I think it was a birthday present. We didn’t manage to save them all but the Paddington Snap had been quickly stashed in my backpack where it slowly worked its way down to coexist alongside sand from last year’s summer, some socks and a bow-tie.
I haven’t been the most present mother lately and tensions are running high at home, with my boy determined to defy even the slightest instruction in his quest for autonomy, his desire to be heard. He is lonely, he is bored. He wants to play fight and most days I just long for peace and calm.
“Judah can you just—"
“Can you NOT"
More often that not it is mummy who needs to be put in time out.
We were at baby group on Friday and yet again Judah was bored. He began to rifle through my bag, as he is wont to do, and out came the cards. Baby Violet was asleep in the sling so I found that I had time to play with him. I let him win a couple of times but he was pretty quick. I liked it when we were nearly the same speed and he ended up hitting my hand. I love his laugh.
He is such a traditional little child really, an Enid Blyton boy, who would love nothing more to be packed off for the day with a picnic and some jolly chums to play cards and have adventures.
I think he sensed that he had found a "way in" (he is so smart) and again today when the baby was napping and I sat down next to him on the sofa and there was no whining, no stroppiness, he simply asked if we could play Paddington snap.
I love the way he says Paddington snap.
I love the way he says he has sharp eyes to spot the match and furrows his brow.
I love the way he enunciates dramatically, putting emphasis in all the right places. He is a born performer.
I love the way he indignantly insists that he is paying attention after I win.
I love the way he marvels that there is a clock called BIG BEN.
I felt no frustration, only love.
There was eye contact, communication, jokes, good-natured competition. I marvelled at his humour and his charm.
It was then that I realised I have been so stressed about him not getting ‘quality time’. We go to soft play so he can burn off energy and I can work on my phone. We go to play dates so he can socialise with other children and I can vent to another mum. We run around everywhere on these insane errands and life admin. The game of snap took ten minutes. But he loved every second.
The vision in my head I have of ‘quality time’ tends to be us baking together, painting together, adventuring together, and a lot of the time is totally unrealistic. I will always fail and resent myself for it. I was allowing that resentment to bubble over and spoil any chance we ever had for connection.
The baby woke up and I popped her in her high chair, she is getting so big now… she is able to watch now...
What if quality time was pockets of ten minutes in an ordinary day where he gets undivided attention?
What if that was enough?
The guilt on my chest might lift and I might find that without that pressure I could feel more free to watch and enjoy the child I have in front of me, not the one in my head who is missing out on all the things I’m not giving him.
With small achievements comes confidence and I know this applies to most of our journey as parents. I remember the first time I took both children out together. I remember when I cracked doing bedtime with them both. It's the little things that seem insurmountable at the time.
So thank you to whoever gifted us the Paddington snap - I never knew how useful it would be!