..And don't leave that up to me!
Question: If you are out with your child somewhere should you:
A: Engage with them and join in their activities
B: Chat/ text with another adult and completely ignore the kid
C: Stand about staring into space and hope some random stranger entertains them
I always try to go with A, ok perhaps it helps that I am only home alone with E two days a week, I see that time as really precious for me as well as her. But I'm always surprised at how often other parents seem to take options B or C.
Now I'm in a bit of a ranty mood today, so for brevity's sake I'll just link you to someone else's blog for a shout about those Mums who allow their kids to run riot while they sit back for a gossip. I meanwhile will get annoyed about option C.
A good example of this happened just after Christmas. My parents were staying and the whole bunch of us decided to take E to London Zoo. She was delighted and beside herself with excitement once she saw the monkeys and a pig being taken for a walk. All us grown ups had a lovely time sharing her enjoyment, watching her discover new things and pointing out curious creatures to her. How is that not fun for anyone?
After a while we took shelter from the cold in the aquarium and found a tank containing turtles and some amazing polka-dotted rays which were being fed peas, fish and bits of fruit. I joined in with E playing "spot the spotty fish" and "will he get the pea before the big fish does". She was enthralled, and so too was another little girl next to her. The girls mother however looked bored out of her mind.
Pretty quickly the little girl came over to me and E and started pointing things out to us as well, then asking me questions. I didn't mind initially, a curious child is a wonderful thing but it became clear that the mother had now assumed I would entertain the girl while she stood back, mute and scowling.
I am not particularly knowledgeable when it come to sea beasties, I wasn't imparting any great or unusual information, I was saying "where's the turtle gone?" "ooh there he is!" but the girl was clearly fascinated by the creatures and craving someone to share this with, so I answered her questions and included her in our games. But as time went on, and as she was older than Evelyn, poor E was getting pushed out of the conversation, I was now having to work hard to keep both children happy, and still the Mum just stood there.
I felt decidedly sorry for the girl, and mean for wishing she would leave us alone, but I had come to the zoo for a day with my family, so we could enjoy what little time we all get together with E, not so that I could sideline her while I entertained the offspring of a complete stranger. In the end I promised E new exciting creatures somewhere else and we said bye bye, leaving the poor girl with her still silent mother.
I get this sort of thing fairly frequently and it saddens and annoys me. If you have a bright, curious little child you are truly blessed. Ok you may be exhausted, you may have other things on your mind, but sharing a child's silly joys can be a great antidote to the grown up world. Soon enough these little ones will be large and sulking in their bedrooms and we'll be the last people on earth they want to talk to so please cherish your little chatter box now and let me cherish mine.