Once upon a time, the words “Let’s meet at soft play” instiled a sense of dread in me.
I hated it.
Gasp… yes I just typed that out loud… HATED it.
All of it; The noise. The crowd. The which eats little people into pits of puff. The sensory overload. Crying, screaming… Yip. Hated it all.
But until the girls were a certain size, the joy of having to drag my adult arse through multicoloured jungle jaws into forests of foam to supervise or save a wobbler or toddler from the pits of hell…
But being the mother of the fecking year that I sometimes am, I put MY dislike of it aside and brought them, sometimes. But unless I absolutely HAD to, I admit I avoided it. I was clever actually. I offered it as a fun activity for them to do with Daddy.
Pahahahah! Take that Daddy Bear. Off you crawl.
But I must say that once the toddler phase has passed and your little one turns into a more sturdy little Fuman bean, (human being) soft play can be JOY.
JOY I tell you.
For now, at the grand age of four year bold, my youngest can hold her own and happily throws her shoes at me as she runs in… in some cases never to be seen again, until hometime. Or until the thirst takes over and the rosy red panting leads her to come running for water…
I can now bring my laptop WITH me and if I position my adult arse correctly, I can write, watch them AND drink a coffee all at once.
Getting them OUT of the place is often a challenge, but hey. It’s one I’ll take. For they are happy and sweaty and exhausted.
And I’ve had a full hour of coffee. And I’ve written this…
Thank you Soft Play.
I may now promote you from hell to heaven. (Well, baby steps eh?)
We don‘t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing. George Bernard Shaw
Over the past 4 months, playing has changed.
Our kids went from playing every day with a variety of other kids, enjoying all sorts of games and having all sorts of fun, to playing at home with the same person or people.
On a typical day, my eldest daughter would have gone from playing with the bus kids, to playing with her classmates in the classroom, to playing with other kids in the playground, to playing with whoever was in afterschool, to playing with her sister at home.
On other days, add in the kids she played with at her drama/gymnastics/dance class and maybe even a play with cousins at the weekend…
It was Play Central really.
But isn’t that what childhood IS? Learning to make sense of the world through play and interaction?
The novelty of playing at home was great for a few weeks. And of course, my girls were so lucky to have each other. For every scrap or fight, there were hours of games and being best buddies. It helped.
It helped both them and us.
They spent most of lockdown outside in the garden. Swings, huts, dens, make believe adventures, talking to the cows in the field… I watched them living my 80s childhood, (with the added bonus of more than 4 TV channels and Disney Plus in the evening.)
I did have to stock up on lego and playdoh and crayons after about 7 weeks… but I didn’t mind. I like that they played so much with these.
It was lovely mostly. And the reality that our previously far-too-busy lives had been denying them such simple pleasures was not lost on me.
But they, like ALL children, got to the point where they missed their wee friends. Mini-Me took part in maybe five Wattsapp calls over the few months we were at home. She was so excited by them and so glad to see her wee friends, but in the final few weeks, didn’t really want to take part.
On the last call she had with one of her wee pals, she was so quiet that we thought the call had ended. When her Daddy looked into the room, she was sitting at her desk, colouring, with the phone set up beside her. Her friend was playing with her dolls on the screen. They weren’t really talking.
When Himself asked what they were doing, she looked at him as if he were stupid and answered, “We’re playing together.”
Simple. They aren’t grown ups who thrive on conversation and empathy. They aren’t teenagers who need laughs and craic and affirmation. They don’t yet know that they need conversation or companionship.
They simply wanted to play. Together.
That broke us a wee bit if I’m honest.
All she wanted to was to play alongside her friend. So when last week, we were able to let her meet said friend for a play in the park, I’m not sure who was more excited, her or me.
The playpark was open. Both of us Mammies looked at each other, trepidation about whether to let them in on both of our faces. We were afraid. The kids were not. We both had hand sanitizer with us and figured they deserved to have fun, so they ran and down we calmed.
We sat watching them and listening to the sound that I never really listened to before; The sound of children playing; of running and laughter and squeals of delight and roars of fun. We listened to parents calling out to ‘be careful’ or to ‘stop that’. We listened to the sound of playing.
And we both agreed that it was just lovely. And that there are some things that can’t be done on a wattsapp call.
As the sun sets on the “lockdown”, our children will have to learn many things over the next few months. They’ll need to learn about social distancing, and how to behave in certain situations, about hygiene and danger and how to go to places with new procedures in place. But they’re faster learners that we adults are.
And one thing they won’t need to learn again, is how to play.
Mammy is closing the hall door. The minions are tucked up and have been tucked in after their bedtime stories, kissed and snuggled and are as snug as two bugs.
Mammy has had the glass of grapes poured and ‘breathing’ since before the bedtime routine began.
Mammy slowly closes the door, to a chorus of “Night Mammy!” and “wuboooo!”
In the seconds before the click of the door of phase one, Mammy dreams.
Her mind jumps forward to an evening of feet up, of peace and joyful quiet, of adult conversation and grown up tellybox. Mammy’s muscles begin to relax and the excitement rises in her that she is about to cross the glorious finish line of another day of the race that is parenting.
Mammy reaches for her wine, sighs and smiles. She lifts it, smells it, for that is what one does, is it not?
Mammy does NOT whisper sweet nothings or declare love to the glass, for that would be weird, would it not?
Mammy sips the glorious grapejuice and allows the bitter beauty of the grapes to seep into her gums.
And as Mammy allows her muscles to relax, she listens to the silence…
It lasts 0.6433 fucking seconds.
And so begins phase 2 of the bedtime dance.
