The other day one of my mum friends told me that I do such a good job with James and that he is always out adventuring. It really meant a lot that something that I don’t see as doing anything special made my friend think that I was doing something really good for James. I think sometimes we don’t always realise our mum strengths. I know for me that I can actually be quite negative and often focus on the things that I don’t do with James, rather than what I actually do do. My friends comment really made my day making me think I am doing something really good by taking James out a lot.
The truth is that I find it a lot easier to be out of the house with James than in the house. In the house he will usually get bored of playing with his toys after not too long, so taking him out gives us something else to do. Sometimes he even leads me to the front door to show me that he wants to go out. As I have got older I have developed a real love of the outdoors and I really enjoy being outside in the fresh air, although maybe not when it’s that horrible damp cold. I love thinking of places to take James where he can run around in the fresh air and get some exercise. Sometimes we even incorporate learning into it. His everyday speech isn’t great but letters, numbers, colours and shapes he is really good with. If he spots numbers and letters when we are out and about he will frequently start pointing to them and telling me what they are. He also does the same with shapes, and in the summer we spent some time looking at different colours of flowers. Even at one of our local parks his favourite thing seems to be to tell me the colours of the floor tiles.
Don’t get me wrong he does have his moments, and it is much easier when I let him take the lead and we walk around where he wants to go, which luckily is often possible with the sort of places I take him. He’s not much of a fan of being taken away from puddles if he hasn’t got his wellies on or leaving somewhere before he is ready to go, and sometimes he goes through phases where it is a real effort to get him to walk and all he wants is to be carried. Then I have the dilemma of whether to carry him (he is heavy) or let him cry and whinge the whole time we are out. I tend to try and do a bit of both but am increasingly trying to get him to learn that he needs to walk rather than be carried. Either way, I think being in the fresh air is good for James, because I can certainly feel the benefits myself. It always makes me feel happier and more positive about things.
My friend on the other hand is more creative and good at making dens and setting up fun things for her son to play with. She is also great at the way she speaks to her son and helping him learn and as a result his speech is amazing. I have another friend that is fantastic at making resources for her daughter for educational activities. I admire how she finds the time to research ideas, make them and then put them into practice, because to be honest I really can’t be bothered to do that when James would spend about 2 seconds on them and then want to play with his cars.
Mums and dads also have different strengths. I know that my husband has different strengths with James than I do. He is great at reading stories and can make a story come alive far better than I can. He is also great at playing physical games with James which he finds hilarious and I am often there reminding my husband that James has just eaten, or he is about to go to bed so we may want to calm him down.
I often wonder whether James likes the outdoors so much because it is something he has learned to like from being taken outdoors so often, or whether he is naturally a lover of being outdoors. If I had persevered with doing craft activities with him maybe he would have a love for crafts? At the moment we don’t do any craft activities because even with colouring he is bored with it after 5 minutes, and he has never shown any interest in crafts at toddler groups. I sometimes feel bad when I see crafts that other mums have done with their children and think I should be doing that with James. This is the attitude I need to change though. There is a reason we don’t do crafts – because he has shown no interest and would rather be moving his cars around, or playing with trains, shapes or magnetic letters or numbers. Rather than focusing on what I haven’t done with James I need to think about what I have done.
Just like every child is different, every parent is different too. Maybe we need to spend more time thinking about what positive things we do for our children, rather than thinking about what we don’t do for them. We all have our strengths. Some parents may be great at reading stories, or cooking with their children, or being creative with their food. We can’t be good at everything, but we all have our strengths and are good at something. I know when I find myself thinking I should be doing different things with James, I need to remember the conversation I had with my friend and focus on the good things I do with him, my strengths, and one of my strengths is coming up with places to take him where he can enjoy being outside. What are your strengths?