Before I became a parent, one thing I thought about a lot was “How am I going to entertain my son?” In short, how was I going to help him find things to do, either with me, with his friends, or by himself? That thought occupied my thoughts a little more than it perhaps should have done, but it was there nonetheless.
I needn’t have worried; there is so much to do here, and once I knew where to look, it was easy for Bryan and I to try different things. The local libraries offered different activities, as did Hobbycraft; there were activities during the holidays in parks and beaches; friends were there to meet; days at home were desired where we watched films and played with Lego; he had days with his grandparents, tried holiday camp and Forest School, and met up with friends.
And then the pandemic hit and we all went into lockdown. Let me tell you, keeping a child occupied holds no fear for me again. It’s still something I’m conscious of at the back of my mind, because I like to make things chilled, interesting, and fun, but if I can get us both through lockdowns with our mental health at least reasonably intact, then everything else is a bonus.
Now that half term is upon us, I’ve been thinking about what to do with Bryan whilst I still need to work, and how to enjoy his company – because I do enjoy his company, and why would I become a father if I didn’t want to actually spend time with my son?
So we have found a balance; well, I say “we”, but I’ve found a balance, and we’ll see if it works. Bryan is going to have a day with his grandparents, a sleepover, and a day at a holiday club. Then he and I are (whisper it) going to stay overnight in a hotel. A hotel! It will be the first time we’ve stayed away from Thanet for a year or so, and I’m looking forward to it; but I’m also intrigued to see what changes we might see in this “new normal” as we explore London for a couple of days.
Speaking of grandparents; who here remembers their own relationships with theirs? Mine have all since passed away, sadly, but I was privileged to know three of my grandparents as I grew up. As my parents had to work, I would spend some of my holidays with my paternal grandparents during the school holidays, and I loved it; I was close to all of them until (gulp) the inevitable happened to each of them in turn.
I hoped Bryan would develop a good relationship with his grandparents, but I also knew I couldn’t force it; it had to come from them and from him, and all I could do was facilitate times where they were together. Thankfully, it has worked brilliantly; Bryan is more excited than you can possibly imagine about a sleepover with them; it’s proved to be something we’ve talked about all week, and as I write this at six in the morning, I’m surprised he hasn’t woken up and emerged from his bedroom with his bag fully packed already. It won’t be long …
Relationships are so important for children, and Bryan is no different. He has some very good friends at school, and it’s truly lovely to see him develop friendships outside of school as well – at his dance and swimming classes, for example, and with my friends as well.
He is a far more outwardly gregarious person than I am in some ways, and I rather like that; he is most definitely an extrovert, whereas I am a kind of ambivert – I enjoy my own company (I’m a writer, that goes with the territory, I suspect), and it’s also nice to have the company of others as well. But I recharge some of my batteries when I’m by myself, and Bryan does it when he is with people. There’s no right or wrong answer this, but it’s been an honour for the last two years to see his personality develop, and I can’t wait to see what else happens as he enters The Teenage Years.