I spent the majority of my childhood bouncing a tennis ball against my bedroom wall, and I often wonder if in today’s rush to fill our toddler and preschooler’s lives with endless activities we might be missing something?
I was recently stuck inside for almost two weeks with BUB.1 and BUB.2, nursing a ghastly, medieval, chronically painful sore throat. During the lock down I stumbled across a wonderful article called “I’ll never be a proper Mum” that appeared in The Guardian just over two years ago. In it, Sali Hughes talks about the pressure to be an alpha Mum and the single line that saved me was this: “The only person who expects me to make a papier-mache piggy bank is me.”
Oh, and with it the weight of guilt about our incarceration and back-to-back CBeebies regime lifted. With the rain pounding down outside, we just sat and played for a long time and I noticed, really noticed, for the first time the look on my one year old’s face as he turned the pages of a book, something I might have seen but maybe not registered if we were racing out the door to a music class or toddler group.
My Mum’s generation spent a lot of time indoors, most of them not having cars, and didn’t have access to the myriad of classes and groups we do. Don’t get me wrong, I value the power of a collective moan with other Mums and the chance to offload some of that energy in a safe, happy environment. But I do sometimes wonder if might we be missing the simple pleasures of a swift walk around the block before the rain comes or a cup of tea with a friend, and time to see our children’s faces, rather than bustling them into car seats and buggies and driving them off to their latest appointment.
I know that the days I spend just mucking around with the kids, rather than trying to fit lots in, are the hardest and the best days, the days when I am utterly exhausted at the end and covered, literally, head to toe in food, sweat and tears. The days when we throw a ball around or put flowerpots on our heads. These are the days I feel most like a Mum, what I always thought being a Mum might be like, rather than the Mum I sometimes feel I should be.
Or am I just a lazy pig?