It’s a big day when your baby finishes kindy. It’s another big day when she starts school! All in all, it’s a big week. Emotions? These are big too. Writing things down is helping. I’ve written a lot lately - mostly lists. Shopping lists, to-do lists, party lists, present lists, thank you lists, take-this-here and give-to-this-person lists.
This list is different, more therapeutic. This list is me remembering, savouring, and appreciating a wonderful season. A season I'm so thankful for. A season I pray has prepared us all well for the next….
Five wonderful things I did with my preschoolers:
Oh the sweet nostalgia of childhood memories. It’s there when you open a tub of PlayDoh and take in the smell. When you turn the pages of Hairy Maclary and remember it line for line. Or when you take your own kids to the zoo yet feel your hand in your grandmother’s and remember the taste of her picnic sandwiches packed in Tupperware lunch boxes.
So much has changed in just a few generations, yet childhood wonders remain just that - wonderful. And what a treat it is to revisit them, this time as the grown-up watching our own children discover and experience life in all it’s richness and rawness. Because it’s not all ice cream and trips to the park. There are grazed knees, disappointments and frustrations to navigate too – for both parent and child. Many times I scooped up and rushed on, but when I actually stopped and remembered – when I put myself in those little shoes - we got closer, my preschooler and I, and we recovered together.
2. Agenda-free pyjama days
When there’s no place you have to be, there’s no need to get out of your jammies. We didn’t do this a lot, but once in awhile the kids would declare it ‘jammie day’ and that would be their attire for agenda-free mucking about at home. I’m more of a get-dressed-to-feel-awake kinda girl, but my young children loved the space that pyjamas in the daytime seemed to create. While I did always get dressed, the agenda-free thing I could really embrace. Still my favourite type of day is one with nothing in the diary. Time to just be together, to potter, to get lost in activities without watching the clock.
Note to self: remember to keep scheduling (ironically) days like these on the family calendar.
3. Sat back and watched
I remember a friend once observed her young son as ‘busy doing nothing’. Of course, a small child is very rarely doing nothing, but even the most mundane activities can completely engross them and their busyness is so beautiful to watch.
I loved watching my young children get totally lost in whatever they were doing. They’d forget anyone else was in the room and enter into detailed dialogue with whichever characters were starring in whatever scenario they had imagined. Yes we played together, but my kids didn’t always need me in their games. In fact, the spell would usually be broken if I chimed in with some comment or contribution. Watching them play and create in their own world was - still is - one of my favourite things to do.
Disclaimer: please don’t imagine me as one of those saintly types who patiently and contently waits, smile on serene face, while their child gets distracted by some fascinating fluff on the floor during the full 10 minutes it takes them to get their shoes on. I’m not that person. Watching my children ‘lost’ in their own world was a joy a lot - but not all - of the time.
4. Made some dough
Play dough is possibly the cheapest form of therapy there is. Many a fractious moment was calmed in my kitchen by putting on the kettle, pulling out the flour, mixing, kneading and squishing. I’d make myself a cup of tea while I was at it and sit down for a while to join in the delightfully tactile experience of dough.
The other good news about play dough is you don’t have to be that skillful for your kids to believe you are amazing at sculpture. Roll out some eggs for their birds’ nests, followed by a worm or two, and they’ll think you’re the next Michelangelo.
Is it bad to say that some of my favourite moments of the preschool years were when my children were asleep? Possibly, but I’m still saying it. Daytime naps – restorer of my soul. Sometimes I also slept, but mostly I just savoured the peace. If the morning had been rough, I could hit reset by gazing upon their sleeping faces and drinking in how much I loved them – enough to go another round once they awoke!
What I’m realising though, as I pen these words on the eve of my daughter’s last official day as a preschooler, is that while we’re all growing up a little this week, we need never be too old. What is age but a number! So be still my emotional heart. Embrace the moment; get excited about moving forward and don’t be too sad about what you’re leaving behind. You don’t have to leave anything behind in reality. Like a favourite book, we can dip back into life’s previous chapters and revisit the innocence and wonder of those simple days of play. The preschool years should be fun, free and stress-free, and those sentiments needn’t be left behind when one gets all grown up and five. Heck, it would do the whole world good to sit and squish some play dough once in a while.
Ellie Gwilliam is the editor of OHbaby! Magazine and mother to three girls who now all attend primary school. Big. Deep. Breath.
Published March 2016