…so came the cry from my eldest daughter this afternoon – a full 3 days after Santa delivered a sack load of new entertainment.
‘Read a book’ I suggest. This is my default suggestion – I used to be an English teacher and encouraging a love of reading is my number one parenting goal (well, possibly joint first along with teaching my children the correct use of the apostrophe, but it’s definitely up there).
‘I don’t feel like reading.’ comes the answer I am already expecting (my eldest daughter is – whether due to my encouragement, my genes, or just co-incidence – already a confirmed book lover. However, she saves much of her reading for late at night when she should be asleep. This should be no surprise to me as I have fond nostalgic memories of reading Heidi under the covers by torchlight, so I see late night reading as a rite of passage for any book lover worth their salt).
I let this one go.
‘Why not practise your flute?’ I venture. (regular readers will realise this is clearly a joke suggestion: my daughter has a complicated, and not altogether happy relationship with her flute).
She didn’t even deign to respond to that one.
‘Well, why don’t you tidy your room?’ I ask. Now you know, and I know, that this is really a rhetorical question. No self-respecting 9 year old would choose to tidy their room however bored they might be, but I always think it’s worth putting forward the suggestion in case it works like the rule for new foods – offer enough times and eventually they will try it (or is it that if they refuse a certain number of times they definitely don’t like it? I might need to check that rule – it could be a crucial difference!).
‘Well, you got lots of craft activities for Christmas, why not do one of those?’
‘Will you help me?’
‘Well we just got back from Grandma’s and I have lots to do so umm…no.’
‘I don’t want to do it on my own. Can I play on the ipad?
‘No.’ I say. ‘Find something to do in your room. Play with you new toys; draw a picture using your new pens; read one of your new books!’ OK so I am back to suggestion number one, but seriously, it’s a great suggestion! And what is it with children? Faced with an afternoon where all I needed to do was entertain myself and I could think of a hundred things to do instead of the mountain of chores I was tallying up on the ‘to do’ list in my head as we discussed Ana’s lack of suitable pursuits. How is it that when we are trying to leave the house in morning, my children can be so completely absorbed in an imaginary world involving wolves and polar bears teaching each other Christmas carols that I can barely manage to drag them away and yet, when presented with an entire, precious afternoon to fill as they choose, they are stuck for ideas?
‘Fine’ I say. ‘Well in that case, give me half an hour to finish these jobs and then I will help you tidy your room so you can sort your bountiful Christmas gifts into some kind of coherent order.’ (Well I said something like that, at least. It may not have been quite so flowery, but re-telling is all about the embelishments, right?)
‘But, what shall I do while I’m waiting?’ she asks. ‘I’m bored!’
‘Well, why not…..’ I take a deep breath, mentally abandon my high-minded principles and give in to the inevitable – the fall back position….
‘….why not watch TV?’ I say.
Sigh. Finally, a solution that finds agreement. So maybe I have, once again, broken that ‘Thou shalt not use TV to replace good parenting’ rule, but hey, it is Christmas….cut me some slack! And what better cure for boredom do you know than a few episodes of ‘Come dine with me?’