Go Outside and Play!

It’s over. The school holidays that is.

Navigating the white water rapids of Christmas is one thing – coasting down the long river of January in a small canoe with a 5 year old is bound to highlight some uncomfortable truths about your parenting skills long suspected but hidden in the rush of the busy school year.

Parenting, it seems, used to be a walk in the park, whereas now it’s more like a Scot-like polar expedition.

It’s part of the combination of being older parents and changing times – the baby boomers bred not long after their own birth and were therefore about as clueless as their offspring when it came to any lofty ideals about raising a family.

Twenty –five year old blokes and 6 year old kids have a lot in common when it comes to their risk management skills and concerns for health and safety.

While it may be true that we generation Xers wrap our kids up in cotton wool and spend far too much quality time with them that could in part be due to our own distant childhood memories of driving tractors in cyclones without the benefit of brakes (or driving lessons for that matter) and being used as a temporary Taranaki gate between two fighting bulls while Dad tried to fix the broken fence. The happy days of childhood indentured labour on New Zealand farms are sadly over and with them many fulfilling avenues for occupying kids’ time.

Apparently we’re not allowed to tell our kids to ‘Just Go Outside and Play!’ anymore either, because the world is full of dangerous strangers and places.

In the days before childhood obesity, telling the kids to bugger off for a bit had nothing to do with encouraging a bit of fresh air and exercise and everything to do with keeping women out of the loony bin at a time when most blokes thought ‘active fatherhood’ meant getting creative at conception. Mums were allowed a bit of time and space.

I’ve only just broken it to my Mum that playpens were designed to keep babies in, not, as I had always assumed to keep kids out while Mums rolled up the kaftan and hopped inside to have another Harvey Wallbanger and read the next chapter of ‘Valley of the Dolls’. Like David Bowie I don’t remember the early seventies but man, do I miss them.

Neither is it ok to tell your kids to shut up. The five year old, hands planted on the hips, informed me of this(loudly in the middle of town) and that I had now hurt her feelings!! I looked scandalised at another dazed and confused mother next to me hoping everyone would think she was the feelings hurter.

I probably should have listened to the 500 millionth knock knock joke.

Ian Grant would have sat down with her and examined what her particular random variations of the knock knock joke told me about her character and how I could build a loving community of people around her by sharing these knock knock jokes with them – on scented cards perhaps.

Instead I wondered why small children aren’t born with remotes or removable batteries.

In a vain attempt to keep some kind of order over the holidays by insisting on brushed hair, clean teeth and wearing undies, the five year old then invoked the awesome powers of ‘Constable Marnie’ against me. Constable Marnie, the incarnation of all that is cool and who exists in the 5 year old’s pantheon of authority figures somewhere between Santa and the Virgin Mary, apparently had been instructing the kids of Room 3 about how to keep their bodies safe. Which is great – except that instead of saying ‘Yes Mum!’ when asked to clean her teeth I got:
‘Constable Marnie says; ‘It’s my body and I am the boss of it’!’ The serious danger posed to a stranger trying anything on against the combined forces of Room 3 is inspiring.

These kids are scary – which is why I’m beginning to think those million dollar bonuses for CEOs of failing companies should be going to the nation’s primary school teachers.

Why? Because they are SO worth it.

Without them, the government would have to start issuing all mothers with play pens and a bottle of Galliano.

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