As parents we’re challenged to do that most difficult of things, to be able to become child-like at will. I remember promising myself when I was growing up that I wouldn’t forget what it was like to be a child. But remembering it and inhabiting it are two very different things.
It’s not that as adults we necessarily forget how to play. Many of us play a lot. I see a lot of my contemporaries indulging themselves in the hobbies they enjoyed when they were 10 or 12, just with more money at their disposal.
The children who liked building things are the grown ups with sheds. Those who liked football have season tickets. The car fanatics… well just watch Clarkson and Co. for a glimpse of what might happen if you offered three 10 year old boys unlimited power and money. I’m no different in that respect in that I have revived my hobbies from way back….
However the real change is that as adults we play differently. Our imaginations have been tamed. Our sense of wonder dulled. Our spontaneity compromised.
So playing with Luca is a challenge. I don’t abandon myself to it as I should. I don’t leave behind my worries and my concerns, my list of other things I should be doing; I don’t even leave behind my symbiant that disguises itself as a smartphone and aspires to be a chip in the back of my neck.
Nevertheless we did have a bit of a boys weekend. This involved lighting a barbecue and putting bits of dead animal we’d hunted and killed on it… or rather three sausages we’d bought for Luca in the supermarket and three veggie sausages for me. It involved toasting marshmallows over the dying embers. It involved sleeping in the treehouse for the first time.
That was exciting.
The bed is a bit small for a big me and a small(er) Luca but was just about OK. The mattress was a bit hard but we solved that by putting a mattress protector on top of it. It was a little warm and airless, what with being up in the Gods, but once I went back down the ladder and opened three windows that was fine.
We heard birds, maybe the odd owl, a fox barking, a badger armed with a cudgel looking for weasels (not really). We heard the wind in the branches and what we thought was rain luttering down, but probably wasn’t. And eventually we fell asleep.
I also introduced Luca to The A Team, thirty years to the month since it first hit our screens. He loved it.
I’m wondering whether showing children the TV programmes we grew up with isn’t quite a good idea.
For a start, despite the insistence of TV producers that everything has to be faster and shinier and louder, the explosions bigger, the characters ever more improbably good looking, it doesn’t seem to bother children.
The essentials of good entertainment are the same; characters and plot. Luca liked The Clangers and Bagpuss as much as anything on TV now. He loves The A Team. He doesn’t seem to mind the formulaic story lines and actors that are often out-acted by the timber framed sets. I didn’t mind that either back in nineteen eighty hrrrrm.
Not only does it allow us to share experiences of childhood, it also prizes him from the clutches of marketeers. There is precious little Clangers or A Team merchandise out there these days, other than that aimed at nostalgic thirty and forty somethings. The being cooler than your friends thing doesn’t have to be about having all the stuff, it can be about knowing about something they don’t, and sharing it.
But next time we do boys things though I’m leaving my computer and phone behind.