are now on holiday. There seems to be an inescapable law that the first week of the summer holidays (at least) will be wet and miserable, it was like this when I was a kid and it still seems to be the case now.
When I was younger this amounted to frustration that I would be stuck indoors. In itself this is odd since most of my favourite play activities were best suited to being indoors. Perhaps it was the fact that the choice had been taken away from me, I couldn’t just decide to head out for a ride on my BMX, or climb a tree or even just to go for an adventure into the woods beside my house. A shower wouldn’t have stopped me but the obligatory summer holiday deluge was definitely enough to put me off. I made do with activities which on any other day I would have enjoyed immensely (playing with my Lego, my computer, reading a book or even just sitting and drawing) and waited for the rain to stop.
Now I’m a parent and the rain presents me with a similar yet also subtly different problem: I now feel obligated to be the provider of entertainment not simply a seeker of it. My son has just finished his first year at nursery and his response to waking up to the first day of his holidays yesterday was ‘I don’t like holidays’. He didn’t say this with a moan or a grumble, it just came out as a raw fact. The simple truth is he’s never had a summer holiday before (though every day before he started nursery was a little like a holiday). All the fun activities were spread throughout the year, and more importantly he didn’t know any different. He’s now familiar with a day-today environment in which trained professionals have put together a plan of the activities to be on offer that day, safe in the knowledge that they have access to a whole array of resources which very few parents will ordinarily have in such abundance at home (though I am aware that many schools are suffering from budget problems, I’ve even heard of a teacher in a school down near Glasgow who had to buy paper towels for the class as the budget wouldn’t stretch that far).
My point is that my son is now used to having activities set up for him every day of the week and I’m now out of the habit of coming up with them myself. I think many parents are in the same boat, they face the holidays with dread, coming to the sudden realisation that what teachers do at nursery and school really is hard work. We panic and buy mounds of craft kits and other indoor activities (not that there’s anything particularly wrong with these activities) but in doing so we miss the potential of activities which we, as adults, find mundane.
I took Logan to the supermarket yesterday since we’d spent a good portion of the morning and early afternoon in the house and I though he and his brother could do with some fresh air. Not to mention the fact that we needed something for dinner. I was a bit worried about what this would be like since I normally either shop for groceries online or nip down for top up shops by myself on my way back from work. I needn’t have worried, the two boys were as good as gold (if a little energetic) and Logan had fun helping me to pick things for dinner. It was time well spent and both of them seemed happier when we got back to the house with our shopping. The two of them even helped me tidy it all away into the cupboards.
It struck me today that Logan doesn’t normally get to do things like that; he’s ordinarily at nursery when we get the shopping/do household chores etc. As a result all of these things are kind of interesting to him and become part of his games. I’m now seriously considering getting him a toy cooker soon so that he can ‘help’ at dinner time. Perhaps the holidays are an opportunity to bring our kids back into the fold of day to day life. Rather than mimic what they encounter at school/nursery perhaps we should let them take an active role in those tasks we consider to be ‘mundane’. If they’re too young to properly participate there are always toys and games which can replicate these day-to-day chores: play food and games like orchard’s ‘shopping list’ game immediately spring to mind.
We won’t replace the time they spend with friends at school, and few of us will have the time or the resources to replicate those activities thought up by their teachers, but what we can do is show them the world of ‘grown ups’ and let them try their hand at certain aspects of our world. We can expose them to ideas and activities which will have a positive impact on the way they might engage with the world as adults. Come to think of it some of my favourite summer memories from my childhood involved cooking with my parents, helping with gardening, helping my dad with DIY/fixing the car, going on shopping trips, or (when I got older) helping my mum out at the shop where she worked. Perhaps there’s something fun to be found in these mundane rainy days after all.