Kelly Sparkes is a mum of 3 children 11, 10 and 8.
Here she shares with us some words from her personal experience bringing up her children and some of the things she has learnt along the way.
I’m a good friend of Lisa’s and the last time I saw her we discussed the possibility of writing some articles for the Marlow Mums – and dads if you’re reading! I live in Suffolk and the lifestyle is very different from a busy town like Marlow, but we do have one thing in common – being a parent. As I was thinking about how to introduce myself I thought about the summer holidays and the relaxed feel to them. I have three children aged 11, 10 and 8 and when a busy term ends, how do you slow yourself and the family down? In the holidays should we continue to rush from one activity to another, desperately trying to fit everything in or is it possible to enjoy a slower pace of life?
This year my children have got to the ‘I’m bored’ stage and regularly ask me ‘what can I do’? I think as parents we are expected to entertain, and if not entertain then find entertainment constantly for our children. It can be exhausting trying to fit it all in, make time to do the chores, cook or prepare for the next day, let alone make time for ourselves. I love to have fun with the kids but I’ve always encouraged them to make their own fun too. When they were little I had some really good advice from a wonderful family member. They were all at very different stages, a baby, one in pre-school and one in reception. She encouraged me when picking up a child from nursery or reception to have something neatly set up for them – either in their bedroom or a place in the home that was quiet and undisturbed. I would set up the farm, train set or Lego for my son and he’d spend sometimes up to an hour playing quietly. He’d have that particular toy out for a few days, but it was always set out for him and ready to go when he got home. He began to look forward to the quiet transition from school to home and would excitedly ask what he’d got to play with this week. He’s a physical outdoor boy but I found this really helped him be more settled after the noise and bustle of preschool. It also gave me extra time to be with the baby or just to get on.
Now they’re a bit older and distracted by different things – gaming, phones and friends – it’s not so easy to encourage them into the simple pleasures of life. Why read a book when you can play on a tablet? We still go to parks and love to bike instead of hopping in the car. Initially, they’re not always keen but I’ve found once my children get going they’re much happier. Last year I found a place locally to go tiddler fishing (something I did as a kid) and we all loved it.
We are very lucky to live in an area close the sea so trips to the beach cost very little if I pack a picnic. In previous years I’ve even sat under an umbrella in the rain – the kids loved it much more than I, but not this glorious year. I found an area on the beach with a large shallow pool that was left after high tide and they spent the whole day playing in the water and finding creatures. We all loved it. They only needed me for food and water, it was the first year I didn’t have to make a sandcastle. It was one of their favourite days. They also loved our first family camping expedition – in the garden! My husband was far too large for the tiny two man tent and they thought it hilarious that he spent all night with his head poking out of the tent unable to sleep due to the snoring of three children, a wife and the cat!
When Lisa and her family come to visit the thing they look forward to most is a bonfire in our back garden. We have hot dogs, let the kids play, run about and sit by the fire till bedtime. We still have busy times, commitments, kids clubs and days out but interspersed with simple things too. My childhood memories are rarely of going out, it was the things that my parents were involved in with me that stick in my memory. Winters playing Monopoly, hide and seek in the dark with a torch, to name but a few. If you ask your children what their favourite day or thing was – you might be surprised. In Marlow it’s not easy to head off to the beach for the day but there are great parks and places that kids love to explore. With so much child-geared entertainment on offer it can sometimes prevent us from discovering the simpler pleasures of life and enabling us to slow down and enjoy them.