Well, today’s been interesting. Last night, our four-year-old had one of his ‘I’m not eating that it’s disgusting’ mealtimes. No, we hadn’t dished him up roasted worms with a side of undercooked slugs, but just a small bowl of bolognaise. Cue me having a meltdown, as I’m exhausted with mealtime battles, and locking at least half of his toys away.
So, today has been a toy-lite day, and a day where I meticulously made my son tidy away whatever he had finished playing with before he took something out away. I’m not normally like this. A usual day is more an indoor/outdoor freeplay day. But I’ve got to do something about the mealtime battles and it occurred to me that maybe paring down our days a bit might have an impact. I’m not sure what made me think this, but certainly when I looked back over this week I realised that my son had been bought (and not by me): a small box of Lego, a Kinder egg, a water pistol, a farm machinery set, a bag of Haribos, a writing book and pen and a revolting sticky man that you throw at the window and he crawls down. That is when he works and isn’t covered in fluff. Anyway I digress. This week hasn’t been particularly unusual, he gets bought things every week by well-meaning grandparents. Whenever I say that I’m grateful but could they please buy him a little less, I’m accused of being mean and not thinking about my son’s wellbeing. But last night I started thinking that actually it’s all this stuff is what’s not good for his wellbeing.
So, today as an experiment we had a not-leaving-the-house day with no playmates round. No television, although in my defence it’s very rarely on during the day, half his toys locked away, including the big items such as the farm, railway, all cars etc and rigorously applied mealtimes sitting properly at the table and not his little table.
The change in his behaviour this morning was really noticeable. He did two jigsaws by himself, then went on to play with different themed toys throughout the day, which were put away afterwards and to which he devoted a reasonable amount of time before moving on to something else. He didn’t even notice the toys that weren’t there, at all.
Before when I’ve said to his dad that he’s got too much stuff (and in fairness he already has a lot less than a lot of his peers) I was basing my thoughts on theory but today has demonstrated that he has eaten better and played better during a much calmer day than we usually have.
I also normally spend lots of time with him on our days off, or facilitate his play, today I cleaned the house and apart from the odd cuddle and time spent chatting left him to it. The problem now is, knowing and believing that I do that too much stuff and not enough calm is genuinely not good for him, how do I go on from here and ask grandparents not to buy him so much stuff? Today may have been a fluke, and I’m sure he’ll return tomorrow to looking as though he wants to vomit when faced with a plate of food that includes fruit or vegetables, but I do feel like I’ve hit on something, so it’s something I’m going to keep up with.