When it comes down to it, all children enjoy simple pleasures the most. I can sometimes lose sight of this during the summer holidays. I feel the need to 'fill' it with interest for them, and when you are dealing with the age spread that I do, it usually only means one thing. Trouble. Trying to come up with activities and days out that will satisfy them all is impossible. That hasn't stopped me from trying. And failing. And getting stressed out and angry at what? The fact that two of them would much rather spend it doing their own thing than be with me!
So this summer, I have literally left Sam alone. It is the first time that I haven't cajoled or forced him to come out with us for day trips or walks. I mean the poor boy is seventeen, for goodness sake. Time for this mother to let go. So I have, and he has opted for not coming on any trips out or holidays with us. And it's actually been ok. Letting go has not been as upsetting as I thought it might be. He has started to carve out his own life away from us. One that I am not privy too, and I'm fine with that. Trawling through my memory banks to when I was seventeen, I remember it as a time of real change and growth. I had so many new experiences - my first boyfriend, my fist sip (ahem) of alcohol, a holiday job and secret adventures of my own that my family were definitely not privy to.
It's a bit more difficult with Alf. At twelve and a half, he can be left at home while I am out and about for a couple of hours. But not all day. And never during the evening. I still feel that I have to impose time limits on anything electronic, even though it feels as if that is all he would like to do. I crave fresh air and exercise for him. I want him to be outside roaming with his mates at the skate park or down at the beach. He shows no interest in any of these things this summer. He has started the pupa stage of teen. He spends most of his time in his pyjamas, wrapped up in his duvet and sat in a dark un-ventilated bedroom. He would spend all of his time on his games console if I let him. I don't. It causes a lot of shouting. From both of us.
A compromise of sorts has been reached. He is allowed to do his (hideous gaming) thing, as long as he comes out with me and Pops some of the time. I know it's a bit of a woolly compromise, but it comes without the vile screaming matches that occur, me at the bottom and him at the top of the stairs. They are exhausting, and not good for anyone. And if I trawl back further through my memory banks, I remember feeling the same. My Dad was very authoritarian. He said 'jump', I said 'how high?' Until I reached the age of about thirteen. Then I said no! It was a very emphatic no as I recall, and it caused all sorts of problems between us until the day I left home at eighteen. He wouldn't allow me the no. He couldn't understand that I could and should be left alone to do my own thing. Even if that thing was sitting and watching Black Adder videos all day. Or listening to music in my bedroom and not seeing the light of day for weeks. I don't want to be that kind of parent. I think my Dad got that bit of my upbringing wrong, and yet I fear that I am making the same mistakes with my own children, and especially with Alfie. You may have gathered that we are very alike.....
Obviously with Pops, things are a piece of cake. Everything I suggest is brilliant, according to him. He bounces and flick flacks along with unbridled enthusiasm for all adventuring with his Mum. Thank God for my four year old, otherwise I'd be walking along and talking to myself. We have had a fabulous holiday together, whether it be hanging out watching Pixar movies, playing on the beach or walking the dog. It's all fun and go and do with Pops, which is just how I like it too. I am looking forward to many more years to come before he pulls away from me. I think I've hit the balance nail on the head with him. A case of third time lucky maybe?
My attempts at balance in the holidays worked beautifully yesterday. It was one of those lovely late summer evenings. Perfect for bouldering up Rosewall and Buttermilk Hill. Olly had fallen from rocks at Cape Cornwall the day before, and spent most of the day in repose on the sofa, feeling sore and miserable. He seemed fully recovered by late afternoon however, and so I thought a spot of clambering over the ancient stones that lay at the top of these hills might just be the way to get him back in the saddle, so to speak. Alfie came too. Reluctantly at first, but once there, his inner child got the better of him. We spent a couple of hours scrambling, climbing and playing hide and seek. Neither of them wanted to come home, and I was grateful for this time that we spent together. It was unplanned with minimum fuss and stress. Simple pleasures are definitely the best whatever the age. They just need a little nudge to be reminded sometimes. And a Mum with the sense to know when and when not to do the nudging. I guess we are all a work in progress!