For the sake of my children I wish I could relax more. I don’t mean that I need a rest, or a holiday, or even a good night’s sleep. What I mean is, I wish that I could stop being so uptight and let my children enjoy their childhood more. I think my children are happy, but I genuinely believe they could be happier. I have put so much emphasis on raising well behaved, respectful children that I have sometimes prioritised an easy life for my wife and I over their ability to have fun. Take, for example, our visit to Hameln, Germany to find out about the Pied Piper, watch the show and follow the rats around the town. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was blisteringly hot and the kids were eager to enjoy it. Olivia had flip flops on and George had shoes and socks on because he keeps getting blisters in anything else. They both spied a water feature in the middle of the town designed for kids to play on and more importantly in. The idea of the plaything is to learn about dams and sluice gates and water flow and the kids get to play gate keeper whilst enjoying splashing about in the water. Rather than taking the footwear off the kids and letting them go to town, safe in the knowledge that the sun would soon dry off any wet skin, I let them play on the fringes without actually going in the water because I knew that George would go over the top and end up face down in the water and Olivia would end up slipping over on the tiled surface of the fountain. Rather than risk something that might never of happened and deal with the consequences, I decided that the easiest solution was for them to have partial fun. Who am I kidding no fun really.
I have a brother in law who I think is amazing with kids, he has a natural ability to get down to their level, understand what makes them tick and turn every day activities into amazing fun for them. The cost of this is slightly hyperactive children who do not respect the property of others because in their mind everything is a play thing. I wish I could be more like him. He reminds me of Mr Tumble and is just as appealing to children. My daughter loves going to stay round his house when we visit because she gets to relax and unwind and have some genuine no thinking make it up as you go along fantastic fun. All I ever seem to be doing is telling her off and letting her know how let down I am by her copying the behaviour of her best friend over here who is the complete opposite of our values and standards.
Don’t get me wrong, I always make time to play with my kids and we have some amazing times, but when I see, and I suppose more importantly Olivia sees other kids being able to do the things I tell her she can’t, I have to ask would it really be that bad if I relax the rules and let her join in, but then the words of every bit of advice I have ever been given echo through my mind. Consistency, you need consistency, you change the boundaries and the kids will exploit it and push them all. But this implies that they are some evil malicious geniuses who are playing a maniacal game with us. Would it really be that bad if I let Olivia climb the inside of the door frame like she does around her friend’s house? I won’t incase she damages it and I need to pay the landlord for repairs. Why? She might not damage anything, she might not fall from the top of the door and hurt herself, but why take the risk?
There are literally hundreds of scenarios I could list of occasions when the kids she hangs around with are allowed to do things and I simply won’t allow it. Wear excessive jewellery, make up, have a mobile phone (she’s 5 for Pete’s sake), jump on the furniture, colour with pens on the table, paint without at least five B&Q dust sheets down, a whole plethora of things that I wish I could relax and just say, you know what Olivia, you go wild, enjoy your childhood you only get one of them. But no, my uptight nature and rigid desire to have the type of child that people are happy to allow into their house and not cringe at the thought of us visiting is getting in the way of it. I wish I could relax, I really do, but that’s only one half of the battle. My wife is a lot worse than me and I feel I have to match her level of killjoy in order to maintain the harmony between us, but even I wince sometimes when she creates a new boundary that I just don’t agree with or seems completely unreasonable. I’m sure that, on occasion, she feels the same way about some of the things I say and she doesn’t understand why I’ve decided what I have, but she feels obliged to follow through with it in order to maintain the united front.
I really hope that I’m not the only one feeling like this and that there are other people going through the same issues. That balance between being a parent and a friend and ensuring there are boundaries, but relax them often enough to let the children do what they do best and be imaginative, creative and have fun. Being a parent is the most responsibility that I have ever had. The cost of getting it wrong is the destruction of their hopes and dreams, or their ability to interact socially, or even the ease in which they can fit into society and deal with the hardships that life brings. Get it right and you win the best prize of them all, a happy child who grows into a happy adult. I just wish I could be more like Justin and Mr Tumble and a little less like a Sergeant Major trying to mould new recruits.