Play It Again Mam…

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.

Rediscovering the simple pleasures…

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 finally sets on lockdown…

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.

They are heroes and play is their superpower…

The Click between the Phases…Bedtime.

“Goodnight my little darlings!” sings Mammy.

Mammy is hopeful…

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.

Click…

Silence.

Joy.



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.

“MAMMEEEEEEEE!”
“MAMMWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

FML

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…😘

X

Schools…We’ll Sing Again

I went in to work in my classroom today.

The air was quiet…too quiet. One might say it was “dead”.

A building which usually fizzles with energy, when empty, lies in eerily quiet nothingness.

The decorations for the St Patrick’s Day that never was, and the notes on my whiteboard, are colourfully tragic reminders of how this virus lifted us out of our schools, giving no heed to sentiment or custom.

There is a calmness that made me shiver… all energy is stilled.

It’s as if the building is holding its breath…waiting.

And then, I heard a voice outside.
A familiar voice of a staff member downstairs. He didn’t know I was there. But I heard him.

And so I let go MY held breath, switched on my computer and logged in to my other world.

Then, I swung open the windows, played Musical soundtracks at full volume, and sang along as I worked.

I’m sure he heard me.

And in creating small noises, I reminded myself, and him I hope, that all it will take to reignite the energy in our beautiful cold building, is individual noises.

And individual noises, EVEN when complying with social distancing, will still build and grow into big noises; collective noises, noises which create energy.

While my first reaction was sadness at the “empty chairs at empty tables”, I think about the noises; the voices of the students who will eventually sit back on these seats, at these tables; each one a vital note in the song that is our school.

Our school is more than a building.

It’s an energy, created by the voices that combine to makes its noise; to sing its song.

And although we might be quiet right now, there is still a murmer…

A murmer that begins as soft, quiet, individual, but that will soon be together, performing once again, in harmony and syncopated rythyms.

We will sing again and these tables are only empty momentarily.

And the building will once again breathe and our air will be noisy and “awake” again.

“Awake”, not “alive”… it never died.
M x

When this is all over Mammy…

“Mammy, when this is all over…”, Mammy will need to have won the lotto.
 
I hear this line at least 5 times a day, from both of the girls.
And I find myself agreeing to pretty much everything that follows this phrase…
 
So far, I have agreed to:
 
Sleepovers with their cousins
A trip to Aberdeen
Dinner in Backstage EVERY night
A trip to Harry Potter World,
A trip to go see Santa in Euro Disney
A trip to Disneyworld Florida, where we will apparently swim with feckin dolphins
To have all of their cousins here for a sleepover
New clothes in Penneys like Arianna Grande
A visit to Uncle B in London
Playdates with EVERY BFF and general acquaintance in the world.
 
In fairness, they are also asking for things that are so heartbreakingly simple and genuine, that I find myself nodding in fervent approval when they say Mammy, when this is all over can we…
 
Go hug GannyGanda
Go play in GannyGanda’s back garden
Go to get icecream in the shop
Go in the car
Go out for pancakes
Go in to see Daddy’s gym
Go to dancing
Go to Glenveagh
Go to the beach
Go to school
 
And these I eagerly agree to because I can’t wait either. Actually, they’ll have to get in line for some of them, because ‘Me first yeah?’.
 
I had a catch up with two mates last night. And all of our kids have taken to using this line. We wondered where they heard it…but we know where. Well, obviously, they heard it from us, because let’s face it, we’re ALL using this line.
 
We’re all dreaming of the things that we once perhaps took for granted.
We’re all dreaming of doing the things that we are not able to do currently.
We’re all dreaming of the places we’ve wanted to or love to visit.
We’re all dreaming of seeing the people we are missing.
 
And it’s perfectly normal to miss and to plan and to dream.
 
Yes, we are all finding our grooves in this “New Normal”. I’ve used that phrase many times. And yet, now, while I am indeed living in my new normal, I know that it is thankfully, NOT going to be normal forever.
 
This new normal is temporary and we must all remember that. We must all accept it for what it is, for now, and look forward to when we can start to move on.
 
Because, thankfully, nothing lasts forever and everything changes eventually.
 
So, when this is all over, and it WILL be all over, we will all have things that we can’t wait to do and places to which we can’t wait to go…
 
We’ll have energy and determination to get or do things that we’ve perhaps procrastinated about or put off until now.
 
And the things that we CAN arrange and afford and aspire to, (mostly the hugs and playdates), will be done with joy and enthusiasm.
 
And while, short of a lotto win, there’s not a hope that I’ll follow through with the full list of things that I’m agreeing to right now, I will continue to let my kids enjoy the momentary dreaming that they get when they start a sentence with “Mammy, when this is all over…” because we all need to look forward and dream of when it is.
shadows

Whispers on the Wind – a Bedtime Story

Whispers on the Wind

Two little sisters played on the beach

And just when their parents had stepped out of reach,bwbeach

Wee Sis asked Big Sis in quiet hushed words,

“What’s going on Sis? What’s wrong with the world?

 

Everything’s changed in the last few days.

It seems like all that we do now is play.  

I miss my school teachers and I miss going to school.

I miss all my friends and I don’t feel too cool.

 

What happened to dancing, gymnastics and drama?

I just  want to cuddle my Granny and Granda.

I like it that Mammy and Daddy are here

It’s nice, and I like, but it’s getting quite weird.

 

So what’s going on Sis, what’s wrong with the world? 

I know something’s wrong but I don’t have the words.

I don’t like to see all our grown ups so sad

They say it’s OK, but I know something’s bad.”

 

The Big sister listened and squeezed her hand tight,

And she thought of how she could make all of this right.

For she was scared too and it all felt disastrous,

She missed all her friends and her teacher and classes. 

 

But she closed her eyes tight and for answers she longed,

To share with her sister and make them feel strong

And just as she was going to say “I don’t know”

A voice on the wind whispered into her soul.

 

It tickled her ears and it kissed her cold face

And suddenly everything fell into place.

She turned to her sister, she pushed back her hair,

And started to speak words she magically heard…

 

“The world has gone funny, and everything’s changed

But it won’t last forever, it’s only a phase.

We’ve gone from being busy and rushing and spinning

To not going anywhere, morning or evening.

 

Mammy and Daddy, who work all they’re able,

Are still working hard, from the one kitchen table.

And yes there’s a virus and yes, it is scary, 

But if we stay home and if everyone’s wary

 

We’ll hopefully stop it from getting too massive,

And the Doctors and heroes will manage to smash it.

So don’t you be worried, just know there are reasons

And this too will pass, it’s simply a season.

 

When all this is over, when all of this ends

We’ll get back to normal, We’ll play with our friends.

We’ll go back to our classes and have lots of fun, 

We’ll have parties and playdates and hug our loved ones. 

 

We just have to trust that the grown ups have got this,

And that they’ll do everything that they can to protect us.

Then Mammy’s voice called them with ”Girls, time to go!”

And they looked at each other, and they smiled in the know

 

That they would have lots of adventures together

On beaches, in sunshine, or in rainy weather.

They ran to their Daddy and called to their Mum

And as they were running, the clouds showed the sun.

 

For nature can comfort the fears that we’re feeling

And breezes keep whistling their secrets and healing;

And all of your worries will soon disappear

Like the wind on the faces of two little girls.

 

Maria Rushe 

March 2020