As I watched Dan scale what seemed to me, an enormous sheer rock face looming over waves crashing into rocks below, I remembered why I loved him so much (and not just because I was terrified that he was going to fall into the foamy depths beneath!) He reached the top, looked out to sea for a moment before turning for a photo, striking all manner of silly poses. His ability to embrace his inner child and act on the urges that come to him, is much envied. I have far too much reserve, I worry about what people will think of me, of whether I’ll get hurt, or wet, or muddy… Dan on the other hand, is the first one up a tree, clambering over rocks on the beach, playing hide and seek with the kids.
Inspired by his youthful(?) exuberance, the next day I found myself launching into a hay fight with my friend and the kids whilst they played in a giant hay bale barn on the campsite we were staying on. Much fun was had, laughter rung out through the cavernous barn as we covered each other with huge handfuls of dusty hay in the warm summer sun. And I was so glad that I chose to get involved rather than staying on the sidelines, just passively watching.
Life with children, I have found, is chaos. No two ways about it. There are however, two very different ways in which you can approach said chaotic life. The first is by resisting it and trying to impose some form of order and structure on it and the second is by embracing it. Unsurprisingly, I think the former makes for a lot of stress and not much success whereas the latter will probably result in a happier family in the long run. I’m not saying that you should live in anarchy with no bedtimes, routines or rules. Kids need sleep and certain boundaries enforced. They are often too young or not equipped with the right knowledge to be able to make sensible judgement calls, especially on matters concerning their health and well being. They need guidance when they make mistakes and when their behaviour or attitude is unkind or hurtful, they need gentle correction.
But…they also need to have fun and be happy! Play is so important for young children and not only do they enjoy it but they learn so much through it from social skills to the foundations for academic learning. And they need freedom in their play, space to explore and discover. When we place limits on their play, we’re effectively placing limits on them. So I try to choose to do one of two things, either take myself of to get on with work that I need to do or (and this is both the harder but more fun option) try and join in if they want me to. Often I have to step out of an adult mindset as Isaac spells out an elaborate make believe world that I don’t quite understand or Sophia chooses a game at the park that we’ve played a thousand times before. But without fail, whenever I choose to take a leaf out of Dan’s book and get down and dirty and join in the fun, we all are happier as a result. I’ve said it before but I often think about how my kids remember their childhood and I don’t want them to remember it as full of rules and restrictions. No, I want them to remember having fun and being happy and of me being right alongside them for it.