The “needs” range from a hug, a blanket fixed, a lullaby (wtf?), a wee dwink (you and me both chick), a teddy which has been lost for approximately 5 months, an answer about why white blutac isn’t blue and doesn’t stick as well, a promise of another playdate (she knows I’d promise the Crown Jewels to get them to sleep), among many, many, many other things.
In fairness, these are mostly things that u can and happily do provide. Good Mammy…💙
And so, eventually, they are in bed and are quiet. I am experienced enough to know that they are probably not asleep. But I am also KNACKERED enough to know that as long as they’re quiet, they’ll eventually fall into the snoozy slumbers.
And so I sit, sipping the rest of the earlier started grapejuice, glad that they are a phase closer to sleep.
Maybe. Possibly. Who knows?
They could be back up the hall 629 times before Mammy eventually loses her shit, but then again, they might get bored and just go to sleep.
Mammy too need a hug and a lullaby and a promise of a playdate with MY friends, but tonight, I’ll settle for a wee dwink myself!
Cheers Mammies. You’re smashing it. Bring on phase 3…😘
Says me to her, “My house is not clean. It is a kip.” Grumble grumble agree agree it’ll be grand sure etc…
It has not been clean since March 12th and it shall probably remain in such a state until the day before I go back to school when I do my annual “ALL THE EVERYTHING NEEDS DONE AND CLEANED TODAY” day…”
I ventured further. “I don’t know WHAT it’d take to motivate my arse to clean to be honest”.
And then this morning, I received THE TEXT.
The text that we have all forgotten…The text that is pretty much the main reason ANY of us had clean houses before Lockdown, but which we haven’t yet realised to be responsible for our semiclean homes…
My friend sent the beloved-dreaded message “I’m coming for a cuppa”.
And suddenly, something in the biosphere shifted and I remembered what motivation felt like.
Within an hour, I’d “tidied” and dusted and hoovered and wiped and bleached and sprayed…
Mammies. I even… Mopped. The. Floors.
I shit you not.
Who knew? My house needs visitors just as much as I do!
But be sure it’s YOU who sends the text!
Otherwise, you might end up mopping YOUR floor too.
If I were Queen of the whole world (as opposed to my own little corner), there are a few things I would change about Christmas…
Christmas jumpers should be permissable for wearing from December 1st. To all occasions, without eye-brow raising, without judgement…unless you are judging how fucking FABLIS it is is comparison to your NOT Christmassy, everyday, boring Jumper.
2. Only competent drivers should be allowed on the road from the 11th until the 24th. Because Christmas Eve is on a Monday, the last minute panic (and for some, ALL their shopping) will have to be done over one long weekend. This would not be a huge problem if everyone knew how to DRIVE. The town will inevitably stand still with non-moving cars and the special Dumbasses who the Grinch or some other Gremlin sends down from Dumbass Land, and who ONLY come out to drive on Christmas Eve and who test the patience of EVERYONE else by not using INDICATORS or knowing what a fucking YELLOW BOX is. They are not even real people. I think they’re like Matrix people who we can all SEE blocking the roundabout or taking 2 hours to reverse their Corsa into two spaces, diagonally, but they’re not ACTUALLY real… they can’t be. That level of Dumbass doesn’t exist does it?
3. The shops should all close at 1pm on Christmas Eve. Why? So that the creturs working in them get to GO HOME to their families of course! Be nice to retailers Ladybelles. You might be stressed, but they’re still working. When I am queen, the whole world shall shut down early and Christmas shall be forced to begin at a decent hour.
4. Anyone who parks in a disabled spot or a parent spot without good reason or genuine need, should be zapped by a glitterfying lazer and beamed to a 1980s Tellybox set like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where they shall have to stay until Boxing Day, being continuously whipped by a mansized Bosco. Better still, their CAR should be zapped away from them as they lock it so they can see just how fucking difficult it is to suddenly have an unnecessarily long distance to navigate a wheelchair or crutches or 3 screaming kids and 10 bags, just because they think they’re more special than the rest of the world. Pricks. (Note…this applies all year round. 🤐)
5. Children and Hims should not be allowed to get sick before or during Christmas. It’s hugely unfair on the Mamma Bears who are already trying to fit ALL THE EVERYTHING into their lunchbreaks and do the full grocery shopping in 8 minutes flat enroute to the school gate. It is highly inconvenient and terribly upsetting when your minions suddenly feel poopy at this time. Of course it could always be worse… especially if your Him decides to do his annual Nutcracker rendition and act out the part of the useless and slightly tragic wooden soldier who needs something fucking magical to instil life and joy into his bones again. Of course I’m not referring to my own Him here. 😇He is a Braveheartesque soldier at all times😲😲 and never succumbs to manflu or calls for his Mammy when his Her tells him to “man the fuck up.”
6. Cars will have a secret “other” boot. This will stop the drama of “How the feck will I get the stuff that isn’t really there and can never be seen by little eyes into the house before they decide to open the boot to throw their schoolbags in?” Such a debachle!
7. All Mammies will be allowed to drink tea or grapes or gin as early as they like from the 20th. Sorry…the 19th 😂😂until at LEAST January 3rd. This shall be law.
8. Baby it’s Cold Outside and Fairy Tale of New York should be played on repeat in every shop from now until Christmas Eve, especially for all of the OFFENDED people who like to be OFFENDED so much that EVERYTHING OFFENDS them. Yeah, that’s a whole other post…
Oh and everyone shall smile always, and wear big hats (which will ALL be made XL to fit humongously craniumed wenches like S-Mum) and we shall all be lovely to each other and sparkle like glittery unicorns because ’tis the fucking season and all that.
How was your day?