I’ve finally learned a few of the age-old truths of bringing up children, and thought I might share them with you.
1. The art of disguise
Take mince, peas and potato, dish them up on a plate and you will get cries of ‘yuk’ and ‘I don’t like it’ and ‘I’m not hungry’, and the inevitable battle to get your children to eat meat and vegetables will ensue. Wrap said meat and veggies in some pastry, mash the potato, stick it on top, call it a pie and you get ‘yummo!’ and ‘can I have another one’. God bless pies! (and God bless Sophie Gray, the Destitute Gourmet, who has recipes for brilliant things like this with basic [cheap] ingredients).
2. Give a kid a box …
We started buying bath toys before our kids were even old enough to realize a bath was a good place to play. We bought great boats, squeezy toys, stacking and pouring things … I dunno what else, but a great deal of time has been spent deciding what would be fun to have in the bath. Over the last few days, as I’ve watched the kids play in the bath, I’ve realized that I haven’t seen these toys for a long while. What I have seen are these: plastic cups (filched from the kitchen), a funnel (filched from the kitchen), straws (filched from the kitchen), several empty juice bottles (saved from death by recycling), a ping pong ball (where on earth did that come from?!), and a plastic jug (yes – the kitchen is looking emptier by the day) and the best and easiest toy? Facecloths.
They play amazing games with this stuff … they blow bubbles with the straws, pour endlessly from one bottle to another (actually, we really should get another funnel – that might stop some of the screaming … bathtime is ‘tired’ time, not our best ‘sharing’ time!), have tea parties, they’ve covered the cups with wet facecloths and learned how to make fart noises by lifting them up while the water sucks them down (entertained us all for days!). So – if you’re in the market for some bath toys … go to the kitchen shop.
3. Everyone has a competitive streak
As the day wears on, getting kids to do the necessary end-of-day activities can get more tricky. Eating dinner, bathtime, PJs on, toys away … it requires endless patience, judicious discipline, outright bribery and clever thinking. However, it appears that even the most tired child can be enlivened by the prospect of beating their sister at something! Everything can be a competition if you really try … can you put your PJs on first? Can you pick up more toys? Who can get into bed first? I know – I’m probably setting them up for a lifetime of sibling rivalry but I’m a strong believer in doing what works right now and fixing the rest later … and right now, sparring them off against each other works a treat!
4. If all else fails – bribery
Yeah, yeah, I know – it’s not the best parenting philosophy. But I challenge anyone with kids, too much to do, not enough sleep and a handy piece of chocolate/cake/ice cream/biscuit to not revert to it at least once!
5. All they want is you
This is the most important. It doesn’t matter what you do or how much money you’ve got to do it with, if your kids get to spend time with you while you do it, it’s gold. From hanging out washing, to cooking, to doing dishes, to mopping and vacuuming (have to admit, that one took me by surprise), to sitting on the couch reading (these days we’re each reading our own book) … our little rattlebags just want to do what we’re doing (they call it ‘helping’) and some of the nicest times we’ve spent together have been hanging up washing or parked up on the couch together reading books.
Hmm, it would appear I’ve only actually learned five lessons, but I guess one for each year of parenting isn’t too bad going … wonder what the next five will be?