Have you ever noticed how many kids songs there are about rain? “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day”. Then there’s the one that goes, “Drip, drop, drip, drop rain is falling down.” On the one hand rain can be an enormous opportunity for fun. Gum boots! Raincoats! Umbrellas! Jumping in puddles! Splashing! Mud! Glorious mud! It’s almost like the perfect plaything! When I was a kid, growing up in the big droughts of the 1980s, rain was almost always exciting. For the first five minutes, anyway.
But then the novelty wears off. I don’t think there’d be a parent in Sydney this week that wouldn’t be tearing their hair out right now! Spending one entire day indoors is a challenge. But after a week or two of rain everybody starts getting a little bit stir-crazy, including Mum. For one thing, it makes so much more mess if you play inside all the time. Secondly, you have to keep thinking of new activities to do.
In the past week, I’ve come to realize how much I rely on going outside and on trips to the park to entertain my daughter. Now that we can’t do that, it’s a lot more effort to try to think of things to do. There’s only so much playdough, cooking and sticking a grown-up can take. My fall-back wet weather activity is the ‘make a cubby house inside’ trick. All you need are a couple of chairs, a blanket and a few heavy-duty rubber bands. It’s can provide hours of entertainment. I noticed when I picked Birdy up from my sisters’ house this week that she’d also reverted to the indoor cubby house option. Way to go.
But no matter how hard we work at keeping our children occupied, and no matter how many creative ideas we employ, there’s no way around the fact that little kids need fresh air, space and exercise. Actually, we all need it, but as adults we get used to going without it. Kids are just more vocal when their needs aren’t met. Keep a two or three-year-old cooped up inside for a couple of days and you’ll soon find that most of your house been destroyed as the energy that’s bottled up inside makes its way out.
I know I can’t be the only one who finds it difficult to keep my little one occupied in the wet weather. We have a new shopping centre near our house, which has a really cool playground in it. So hubby and I took Birdy down there one rainy afternoon only to discover that the playground was temporarily closed. We soon noticed large numbers of zombie-like parents and children aimlessly wandering around the shopping centre, looking for something to do. I guess like us, they also felt the need to get out of the house, but unfortunately there aren’t too many places you can take a toddler who just needs to burn off some energy. Maybe there needs to be a temporary moratorium on the universal ‘no jumping on the bed’ rule while the wet weather lasts.
Do you have trouble occupying your kids in the rain? Where do you take them on rainy days? Do you have a favourite wet-weather activity that always works a treat?
There’s a line from the movie The Castle that always cracks me up. When Tracey, the hairdresser comes back from her honeymoon in Thailand, she tells her family that Thailand is ‘Chockers with culcha.’ This pretty much reflects the Australian attitude to culture – that it’s something you find overseas.
It’s a bizarre attitude in a country where virtually everyone has a migrant history (except indigenous Australians, of course). But maybe because we’re a young country, we also tend to be a forward-looking nation. People come here looking for new opportunities and hence the emphasis is very much on the future. My own father migrated to Australia from Scotland as a teenager and never went back until just a few years ago. He made his home in Australia and considers himself to be Australian.
Even so, I’d say I grew up with a strong sense of my own Scottish heritage. The Scots have always been good at that – they manage to embrace their new home, but still retain a strong sense of their Scottish culture and traditions. In our home, there was always plenty of Granny’s homemade shortbread, we ate porridge for breakfast, we wore kilts to church on Sunday and on New Years Eve (Hogmany) we’d always have a wee dram and dance a jig to Scotland the Brave.
All this ‘culcha’ must have rubbed off somewhere, when you consider that two of my daughter’s four names are Scottish. Even before she was born I used to play her Capercaillie in the womb- they’re a Scottish folk band who sing haunting traditional songs in the Gaelic language. Just recently, I took her to Brigadoon, the big Scottish gathering in the Southern Highlands. I had a great time dressing her up in Scottish clothing, and we all enjoyed watching swordfighting, Highland dancing and the outrageous sporting event known as cabre tossing. (If you haven’t seen it, that’s where you have to lift a log the size of telegraph pole onto your shoulder, throw it up and make it rotate). Crazy stuff.
I remember last Mother’s Day, Birdy gave me a special Irish leaf tea. When I told her my tea came all the way from Ireland, she replied, ‘Yes and my milk came all the way from Scotland.’ Even at two, she knew something about this place called Scotland. So even though we’re very much Australian, (seventh generation on my Mum’s side) I hope I can nurture some sense of pride in Birdy over her Scottish heritage. After all, we all need to know where we come from.
Have you tried to encourage your child to take an interest in their cultural heritage? Do you speak a language other than English at home? Have you retained traditional dress, cuisine, music or customs from another culture? How do you foster a positive sense of being Australian, while still valuing another cultural identity?
This might sounds strange coming from somebody who does a parenting blog, but I’m not really sure about this Mother’s Day caper. I adore my Mum, and I love the fact that I have an excuse to write to her and tell her as much, but really what is the big deal about being a Mum? Yes I know we Mum’s sacrifice a lot, but it’s not really all that hard when it’s for your own flesh and blood. I think instead they should have ‘Anyone-who-puts-up-with-a-man-Day!’ I’m not saying this because I don’t like men, I just happen to think they’re more hard work than children.
I mean children make a mess, but at least you can rouse on them to tidy up. Children are inconsiderate, but at least you can teach them how to become more considerate. Children are quite time-consuming and expensive, but at least they move out at 21… or 28. Men on the other hand are completely un-trainable.
Over the last ten years of marriage I have tried to teach my husband to be a bit tidier. TOTAL LOST CAUSE. He always dumps his keys, wallet, mobile phone, i-pod and work lanyard on the kitchen bench with a pile of coins. To try to contain this spread of junk, I bought him a special little box to go on the kitchen counter to put his keys, phone, wallet, etc in. So what does he do? Every day he dumps the said keys, phone, wallet etc on the counter right next to the special little box for the keys, phone, wallet, etc. And every day I move the keys, phone, wallet etc back into the little box for the keys, phone, wallet etc. Every day. Every day. Every day!!! And every day he comes home from work, empties out his pockets and puts his coins on the counter right next to the coin jar. And every day I pick up those same coins and put them back in the coin jar! Like I said, completely untrainable!
I have the same problem with the clothes that my husband has worn once but thinks he’s going to wear again. These half-dirty clothes are deemed too dirty to go back in the cupboard, but too clean to go in the dirty clothes basket. So I got my husband a director’s chair to casually drape these half-dirty, half-clean clothes over. And you know what happened to that chair? It broke. It was completely weighed down with half a wardrobe of clothes. So I bought a box with a lid to go on top of our blanket box. I thought a box with a lid would be tidier, so the half-clean, half-dirty clothes could be out of sight, under the lid. And you know where he puts the half-clean, half-dirty clothes? On top of the box with the lid. Yes, in a great, big messy pile ON TOP of the box with the lid. One word. Untrainable.
And this is why I think there should be a special day for every woman who labours over a man. But then I have to rebuke myself. Last Sunday, at a Mother’s Day High Tea, I was seated next to a friend who lost her husband very suddenly many years ago and raised her kids on her own. I know she would give anything, anything, to have those messy clothes on the blanket box and that pile of coins on kitchen bench. So let’s forget about Mother’s Day. What about just Cherishing-Everyone-You-Love day? Or Appreciating-Everybody-In-Your-Family-Day? Being a Mum is an incredible journey, having a loving mother is an amazing privilege, losing your Mum might be an overwhelming heartache. But we can all cherish our loved ones, regardless of whether we are a mother, have a mother, or are still longing to become one.
What does Mother’s Day mean for you?