I don’t know if this is just a boy thing, but my kids enjoy nothing more than rolling around on the sofa together ‘play’ fighting. Inevitably I have to intervene every few minutes by calling out one of my stock phrases from a list I seem to be using on a daily basis. “Careful!” “Be gentle!” “Not the face!” “He’s just a baby!” “What in God’s name is wrong with you?!” “Would you like it if I did that to you?”
Aged 4 and 2, they have a playroom full of toys and a garden to go in but they seem to like wrestling. My husband thinks they’ll find their own level of what’s acceptable play and whilst I’m loathe to be a helicopter parent I do think they need some guidance. Even if it’s just the basics, you know, like don’t jump on backs (or necks, or heads. Or any part of me while were at it), don’t bite or punch, and don’t pin each other down and spit on their face. Like I said, maybe it’s just a boy thing.
In my mind, it should be perfectly possible for my kids to amuse themselves for 30 minutes whilst I cook their lunch. I set them up with some games in the playroom, I construct a train track that looks like Spaghetti Junction, I get out a new game where you have to put swords in a barrel to make the pirate pop up, I leave out some books. Content that I’ve done enough to start them off and proud that I haven’t resorted to putting the tv (back) on, I venture in to the kitchen from where I can see and hear everything.
I’m not lying when I tell you it takes 1 minute for the older one to punch the younger one because he trashed part of the train track. The younger one then spends the next 15 minutes winging about everything he touches but then so perhaps would I if I had just been punched. There is then a few moments of calm and genuine nice play which I reward with a Stepford Wives style chirpy cry from the kitchen, “Lovely playing boys, very proud of you”. (That god awful helicopter parenting kicking in).
Obviously I speak too soon as there is then a commotion and a scramble to the sitting room where the older one literally melts down because the younger one has thrown one of the swords behind the sofa and he’s trying to line them up on a baking tray I gave him to play with. Then there is more petty violence. Typical that the moment you need to put a kid on the naughty step your cheese sauce is at that crucial stage.
Ultimately after about 25 minutes of aggravation they finally find a way to play nicely with each other. I don’t have a long list of rules about play, just requesting they do not turn the living room upside down every time they enter it to make a den and no throwing balls in the house. In the end, though, I find that as long as you hear happy sounds from your kids you turn a blind eye as to what they are actually doing. I can hear some banging in the hallway but as it’s accompanied by laughter I really couldn’t care what they are up to. The older one comes in to the kitchen and proudly shows me an enormous football he’s found in the hall cupboard. “Do you want to know what the game is mummy?” Doubtful. “We are throwing the ball at each other and whoever catches it is the winner. And we’ve made goal posts out of your coat and your new handbag.” Lovely darling.