Dear Dave

Friday 12 March 2010

Leaving them alone to be together

Dear Dave,

When, despite the busy schedule of clubs, baths, school and homework, one of the children does somehow manage to have a friend round, life is often easier for me. Rather than being extra work, having another child in the house is enough to keep all the others occupied. Older children find a quiet corner to hide from young visitors; younger children sit and gaze in awe at bigger guests. I stay out of the way and have a cup of coffee.

I used to hang around in the same general location, keeping an eye on things. I was there to explain any house rules the guest was unaware of, to confiscate any contraband they might have smuggled in with them and to make sure Fraser actually gave them a shot on the GameCube.

This last part quickly became frustrating, however. No sooner had he handed the controller over than he would grab it back. Unfamiliar with thumbsticks, power-ups and (in at least one case) TVs, his friends struggled to go more than a few seconds without virtual death but he never let them experiment for long enough to get a clue. He'd just shout stuff like, 'Jump up and ground-pound the Goomba. Watch out for the Bullet Bill!' Never mind that they didn't know the buttons or what a Goomba was - in the context, half of them literally didn't know which way was up. They merely let him wrest control from their limp fingers and then sat mesmerised as the shiny things bounced around on screen.

After a while, they left him to it and wandered off to see if they could find some LEGO.

I tried cajoling him to act differently and be more inclusive but it never seemed to do any good. I just ended up telling him off in front of his friends. The time he made a long list of what he was going to do when Brandon came round, I gave up. 'Ask Brandon what he wants to do' was at number 23.

After a point, it's up to my kids to make and keep friends themselves. There's only so much I can do. It's not like I'm around during playtime at school to supervise their social skills anyway.

Now I keep clear when one of the children has a visitor. Everyone seems to have more fun. I usually only have to intervene when one of my other kids tries hijacking the guest's attention. The miscreant then gets whisked away to the kitchen to do something exciting, creative and educational with me. If I'm lucky, just the threat of this is often enough to stop them interfering.

Sometimes they even go and hide under their bed covers.

Yours in a woman's world,


PS Harriet came round to see Marie the other day and they rushed off for a shot on the Wii. I checked on them after an hour and the poor girl was playing intently but not doing too well. It may have had something to do with the fact she was holding the controller upside down. I turned it round and went away. When I returned five minutes later, she had it upside down again. She didn't seem to mind it wasn't working properly and it was apparently comfier to hold that way.

I went and hid under my bed covers.

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