Ever since I had a tantrum about my children relying too heavily on screens for occupation and not developing imaginations (“Your brains have gone all mushy, I’m not sure they’ll ever recover”), I have been on a quest to rediscover wholesome fun.
The half hour of telly at 5pm each day was stretching out to an hour (I get so carried away with the silence), the children were starting to behave as though telly and computer use was their god given right and not a treat, they had started to be downright rude to me when I asked them to turn it off and they didn’t seem to be able to think of anything else to do.
“When I was your age”, I raged of course (because that’s what grumpy old women do), “My sister and I played dollies for hours. HOURS. You lot can’t even find your toys in amongst all the toys and even when you find them you fight over them until they break or I break and throw them in the rubbish bin. Go and play Hospitals or Schools or Lost Little Children or SOMETHING. Just PLAY. Jeez.”
They all stared at me like I was mad and they’d never heard of PLAY before. I must say I’m glad I omitted one of my childhood games, My Dolly’s Dead, or else they may have had reason for the general state of Mum’s a weirdo knob. But I didn’t and they did stare like mushy brained dumbos and I made the rash old, ‘Right, that’s it’ call. And off it all went.
Telly, i-phone and computers. Except for Friday night which is telly-in-our-bed-night if all dinner is eaten, no one grizzles or fights and the working week detritus is dealt with as a team. Reward night.
And Operation Old Fashioned Fun began.
At first it drove me bonkers and the no telly approach seemed like (frankly fitting) punishment to me for all the times I’ve switched it on for my own benefit. There was mess all over the house which I never seemed to get on top (or to the bottom) of, there were more demands, complaints, fighting, I’m hungry’s, he’s mean’s, sneaking of bickies, tantrums (me and them) and general disgrunt.
These days – a few months on – there is still fighting and cries of boredom but less so, and I’ve accustomed to the chaos somewhat, so we’ve met somewhere in the middle. And I’m taking the Good Clean Fun thing and running with it.
Take today, for instance. We came home from school and with some decent weather (finally), lengthening days and Friday on my mind I chased them to the beach. I mean, we were playing chasings and I was It. Being dubbed It is a complicated business these days. As per the old days everyone puts a foot in the middle but instead of ‘eenie meanie mynie mo’, the rhyme goes,
Has a house
Underneath the movies;
When it started,
What colour was his gas?”
Then whose-ever foot gets tapped on ‘gas’ has to say a colour which is then spelled out (blue was spelled b.l.o.o but I let it go. We were having good clean fun after all, the brainy bit would surely come). The foot that cops the final letter of the colour word has to leave the circle. And it starts again. Finally (after a bit of a squabble about on which foot you are supposed to start the spelling out on, the dog being invited to put a foot in and then upsetting things by running off after a beetle and a bit of an impatient sigh from me), I was crowned It and we ran to the beach.
There we took our shoes off and played chase the dog to retrieve the sock, followed by chase the dog to retrieve the shoe before he drops it in the water, followed by find a branch to hang shoe to dry. All wholesome enough if slightly irritating.
Then it was time for handstands, which none of us are very good at. I showed them one of my personal favourites from 1982, the milkshake, which involves kicking your legs around when in the air. Tricky when you have trouble actually getting them in the air but hey, we had fun trying. Then it was cartwheels which only lasted a minute because none of us can do them (even though one of our number did a term of gymnastics this year – time and money well spent).
Then someone had a tantrum about sand in eyes so it was an exercise in ignoring. When that didn’t work and the wails began to rise above the crashing waves, we collected finger nail shells and composed a song that went like this,
“Eddie, Eddie, we love you.
Take our fingernails as proof.
We don’t like to see you cry.
Wipe those tears from your eye.”
It worked a treat. Ah the power of music. And fingernails. We all dug a hole together and they made up another song all on their own; for the dog:
“Bluey, Bluey, we love you.
But don’t dig in our hole you pooh.
Take away your goofy face.
Go away, you are a spazz.”
Probably not in the spirit of kindly wholesomeness and I couldn’t stop my persnickety self pointing out that spazz doesn’t rhyme with face but oh well. At least they got you and pooh. Speaking of, as the hole got deeper a nasty rotten seaweed smell emanated from it and people started blaming others for farts they didn’t do which caused angst until I claimed the farts as my own and quickly filled in the hole. Sigh, I’m always taking unfair fart raps to avoid scenes. They are never mine. I’m fart free since I cutting out gluten. Truthfully. But anyway…
Then we did running races and I told them about the proud day I came 4th in the monkey race at the New Norfolk running carnival. Then I thought I’d better make it sound more impressive and said that there was a field of about 50, which means I lied on our wholesome afternoon. They weren’t listening though, which makes it sort of okay. They just wanted to know what a monkey race was. I demonstrated – running on all fours (more like a bear than a monkey really) and they all joined in. Of course I couldn’t let them win after getting all exaggeratey about my monkey race prowess and I turned up all my primate gears and crossed the finish line first but not without almost killing myself via overexertion. Monkey racing at 38 isn’t monkey racing at 8, let me tell you.
So it was time for a little lie down and a look at the clouds. I found an elephant and Bess found a bum. This provoked a loud rendition of bits of, “Willy Bum Bum”, which to those who haven’t seen it is a completely inappropriate little song on YouTube with rude animations. It sends me into hysterics without fail, which gives the children automatic license to recite bits of it at random and inappropriate times. “Silly old willy,” sings Lucie absently as she waits with me in the supermarket check out, “Friendly old bum.”
So we sang about willies and bums a bit and laughed a lot until I decided I’d had enough of my potty humour biting me on my own bum (on our special clean fun afternoon no less) and set to finding cowrie shells.
We found none. So we made sand eggs instead. This is when you roll wet sand together in a perfect ball and smooth it with dry sand to set it. Strangely therapeutic and very satisfying. I made one for each of us and then, with a flash of inspiration and a little thrill of, “Gosh I’m an imaginative, fun Mum,” I told them that a baby sloth would be hatching from my egg and asked them what was hatching from theirs.
“Nothing”, said Ed as he shot putted his egg at the dog.
“I don’t know”, said Bess, with some distinct and cutting ‘You’re just weird Mum’ subtext.
“A chickie!” said Lu gleefully. God bless 3 year olds. Sometimes.
Then it was time to go home (because I felt that wholesome duties were over and it was time for the business of dinners and baths and me sneaking a little look at Facebook) and Lu had to bring her chickie egg home which meant of course that it disintegrated half way there and made her cry because, “My chickie is deeeeeaaaaaaad Muuuuuuuuum”.
So I had to get out the new Rubik’s cubes I’d bought them which I’d been saving for a necessary distraction and then spent fifteen minutes getting them out of their packaging and another five or so muddling them all up and chucking them on the couch.
“Did you have a proper go?” Says I.
“I couldn’t get the colours back together,” Says Bess and flouces off with my masking tape. “Music cubes are too hard.”
What is is about children and sticky tape?
But I refrained from snatching it back because there were egg cartons, an empty box, scissors and ribbon involved which indicated a rare moment of unprovoked craftiness. What lovely creative and imaginative little poppets they are turning into, I think hopefully as I smooth the newspaper. Hope they don’t make a mess.
They did make a mess. But they made something else as well. Twenty minutes later they emerged, proudly brandishing their creation.
“Wow, it’s lovely,” I encourage, “Is it a robot?”
“No Mum, it’s a television.”
Of course it bloody was.