Striking a balance: free-play Fridays

BalanceHow often do I talk about striking a balance? A balance between family and work; a balance between looking after the children and my own time (which is inevitably becoming work time), a balance between the children having structured activities and playing themselves; a balance between treat foods and healthy foods. The list goes on.

I made a decision recently to stop D’s swimming lessons. I was initially really keen to carry them on – particularly having seen all those older toddlers in the class above him happily splashing about and doggy paddling their way to their five metre badges. And because we could – it being on one of our two days off together a week – it felt like we should make the most of it.

The problem was, he wasn’t happily splashing around. In fact he was in tears before we left the house, sobbing when we arrived and clinging to me like a limpet when we were in the pool. He hadn’t always been like this but certainly had for a few months and it wasn’t getting any better. So when the swimming venue was due to change I decided to have bit of a pause.

Our first Friday felt strangely long and unstructured. We stopped off in the local tea shop and ambled our way back home. We had a snack, read some books, did some drawing…and it was still only 10.30am! I had a strange feeling – a feeling I hadn’t had since the baby months. What should we actually be doing together?

I don’t consider myself to be someone who fills their time with classes, play dates and activities but I wonder if that’s become my comfort zone over the last year. I work three days, Scrip has tennis on Tuesday evenings, I help run our local Toddler group every Wednesday and I suppose Friday was swimming. Naps are usually at home and at the same time.

Having a routine and sticking to it helps me a lot, I think. Particularly during busy times. But I was starting to rely on it and losing sight of why D and I were having time together in the first place.

Now Fridays are now free-play for the foreseeable future (with the odd post office trip thrown in). It’s actually nice to not be rushing off somewhere and limiting D’s playtime. We do puzzles and reading together when it’s not about filling a gap. It’s made me realise we don’t actually have that much time playing, just the two of us.

It’s definitely easier to just hang out in the summer with the garden to roam around but I’m not sure what winters will look like. I’d like to go back to swimming at some point but in the meantime I’ll be focusing on enjoying our time together – especially if it really is, as I’m intending it to be, just the two of us.

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