I think it’s massively important to really listen to your kids. It’s so easy (especially when they are 3 years old and inclined to repeat the same sentence ad Infinitum) to smile and nod with that blank look that comes from not enough sleep and too much Paw Patrol.
It was one of the TOP things on my mental list of things that I wanted to achieve when we started travelling. Quality time with the kids. Less busy-ness, less screen-time and more days spent in their world – climbing trees, gathering rocks or pretending to be Batman rescuing a cat out of a burning building; without me having to dash off to work, fold the laundry or make a phone call. Ironically I’ve sat the boys down in front of a DVD so that I could come and write this, so there’ll be no parenting awards over here anytime soon.
Our oldest is almost 4 – and his imagination is quite something. He might have inherited it from me, I’ve been known to think that every bug we see out and about is a deadly funnelweb spider, that all noises after dark equal bad guys out to get us and that every ache or pain is bound to be some incurable, tropical disease, so I’m not an innocent in the over-active imagination category. Or it could just be that he’s an almost 4-year-old and his favourite TV shows and books lead him through exciting and intrepid days rescuing an array of animals and characters from fires, floods and baddies in whichever superhero persona he’s adopted for the occasion.
I’m leading up to something here – I promise. My point being (that I could have possibly said in 4 words rather than 400) is that he has a great imagination.
We’re about 5 months into our trip now and we arrived at a campground in Dubbo quite late one evening a few weeks ago – and we’d had a big day of exploring (side note – there are MILLIONS of great things to see and do in Dubbo with kids – have a read of what we got up to on the link).
It was dinner time and things felt a bit rushed – we were all pretty tired and I was keen to get the boys fed and in bed. We were cooking in the camp kitchen and I’d just run over to the bus to get all the supplies. The camp kitchen had a TV so the boys were happily watching ABC Kids, and as I placed all our meal stuff on the table Mr 3 dragged himself away from Ben and Holly (a newsworthy event in its own right) and came over to inspect what I had delivered. The kids were having scrambled eggs on toast for dinner – a quick and tasty treat (we should really be travelling with chickens to save ourselves on egg costs the amount we go through). Mr 3 cast his discerning Matt Preston-esque eyes over the proceedings and declared in a non-arguable tone – ‘rats’.
‘Rats’? Says I.
‘I want rats for dinner please.’ Says he.
‘Don’t be daft, you crazed child’ is what tired, hungry me was desperate to say.
But due to the fact that A) I found myself in the perfect scenario to humour his
insane ramblings cute child’s imagination, B) he’d used ‘please’ in the request rather than ‘NOW’ which was a lovely surprise and C) hubby is the cook in the family, so in all honesty the only thing I was about to do was to sit down and enjoy some Nanny Plum inspiration, I found myself leaping up and exclaiming ‘rats for dinner! What a lovely idea!’
Never one to do things half heartedly I leapt into the air and high fived him. He looked delighted which reinforced my enthusiasm and gave me renewed vigour in our quest for rats. Off we ran to the bus – where we searched for a good 10 minutes to find some suitably juicy looking rodents to fry.
I dramatically opened cupboards and looked under the bed, pretending the rats were spotting me just in time and running for their furry lives. I feigned surprise and mock screamed as the rats jumped out at me from behind the curtains and I chased them around the bus frantically. I was having fun – Mr 3 was belly laughing at the antics yet I couldn’t help but notice a half bemused look in his eye when he paused for breath – especially as I declared that I had caught the fattest rat I ever did see – and stuffed it into my pocket.
We raced our way back to the kitchen to show dad – the whole way with my pocket dancing and wriggling with the make-believe rat trying to escape – his tail leaping out and tickling Mr 3 on the back of the neck along the way.
I was having a ball! Mr 3 was laughing and I was feeling VERY pleased with myself that I hadn’t dismissed this suggestion as silly. I had validated his idea – given him self-confidence, let him know I was listening to him and that I valued his thoughts. Maybe that parenting award is on it’s way after all!
We bounded back into the kitchen and I brandished the make-believe rat in the air triumphantly.
‘Did you get the wraps?’ asked hubby.
I swear even the 2 year old rolled his eyes at me, while dad and Mr 3 shared a conspiratorial glance that seemed to say ‘it’s just crazed mother with her insane ramblings again’.
As I traipsed back to the bus to retrieve the flatbread as opposed to the live rat, I pondered that apparently Mr 3 had been humouring me the whole time. Epic fail in the listening stakes (did I also mention that my imagination tends to run a little amok?) – all he’d wanted were some wraps for his eggs rather than plain old bread, yet I kind of heard what I wanted to hear.
Next time I’ll try and listen a little bit harder – but if there’s a choice between wraps and rats, I’ll take the laughs every time.
Does anyone know of any parenting awards for trying?