Today’s strikes will leave thousands of parents with the prospect of finding childcare and/or entertaining the troops.
You probably wouldn’t have chosen to take the day off but love it or hate it, you’re off. So do your best to enjoy it. This will make life easier for you, and your troops (nothing says ‘joyless’ more than a parent iterating how little they are enjoying being at home).
The golden rule to remember is that your undivided attention is the most engaging entertainment tool there is. Anything that involves you spending time together will be a sure fire hit.
- Of course you can rely on the weather to be cold and unwelcoming. That shouldn’t be a reason not to go out and about – it’ll give you all a chance to work off some energy. Younger troops (nursery through to juniors) will enjoy going to the park where they’ll probably plenty of friends. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can build a shelter or den in the back garden with your older troops (juniors through to young seniors).
- Take your troops on an outing. To a library, or a museum, or a gallery, or an urban farm… Check out your area in your local paper or online as you may be surprised what’s on offer and the free activities available. If the funds will stretch, take your troopers swimming or to the cinema (but beware, the cinemas will be heaving and the popcorn and drinks will be a hefty Stand and Deliver! experience that is not advisable for the faint hearted).
- If you want to stay indoors, find an engaging activity to prevent boredom setting in (for everyone). Cooking is a sure fire hit, and can be tailored from ‘cooking’ a sandwich for lunch to that night’s dinner, depending on age and experience. At this time of year sorting through old toys is another good one. I convinced my troops that Santa has a strict quota of toys per house and so they need to keep getting rid of the toys they don’t want to make room for the toys they do. Making an indoor den is an evergreen choice and you only need a sheet and a bit of imagination. You could even stage your own film day, shut the curtains, turn off the lights and make your own popcorn.
If you are able to take time off on Wednesday, and you have the space, why not offer your childcare services to your friends and family? Not only will this give you an all over good feeling of Christmas cheer, but also if the news is to be believed, this strike could just be the start. Perhaps someone you can help now may be in a position to help you next time.
My name is Neil Sinclair and I am a Dad, an author and hopefully, a good blogger.
In the past I have been a Royal Engineer Commando, a PE teacher, and a security guard at the UK Mission to the UN in New York, but by far the most demanding job to date is as a stay-at-home dad to my three kids: Samuel, Jude and Liberty.
My experience of bringing my first child home – when you discover that all the parenting books and classes were geared towards the birth, not the entire life that comes after – prompted me to write a parenting book for dads. It’s called Commando Dad: Basic Training and is out May 2012.
Being a first time author is exciting and exhilarating – but it is stepping out into the unknown. Just like a skydive in fact!
Something caught my eye on Twitter last night: “When you really want to know what kind of parent you are, ask your child. Your child’s perception of your parenting matters”.
So this morning I decided to put that theory to the test. I asked my eldest trooper, Samuel, what he thought of me as a parent. I should preface this by telling you that Samuel is 9 going on 19, and that he has somehow managed to acquire the vocabulary – and temperament – of Noel Coward.
He paused for a few seconds to weigh up the possibility that this could be a trick that would impact his Christmas present haul (we told him, in the strictest confidence, that Father Christmas has covert surveillance in the kitchen, which is where we were standing at the time).
“I think you could possibly be a better parent if you let me have a paint ball party for my birthday,” was his opening shot. “No, Sam I mean what am I like as a parent? Am I loving? Am I kind? Do I do a good job?” Silence. “I think you would definitely do a better job if you let me have a paint ball party for my birthday. Am I allowed to say that?”
So I tried out the question on my middle trooper, Jude. I am convinced that he is going to be a politician, and you’ll shortly find out why. “Dad – what a question. You’re the best dad in the world!” was his immediate reply, delivered with a beaming smile. “Really? How do you know I’m the best in the world?” “Because when I was in heaven looking for a dad, I checked out every one in the world before I picked you.” I should point out that this follows on from an earlier conversation: ‘where do babies come from?’ but is still very impressive for a boy of 8. And it certainly put a spring in my step.
Finally, I asked my daughter, Liberty. “Yes” she said with all the conviction of a five year old. Before I had time to congratulate myself that two out of three wasn’t bad, she immediately followed it up with, “so can I have some Jawbreakers now?” Jawbreakers are gobstoppers with chewing gum in the middle. “No Lib, you still can’t have any Jawbreakers.” Her thoughtful response? “Fine! You’re a rubbish daddy then!”
So according to the troopers, I am somewhere between rubbish and the best dad in the world. I know I’m not perfect, but I also know that I try to be the best dad that I can be. Unfortunately, ‘right’ isn’t always popular. For example, I know my boys love me but think that their friends who get to play violent video games have won the best parent lottery. But I’m not parenting them for what they want now – I am parenting them for the adults they’ll become.
I told my wife that I am going to ask each of them of the same question on their 18th birthday. She told me not to get my hopes up.