We went on our “midterm holidays” last week, a sleepover in Granny’s- “Mama says that we can stay TWO nights” Cathal told anyone who would listen excitedly. Getting up the first morning the sun was shining so we decided to go for a walk on the beach and survey the damage that the recent storms had brought. It was a beautiful day but very windy. The boys galloped down the street with glee, detouring in to “Peggy’s Shop” for a midterm treat, one chose an ice-cream the other a chocolate bar.
We got down onto the beach and met the full force of the wind. Cathal turned to Granny, his three year old frame shivering and asked to go home. Ciarán, never one to miss an opportunity suggested that Granny should bring Cathal home and we’d continue. Granny agreed and took Laoise away too, leaving Ciarán and I to explore the whole beach alone. Just Mammy and Ciarán, some special time.
I’ve found since I’ve been home on maternity leave and Ciarán has started school that he thinks that he’s missing out on Mammy time. He sees Cathal spending most of the time that he’s in school with me and he feels a bit left out. I remind him that he was at home for just as long but he doesn’t quite buy that explanation. So we’ve started making a big deal of time for both of us, (even if Laoise is with us sometimes) going for a hot chocolate while Cathal’s in playschool, going to Tesco together while Granny watches the other two and picking out what’s for dinner.
Just everyday stuff but I say to him how special it is that we’re getting all that time together. Saying it makes it real, reinforces the point and makes it stick with him.
So we set off across the beach, with Ciarán dictating the pace. We surveyed the storm damage that had ravaged the coastline and “eaten” the dunes, we talked erosion and he wondered where the beach would get new dunes. He found a piece of seaweed that he decided was an octopus arm (he later admitted that he knew that it wasn’t but like to pretend).
We used the “octopus arm” to play a game of tic tac toe, Ciarán won.
We noticed shells stuck together, pieces of rope, gloves filled with sand. I tried to convince him that the gloves were hands but he was having none of it.
We came to the river across the beach and had fun trying to step our way across, splashing and giggling. We realised afterwards that the rock we stepped on looks EXACTLY like a crocodile…see!
We found a dead bird washed ashore, and Ciarán suggested that we should bring it to the graveyard. We compromised and buried it with the head of a shovel the was abandoned nearby. He solemnly marked the “grave” with a piece of wood. A few feet on and we discovered a second dead bird, he turned to me and asked with an angry tone “Mam WHY did God have to make the storm that killed the birds?”. What do you say to that?
We buried the second bird with less pomp than the first, then shortcutted up to the playground. There were workers erecting a new sign at the entrance, he had a chat with them. Concerned that the new sign said that it was for children aged 2-12 only he sought clarification from them that his baby sister could indeed come and play there the next day.
We played and I watched him climb and jump, just him, no siblings to distract me from giving him full praise for his endeavours.
As we headed in the road home and he complained of sore legs so I offered him a little piggyback, something I couldn’t manage if pushing a buggy or holding hands with another child. He was thrilled, my back less so.
He declared that this was “the best Granny sleepover ever”. Delighted, I asked why “Because I’m getting my own way ALL of the time”. I think what he really meant was that he was getting do to things that he enjoyed all of the time, thanks to great planning by his Mammy. Or not.
One on one “Mammy and me” time (and absolutely equally “Daddy and me” time) is so important to children. Life is so busy that taking to the time to listen to one child alone, being silly with them or laughing with just one child and nobody else, gets forgotten but it’s worth investing the time when you can. Ten minutes here, twenty minutes there, bringing just one child along to do an errand (call it a “special mission” to make it more interesting) or to go for a walk really pays dividends.
You’ll get to check in with that child and see that child out of the context of the family and for what they really are. It makes memories for them, and for you too. Make an effort to try it and see what I mean.