Our column opens up the life of a single mum – juggling life, love, work and of course kids on her own.
Sal Higgins is an author and journalist and mum to five kids, ranging in age from 19 to two, and is now raising them on her own. Her estranged husband has the usual alternate weekend arrangement, which means most of it’s down to her. She lives just outside London with her kids and their dog, Jamjar.
Here, she tells of her new life, the ups ands downs, the laughs and tears and the search for a new love – which, of course, will be her children’s new dad.
I don’t know about your children, but mine do activities and sports every day of the week, except a Tuesday. Every. Single. Day. All. Weekend. Bar. One.
And I’m not alone. While I’m driving my kids around, I always spot other parents doing the same. We are like little bees buzzing around, driving our off-spring to their clubs, training and tutors. Because we want them to learn how to be part of a team, to find an activity and sport that fulfils them and the chance to do something away from tablets, phones and PS4s.
But now there is another way of thinking. Just as all the buzzy little parents think they have got it right – it seems that encouraging solitude is just as good.
There’s a new train of thought sweeping the nation – let them find ways to play – without any devices, without parental guidance (not suggesting you let your kids roam the streets, but let them do things that you don’t instigate) and let them use their imaginations…
Many parents even tend to plan all their kids’ free time. My ex husband plans the children’s weekends with parks and walks and trips to the beach. Every time. It’s got so bad that they don’t want to go to the beach when we have a weekend at home together. ‘No, not the beach. We have to go all the time,’ they tell me. So while it’s an activity to get them out of the house, maybe as parents we have to let them find ways to play within our homes too. Let them find a peace and a settled place that doesn’t have to involve ‘doing’ all the time. Just ‘being’ is a good thing too.
I know as a child of the 70s, we only had three channels of TV to watch, no devices or computers. We had gardens with trees to climb, bikes to ride, games to make up in the house. I played with my siblings or friends from school. Making up games or being creative like producing ‘perfume’ from crushing my mother’s roses and adding water (don’t think she ever knew) and playing with action figures. My sister Flo creatively made a village out of plastercine. Remember that?
Flo made little people out of it. With houses and furniture. Her attention to detail was immense. She even made things like food for them to eat. Little plates of food with green veg and chips and fish. All out of plastercine. I can see it now. Then she played with it. She created her own toys – and loved the process of producing her playmates.
So I do think maybe we have the balance wrong these days.
Here are a few things that may help grow solitude enjoyment in your child.
1. Encourage. Don’t make ‘alone time’ a punishment – make it a treat. A reward. Let them take some time out of the family to be creative or read a book or play with their lego. Cancel phone and device time during this ‘time out’ and let them find their own imaginations. My second son is setting up little films for his lego films. OK so he does use his phone to film; but he’s not watching You Tube films; he’s making his own.
2. Focus on the benefits. Once they have turned down the noise of life, they will begin to hear themselves think. Encourage your kids to write down anything they want to do that week. How they are feeling. What they are excited about. Challenge them to simply sit in silence and listen to their heart.
3. Create a gadget basket. Put a small basket on the kitchen counter. Ask everyone in the family to place their phones in the basket during their time of reflection. Parents too!
So what do you think? Agree with me? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and give me your opinions.