Tuesday, January 06, 2009
We can tell you don't like children
Two weeks with a wide range of child-free people has moved me into a new realm of motherhood. Holidays are lovely but this was my first one with children and I made a number of mistakes. I'm going to be much more assertive about protecting their interests on our next holiday (I'll get to practice in a couple of weeks when we go down to Melbourne).
Most people do not love children as much as they think they do. Oh, they say they like them, and they do like them, in a 'Madame, Miss Pearl and Master Louis would like to say goodnight to you now' sort of way. But they don't like to do what children like to do, and they don't like the sequelae of trying to force children to do what adults like to do.
So this is what I've learnt:
1. If someone says 'cafe' (pub, restaurant), my automatic response should be 'no'. If they press, talking about how child friendly the place is, and how they don't mind children in cafes, ask specific questions such as:
- Does the cafe provide drop sheets? Mops? Buckets and cloths?
- Does the cafe have a policy of 'no drinks over blood-heat temperature'?
- Are my fellow cafegoers willing to eschew cakes, sweets and fried foods so I don't have to engage in wrestles with my children to keep them away from the crap?
- Are my companions willing to entertain themselves with a magazine while I walk around the cafe behind the curious toddler, protecting the objets d'art and preventing the children impaling themselves on anything?
2. Small children need to do something. It is no use going somewhere to look at something. Scenery, animals, art, theatre, even TV - small children do not 'behave' and it is unreasonable to expect them to. They want to use their bodies. If they can't run/jump/splash/build/play, they will whine that they are hungry.
3. If it is hot and there is water nearby, go there! Go there again! Stay there all day! Children will have an excellent holiday doing the same thing every day. They do not need variety.
4. Adults love to drive places. They love to 'go for a drive'. There is the illusion of doing something with your day, when really you might as well be sitting in front of the telly. There is also a belief that something must be better if you have to drive a long way to get there. Children are not fooled. Trains are good. Ferries are great. Buses are okay. I imagine trams are fun. Cars are bad. Do not go anywhere further than twenty minutes away, unless you plan to be away a long time. We did a day trip to Byron, which worked because we drove down during their morning nap (7.30a.m), stayed all day and came back at the time they go to bed at night (7pm). We did a picnic in the hinterland which was bad - it took an hour and a half to get there (L and I singing 'The wheels on the bus go round and round' all the way to forestall crying) and the picnic lasted maybe an hour! Then we went to a cafe! (see #1)
5. Children will be gritchy if you are out after bedtime. Or even approaching bedtime. 100% guaranteed.
I think what people don't realise when they insist we go to adult places and then spend the whole time feeling sorry for me ("Oh, parenting is such hard work" "You didn't get much of a break then, did you?") is that trying to make my children fit into adult environments is not what parenting is about. Watching them laugh in amazement as waves lap at their toes, knocking down sandcastles, eating watermelon somewhere it doesn't matter that it goes all over the floor, even the wonder of going down a slide or examining an unusual twig - they are the things I want to be sharing with friends who want to 'get to know the children'.
So when you come to visit, pack us a picnic and take us to a nearby beach, park or pool. Or just pick up takeaway and come around after the kids are in bed. You don't have to pretend to want to see the kids (I'm not a big fan of kids in general either - just mine and a select few others). Adult conversation without kids around works well for me, too.