Right. So I don’t entertain my kids. By that I mean, I am not a make and do mother. I hate glitter. I hate it so much that when my kids come home from school with it on their masterpiece, that work of art goes straight in the bin. No looking back. No regrets.
Birthday cards with glitter on them do not get put in their scrapbooks. Glitter is not pretty and shiny; it is brightly coloured bits of grit. Budgies eat grit. You bring grit into the house on your shoes. Your cat shits in grit for god sake. There is no room for glitter in my house.
Apologies if I went on a bit there, but that is the strength of my dislike for the stuff.
When it comes to doing stuff with the boys, you might catch me making a jigsaw with them. You will definitely hear me “spelling down” a word for Oldest Boy when he is writing one of his stories. I will (under duress/pester power) read stories during the day. If they want to draw a picture, I will provide them with the paper and colours and they do the rest themselves.
I let them crack eggs when I am baking and Shy Boy loves to peel carrots for me.
I don’t join them in their games and I don’t “solve” their boredom complaints.
When we had our Halloween party, I didn’t organise Halloween games. We don’t pass the parcel or pin the tail on the donkey at birthday parties either.
I don’t entertain kids.
They don’t need it.
In fairness we have four and they entertain themselves and each other. Mostly. Sometimes.
It wasn’t always this way, however.
When Oldest Boy was Only Boy Child, I did an awful lot of entertaining. I spent as much time on his play mat as he did. I sat on the floor and shuffled around plastic blocks and a myriad of cuddly stuffed toys that were binned as soon as he tired of them.
We watched those Baby Einstein DVD’s which bored me to tears and in hindsight, him too.
Until the day I put on the Old McDonald one and realised I hit pay dirt. It was the only one he would watch. Over and over again.
I spoke out loud to him about everything and I feared he might never learn to speak purely because he wasn’t able to get a word in edgeways with me yakking on all the time.
When I think back on the days I took him to the bathroom with me. Because, don’t you know, he would die of boredom and or loneliness for the two minutes it took me to cross the hallway and use the facilities.
These days I run to the bathroom for refuge and lock myself in there.
No, I don’t entertain my kids.
We were never entertained growing up. Toys were strictly for Christmas and we made do for the rest of the year. Poster paints that came in pots you could store your eye shadow in today, back then were still being used in the summer months. Purely because once they were gone, that was it. No more.
We learned to swim by going to the pool each week. Self-taught for 10p a session and 10p for the shop on the way home where we carefully and meticulously picked out our money’s worth of penny sweets. In those days you could get two for a penny. The lady in the shop always had great patience for us, four or more kids, each of us taking turns to pick out the sweets we wanted.
We didn’t watch television. Certainly not to the extent our kids, watch it today. Trips to the cinema were a very rare treat. I think we were teenagers when the first video player came into the house and that was only on loan as our cousins were going on holiday and we got to babysit their VCR.
We enrolled in a thing called The Summer Project when we were kids. A far cry from your Cul Camps and your Football Clubs and whatever else is all the rage these days.
The Summer Project, if I remember correctly, cost 80p each to join up and then you paid a further 15p for each activity you signed up to do. Every child in the town paid to play rounder’s, tennis, to go swimming, and have video afternoons. It was great.
We also used our bicycles to get into town. Nobody drove us to our clubs and we also had to make our own way to school and home again each day.
I was lucky though. When I was little, there were enough of us to entertain each other. Our mother never read us bedtime stories. We didn’t own jigsaws. She certainly never got down on the floor to play with us. And television consisted of just two channels one of which did not wake up till mid-afternoon.
We lived out in the country and did not see our school friends from one end of the summer till the other. We didn’t go on family holidays. None that I can remember, that is.
The ones I do remember were spent as pre-teens in Birr, Co. Offaly, with relatives, for a week or two. We swam in the river in Birr town and some days went to Banagher to swim in the river there. We always had ice-cream afterwards.
As kids at home, we spent our time roaming the fields and playing in some practically dilapidated sheds, totally at one with nature and each other. We really did leave the house first thing in the morning and returned only at meal times.
We had the run of the place and the countryside. Nobody came after us to stop us from climbing, exploring, discovering, wandering. When my little brother came along, he literally lived in the hedges.
Yes, our parents were wary of the road. I have a strong and abiding memory of the front gate tied shut and a plank of wood jammed in where a railing was missing. We still played tennis on that road. We rode our bicycles up and down. One winter when we had a heavy snow, the road was our ice rink.
We didn’t know what video games were. We did know what was going to be for dinner because we tended to have the same thing every Monday through to Friday. Friday being our favourite as it was always proper home-made chips that day – made from peeling and chopping spuds and using a chip pan.
And we were always hungry. There was always dessert. On Saturdays there was even a packet of biscuits, Custard Creams I think, with a cuppa afterwards. That same packet of biscuits called me in from the back of the aforementioned sheds. I had run away. The back of the sheds was as far as I got. My parents didn’t even know I was missing.
I got a reading part each and every year at our Christmas plays in school. Nobody in the audience had a recording device.
Our Christmas tree was religiously put up, much to our chagrin, on the 23rd of December.
We were almost sick with excitement and up at dawn on Christmas morning.
We didn’t have much but we never went without. I know that our mother did to see that we didn’t.
Our kids get a small toy when we do the grocery shop. A small toy multiplied by four means an added twenty euro onto the cost of the shopping. That small toy either gets lost in the shop before we leave, gets dropped down behind a car seat and left there or the dog will eat it within a few hours.
I have to beat them away from magazines that cost more than a chicken. They have swimming lessons. I bring them to the cinema on occasion. They get brought out for breakfast every Saturday morning and sometimes even have a hot chocolate. Each. Complete with cream, marshmallows and a flake bar. (Thanks, Barry!)
They get a Kinder Egg once a week. Friday is Freddo Friday in our house.
I don’t begrudge them their treats. Much.
But I do not entertain them.