I am sitting typing away listening to my three children running around in the garden playing with our dog. It’s 10.30 at night and two of them should be in bed, but they are too busy making memories, so bedtime can wait. Tonight, playtime with each other is their bedtime story.
I started reading to Saoirse the day I brought her home from the hospital. We still have the book of stories about weather fairies. I hope one day Saoirse will read it to her own children as it has been read to mine. A lot of people thought I was mad to start to reading to her so early, but I am a huge advocate of reading and I think it’s never too early to enjoy a good book.
As she’s gotten older, she devours books often getting through a five hundred pager in a weekend (of course that is when she isn’t faceplanting her phone). We continued to read together as she has gotten older and have enjoyed all of Michael Morpurgo’s modern classics over the years.
Last year, we went a bit high-brow, and started reading Little Women. I was reading chapter ten one night and looked across at her and realised her eyes had glazed over. I asked her, “Saoirse, are you bored?”, she replied “Yes”. So, in my most disappointed voice I said to her “ Yeh, me too, let’s go and watch Ink Master instead!”
For those of you who don’t have ‘Spike TV’, or whatever it’s called now, ‘Ink Master’ is the Tattoo version of the X Factor, presented by Dave Navarro and two celebrity tattooists. Saoirse would tell me “It’s Class”
Most nights she, Mick and I snuggled down on the sofa with the dog to watch one of the many, many episodes of its thirteen seasons. It may not be a’classic’ but it is modern art (well some of it). We love it, it is pure quality time together and all of the cursing is bleeped out, so we don’t feel like bad parents.
A Play Therapist told me, that every child needs some time of their own every week with their parent(s) and even if we only are able to dedicate one hour a week to them, as long as it is all theirs, then studies have shown this massively improves the child’s feelings of self-worth and belonging. Quality time comes in all shapes and sizes.
We are all often so preoccupied with what the latest book, blog or super-mum told us is important to our child’s development, we forget to ask the child themselves, what is important to them. What could be more positive to their development that knowing their input matters?
Patrick loves doing rugby tackles with his Dad, often on the hall way, because we cannot always get outside to play in the Irish weather. They get lots of healthy skin to skin contact as they wrestle each to the to the floor pretending to be Brian O’Driscoll.
Erin loves water, one the most loving exchanges I’ve seen was watching her at the sink with my Mum washing dishes. They were chatting, giggling and splashing bubbles at each other. My Mum has a dishwasher, but she thinks loading and unloading it takes longer than it does to actually wash the dishes, so she stores her beans and tinned soups in it and prefers to manually wash dishes instead.
I make the effort now just to sit and play with Erin whilst she in the bath, we’ll make potions, read stories and play with her empty LOL eggs, whenever I have run out of spoons, I find them in the bathtub. It’s also a fond throwback, because it has made me remember how much I used to love bath-time with my Mum and makes me feel closer to her.
Lockdown has made us all stay at home a lot more, we have all engaged in lots more activities with our loved ones that we usually do. I am not going to dish out a lecture about being ‘present’, we all know that already, we are all guilty of sometimes planning tomorrow’s dinner whilst reading the bedtime story or listening to our friend moan about their job.
We could not possibly have been engaged with our children every moment of the recent months in Lockdown or we would simply burst. Please do not beat yourself up if you haven’t built a fort from all the empty toilet rolls you hoarded, baked a banquet made from chickpeas and leftovers or created a pavement Picasso masterpiece with street chalk.
I am sure you have had many moments of quality time and memorable interactions, even without the craft basket being out or the latest Jamie Oliver cake being up on the laptop.
We all need to recognise, the quality times we do have with our children or the other people in our lives every day aren’t always planned or picture book perfect – but that doesn’t mean they don’t count. In fact it’s the ones that occur naturally that count more.