The Great British…oh will you bugger off for one minute?? – by Catherine PANDAS

I’ve just sat down after a relatively lazy Sunday to find I have margarine smeared all over my jumper from the Sticky Marmalade Cake I’ve just baked.  I’ve baked a cake because V ate the last of the Wagon Wheels and L needs a packed lunch tomorrow; that matters because R doesn’t get paid until Tuesday and we are SKINTALICIOUS; margarine (see previous point); and Marmalade because R’s Mum gave us vats of it at Christmas.  I sit down and feel smug for a second, until I realise that I should have baked the cake earlier so M could have helped me (she loves baking).  Guilt.  Margarine smeared guilt with a fine-cut orange garnish.  Balls.

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The thing is, during the day, there are so many things that “need doing” that I don’t actually find I have the time or energy to make Pinterest biscuits with the children, or help them make bunting from things we found on our early-morning forest walk.  I’m so busy busy busy.  Busy making lists of things that need doing, busy wiping up wee off the floor, busy moaning at the kids for “accidentally falling down the side of the sofa”, or busy making excuses as to why we should do “wedding stuff” later/tomorrow/next Tuesday…  Hold the phone.  I’m so busy being busy that I don’t have time to spend a few minutes with the kids?  Who am I kidding?

My Mum said to me recently that I need to put my phone down (“for Christ’s sake Catherine, will you put that bloody phone down for five seconds????”) and spend some real time with my V.  Listening to her, playing with her, talking to her.  I feel sometimes that it’s all I ever do, but I’m so “busy” doing other things that the time I spend with her isn’t quality time at all.

The Mum-Guilt took us swimming last week, and as water+phone is a bad combination, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to give the whole quality time thing a bash.  I let her lead the way.  Down the steps and into the pool.  She wanted to jump in.  Anxiety, take a seat for a minute while I have a little fun with my baby girl.  I let her jump.  In she leapt with a giant splash.  She was temporarily submerged in the water, BUT she didn’t drown!  She did it again.  And again.  And again.  Until she saw the big floats and wanted to clamber all over them.  I nabbed us one, and helped her climb aboard what would quickly become our Pirate Ship!  “Captain Mummy!  Lead the way!”  I pushed her around the pool, my “partner” (she had proclaimed that she was the Cowgirl of the Ship), and we found treasure, golden coins and chocolate coins, buried deep beneath the waves.  V even got bitten by a crab!  We battled storms and sea monsters, high waves and bumpy oceans.  Until the lifeguard told us it was time to get out.  An hour and a half of role playing in a three foot deep swimming pool.

I’m posting this today because I actually considered it to be a very relaxing exercise, kind of like an active mindfulness.  Together we took on these roles, and our real environment became an imaginary world of senses.  The water splashing on our faces, whooshing noises, shrieking, different temperatures, it was delightful.

Today, why not try spending some quality time with your little ones?  Let them lead.  I quite often find myself tensely forcing a paintbrush into my daughter’s hand, “Come on darling, paint a picture for Daddy!”, but when you let them lead you to the things they enjoy it can be a really enjoyable experience.  So, put your phone away, turn the telly off and relax with your child.  And make sure you belly laugh at least once 😉

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