It’s like this in the summer; they just want to be outside enjoying the long warm evenings, playing with their friends, being children. And we want them to be outside, soaking up health-giving sunshine, burning off excess energy, learning social skills, being children. It’s a wonderful time for them and a wonderful time for us, the parents. We watch them develop and grow, safe, healthy and happy. Children.
“C’mon,” I call out. “Time to come in. Nearly nine o’clock.”
“Aw, mum,” a voice floats across. “It’s still too early. Five more minutes. Pullease! And it’s my turn to bat.”
I smile to myself. “Five more and then home!” I throw my voice across the pond, the freshly cut grass and the wild flowers, past the swings and the seesaw and the climbing frame, to the far end of the park where they are playing. A small figure waves a thank-you.
Whenever I need to set limits or invoke the rules or reprimand, I think back to long ago and how our parents responded to the young us, our behavior, our demands, and I think how right they got it. And hopefully I respond as they did. Hopefully I nurture as they did. Hopefully I love as they did.
It’s a precious time, childhood. It slips away far too soon. And so our rules are flexible. They need to be. And so we sometimes ignore the need for perfect table manners – elbows on the table never hurt anyone. As for speaking with one’s mouth full – well, children have a need to eat and a need to speak and sometimes these two hit them at the same time. And we want them to eat and we want them to speak. So, no problem. And we try not to get too fussed when it comes to personal hygiene – a bit of dirt isn’t dangerous. In fact it helps build up resistance. No need for a daily blood bath. Nothing that a quick wipe behind the ears can’t fix.
And so, yes, another five minutes. Of course. Of course.
And I sit smiling, listening to the distant shouting and laughter and the glorious sound of leather on willow. Bliss.