How Much Should You Entertain Your Children?

Picnic in the sun

Picnic in the sun

It’s the weekend. The sun is shining and it’s warm outside for the first time this year. The children are in shorts. Hubbie and I are not at fighting strength and the desire to spring clean house and garden are being decimated by an overwhelming need to curl up and read a book (me) or get back to stripping the engine in the garage (hubbie).

Saturday saw a whirlwind of sorting from hubbie, in response to a plea from me that the lounge had disappeared under weeks of accumulated detrius. I do cleaning, he does sorting, that’s our skill set and division of labour. I was still feeling sick and disorientated from the tablets and the kids were slightly flummoxed by having a whole weekend without children’s parties to go to.

Grandpa came round to put the world to rights and help tinker with the engine. The children were told to shush, go play and mostly they did. But promises were made that today would involve more games and attention. Then Grandad called late to say he’d pop in for coffee in the morning. So Sunday started with a frenzy of cleaning (as he comes less often I make more effort to maintain the illusion that his son married a clean and tidy person. My stepdad knows this is a lie – my mum won’t even come round anymore because the clutter in our house drives her bonkers.)

By 10am this morning (his anticipated arrival time) we’d cleaned and hoovered and found the house under the filth and clutter. The children assisted by cleaning dust with wet wipes. But still, they reminded us continuously about the request for attention and games. Grandad spent half his time looking at the stripped engine and the rest imparting typos to me that he found in Two-Hundred Steps Home. When he left at 12 o’clock the children had been left to bounce on the trampoline and play in the playhouse. They were quite happy, but still asking for games.

Playing with the hose

Playing with the hose

Hubbie finally managed a game of chess with our daughter while I baked cookies with our son. I then played dominos with them both for twenty minutes. But that was the extent of our attention, as I went off to iron school clothes (and ended up writing this post!) and hubbie mowed the lawn.

They’ve been happily (mostly) playing with the hose and trampoline for the last hour (hurrah for early spring sunshine!), but I still feel a bit concerned.

After all my reading on The Five Love Languages, I suspect that Quality Time is important to both of them. But they do also need to learn to play by themselves. Weekends can’t always be children’s parties and trips to the farm. I at least get time during the week to myself but hubbie needs downtime at the weekend. I used to take them to lots of places when I had them both at home, because they’re easier to manage at the zoo or the park than in the house, but I worry that they had so much fun and mummy time it is why they both cry when being left at school and nursery.

They’re not neglected children, but parental attention can be pretty thin at times. They have each other and are expected to find solace in that. And mostly they used to do that. But more and more, since my daughter started school, they’ve been demanding adult attention at home. Assuming I had the patience to offer it, is it still wise? I don’t remember our parents doing much in the way of entertaining us as kids. We were taught to ride bikes and taken to gym classes, but we also played with our dolls and books and colouring. We sat in the car eating crisps while they went to the pub to play darts, or while they did the supermarket shop.

Parenting these days is all about quality time and enjoying every moment, but what if we’re raising kids that don’t know how to be and play by themselves? What if school becomes harder and harder because being with mummy and daddy is such fun? But what if they need my attention to thrive? It’s a pickle. I’m beginning to understand why people take their kids to ballet and football at the weekend. Wear them out and pay someone else to entertain them. We’re not quite there yet, we enjoy our relaxed weekends too much, but it might happen soon.

In the mean time hubbie is explaining rugby to them both while I cook tea. Somehow it’s only 4pm. Is it bed time yet?

Sunshine, Spring Cleaning and Sandcastles: 2013 365 Challenge #62

Spring Cleaning: that's the playhouse roof done

Spring Cleaning: that’s the playhouse roof done

The sun came out today. Hurrah! How much better we all feel for some warmth on our skin and an afternoon spent in the garden?

Today was all about Spring Cleaning. The kids love playing with sprays and cloths so they cleaned windows, their scooters and the playhouse roof.

We have a sandpit in our decking so that was cleaned, removing leaves and other detritus, so the kids could use it. It’s in the shade but they didn’t care.

And even though it was sunny they still wanted to jump in Muddy Puddles so Mummy made one!

I thought I’d just post photos for the ‘top section’ today as it was so lovely and sunny, and the ‘Claire’ section is a bit of a whopper.

Getting the Sand Pit ready for Spring

Getting the Sand Pit ready for Spring

The Sand Pit is Open. Hurrah

The Sand Pit is Open. Hurrah

Spring Cleaning: Scooter washing

Spring Cleaning: Scooter washing

Spring Cleaning: Scooter washing

Spring Cleaning: Scooter washing

Impromptu Muddy Puddle

Impromptu Muddy Puddle

The sun is shining and my kids want a muddy puddle

The sun is out but my kids want a muddy puddle

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Claire squinted at the overly bright lights and cursed her stupidity for the twentieth time.

“Remind me again why we spent twelve hours drinking cocktails?”

Josh muttered through closed lips, “’Cos you were trying to cheer me up? Or help me forget or something?”

“Did it work?” Claire scanned the Arrivals board and tried to ignore how the room span as she tilted her head upwards.

“I’ve forgotten most of last night, if that’s any good.”

“Not exactly. Have you figured out what you’re going to say?”

Josh shook his head then clutched at Claire’s arm and groaned. “Dunno. Did we talk about it? You were going to help me.”

“We talked a load of bollocks, I remember that much. Until happy hour at The Liar’s Club. Then it all goes hazy.”

Josh emitted a wet gurgling sound and Claire wondered if he was being sick. Then she realised he was laughing through his teeth. “I can’t believe you took me somewhere called the Liar’s Club. You’re one mean chick.”

