Every summer, our little town is transformed by a mediaeval festival, courtesy of a significant battle that was fought here between the Houses of York and Lancaster in the 15th Century. The whole town gets into the spirit of it: banners depicting the arms of the families that took part swing from the front of every shop and business in the town centre, people wearing cloaks, carrying staffs and large weapons of individual destruction roam up and down the high street unchallenged. Several fields, up by the council offices, are transformed into a tented city and one becomes the largest market place for those-who-like-to-re-enact-the-past-in-style you have ever seen.
Sam has never been particularly keen on it, though. For a start, it’s a fair walk from our house, and we never take the car (never any parking). There is always a monster queue for ice-cream at the one lonely van (so we always say, ’wait til we get home’), it can be very crowded (parental stress) and is often hot (child stress). There are also cannons (we don’t like big bangs), people in armour shouting (this is frightening) and hanging about while we wait for something to happen (this is boring). Sam is also not convinced that the battle part is make-believe. It all seems terribly serious, and terribly frightening to him. He never stays long to watch.
I think this is, in part, because he takes imaginative play terribly seriously. Take Daddy, for instance. Sam is ever-so-impressed by Daddy, particularly when there are power tools about. We have learned, Daddy and I, to be on our guard when DIY is taking place, Daddy is having a coffee and Sam has gone quiet. Only yesterday he was found in the cellar, ear muffs on, power drill in hand, ready to make an extra little job for Daddy to do.
He’s not that into small world play, though. My daughter, she can play for hours with her cuddly toys (they have squeaky voices) or with little bits and pieces (mostly small animals) in the doll’s house (they also have squeaky voices), and A plays constantly with various train sets, but not so much Sam. Sam likes to make believe in a life sized way.
One of his favourite programmes at the moment (apart from Strictly Come Dancing) is You’ve Been Framed. It’s a great way to get him into his pjs without too much trouble. We only have to suggest that he can watch some before bed and he has jumped into them and is settling down in front of the TV, cosy in his swishy dressing gown, before you can say ‘Jack Robinson’. It is only recently, however, that we have allowed him to watch it. It wasn’t so long ago that we linked up a spate of jumping off things and attempting to trip people up to the show. These days we make sure that we watch some of it together, and make a running commentary that goes a bit like this: ‘Goodness me! That young man was lucky not to end up in hospital!’
My poor mother gets pushed and pulled around with no consideration for her knee replacement, during a game of Strictly (Sam alternates between being the announcer and various dancers), and is regularly sent to sit on the step and has her pictures taken off when he plays schools. Unfortunately for my dad, he didn’t quite understand what Sam meant when he called him Daddy Pig, him not having seen very many episodes of the unsurpassed Peppa Pig.
Thankfully, I don’t find myself dragged into too many games. I am more than happy to do the odd bit of judging (until a fight over whose turn it is erupts), I’ll even play the occasional game of Frustration (only if I lose), but, being as I am a stay-at-home-mum-with-a-part-time-job, I value the kind of independent play that lets me get on with Other Stuff. I have to admit, though, that I also veer a little away from the make-believe because I am the one that has to live with the consequences. It’s not the children who do the putting away, or replacing the cushions, or the sweeping up of smashed precious things, oh, no. And it’s me who has to sort out the inevitable fight over turn taking, or not listening, or not touching, or he/she-poked-me-in-the-ribs-ing.
Mind you, in my effort to find activities for the kids that don’t involve my participation, I have, sometimes, rather outdone myself. I should have listened to my husband when he told me about the time when he shot through the (glass) front door after a particularly fast run down the stairs in a 70s nylon sleeping bag. Why I ever thought that the children would inherit my sensible genes rather than his bouncy ones is a mystery to me. Cardboard boxes never had quite the same excitement value when my sister and I were children, I am convinced.
And Ski Sunday. To me, it brings back memories of cosy Sundays in front of the fire. That theme tune takes me back almost instantly to relaxation and family time. But not in my today house it doesn’t. In my today house we have to take the stairs into account. We have a banister you can slide down (if you are A). We also have two boys who are really very curious about sliding boxes containing little sisters down them. And we also have a Sam, who can, sometimes, take re-enactments a little too seriously. Thankfully we noticed his disappearance together with a small plank of wood (DIY is fairly endemic in our house) during the ski jump.