“At least you’re laughing, even if you do sound like a blocked drain. They serve the best cocktails, that’s all.”

“I remember buckets of rum. And that Sheila you said was a fella. Looked like a chick to me.”

“You were too pissed to notice more than a magnificent pair. I distinctly remember an adam’s apple bobbing where it shouldn’t have been. Besides, chatting up anyone, male or female, the night before your wife and kids arrive is not a great plan in anyone’s book.”

Josh threw Claire a look that was part reproach, part remorse. His already pale face turned a shade greyer and he looked around the crowded hall. “Think I’m gonna chunder. Where are the gents?”

Claire quickly scanned the room and spotted the sign. She dragged Josh towards it, urging him not to redecorate the polished white floor. She could feel Josh shaking as she tugged on his arm and his face was becoming so pale it was translucent.

I wonder how much is hangover and how much is nerves. Maybe getting drunk was a bad idea. After twenty-four hours of flying the last thing Fiona needs is a husband giving off Brewery-Fumes. At least he’s clean and shaven.

She’d insisted on Josh making himself presentable before they left for the airport. Claire felt guilty enough about the hangover, although she had to admit the marching band doing drill practice in her head was happily drowning out thoughts of the imminent reunion and her part in it.

Josh emerged from the toilet looking sweaty and drained, but his eyes appeared less wild. When he spoke his voice was clearer. “Can we swing by the duty free? I think a spritz of aftershave might not be a bad idea.” Claire nodded and handed him a pack of mints and a bottle of water.

 

Claire stared at the gates and willed her stomach to behave. The tightening knots seemed to be causing the blood to pulse round her body in rapid and panicked bursts. She could feel her hands trembling and wished she could sit down. They had positioned themselves in view of the gate but far enough away that Claire could remain unseen once Fiona came through. She glanced to her left to see how Josh was holding up. He had stopped pacing and was standing with his arms tightly wrapped around his midriff, staring without blinking at the exit.

As Claire watched, his eyes dilated and his face grew rigid. Claire turned to see a woman come through the gates with a baby on her hip, pushing a trolley with her free hand. Two small children gripped the trolley, one either side. The woman looked tired but still very beautiful, with her dark chestnut hair brushed and hanging round her face. She scanned the waiting crowd in a continuous sweep until she saw Josh. Her mouth opened as if in greeting, then she continued to push the trolley towards him, not rushing or showing any other emotion.

Claire watched the woman approach and felt as if she was gazing in a mirror. Oh God. That’s why he tried to kiss me. I’m the image of his bloody wife. Charming.

Josh took one step towards Fiona then paused, his arms dropping to his sides. Claire drew back into the café behind her and prayed for invisibility. The children both saw Josh at the same time and let go of the trolley.

“Daddy, Daddy!” the eldest cried out as he ran towards Josh. He threw his arms around Josh’s legs. The younger child ran to her mother and hid behind her skirt. Claire could hear the grief-drenched cries of a distressed toddler.

Poor Josh. Claire saw tears streaming down his face. Please let his wife give him a better welcome.

Fiona came to stand in front of Josh and there was a pause as their eyes met. Then Josh leapt forwards and wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in her hair. Claire could see his shoulders heaving with sobs. The child on Fiona’s hip started to mew like an injured cat and Claire realised that the baby probably had no idea this man was her Daddy.

Claire was about to leave when Fiona looked over Josh’s shoulder and saw her watching. Her eyes widened with shock and what could only be anger. Claire could almost read her thoughts as she tried to work out who Claire was and what role she had played in her husband’s disappearance. Claire tried to communicate the truth: that she and Josh barely knew each other but would count themselves friends for life. That Josh needed his wife. That Claire felt a cavernous hole widening in her chest at the sight of their love.

She looked around for something to write on and spotted a napkin. Borrowing a pen off a man doing the crossword, Claire scribbled some words on the white square.

Josh loves you. Nothing happened between us or with any other woman. He’s hurting: he blames himself for the child’s death. Forgive him, help him forgive himself.

Claire

Looking at the swirling crowd of people, Claire tried to decide if she was brave enough to take the note over herself. What else to do with it? If this were a Victorian Novel I could give an urchin a shiny coin to deliver it for me. Her searching gaze caught sight of a familiar face and, with a jolt, the answer came to her. She hurried over, thanking the Universe for offering her a random event on this awful day.

“Charlie? Are you waiting for someone?”

“Why hello Miss Carleton. You here on business?”

Claire glanced down at her crumpled shirt and jeans and laughed. “Thankfully not. Just here to pick up a friend, only I’ve received an urgent call and I need to leave. Are you heading back into the city when you’ve collected your client?”

“I’ll be heading back on me tod, Miss; they haven’t turned up. I didn’t get no call but it seems they missed their flight.”

Claire beamed and thought the Universe really did come good sometimes.

“If I was to offer you beer money, could you take some good friends of mine anywhere they need to go?” She shone her widest smile at the driver.

He laughed. “For you? Of course.”

Claire fished in her purse for some money and handed it to Charlie. She gave him the note, praying he wouldn’t comment on the napkin it was written on. He merely took it, folded it once, and smiled a toothy smile. She pointed out Josh and Fiona, then thought of something.

“Damn. I don’t suppose you have car seats, do you?”

“As it happens I do, Miss. Two, at least. The lad’ll have to sit on a bag.”

“Charlie, you’re an angel.” She pecked him on the cheek, took one last look at the family tightly hugged together, then turned and strode away.

***