If there’s one word to describe my parents, it’s active. They are very much on the go and when we were kids, they always had something entertaining up their sleeves, whether it was taking us to London for the day or a week’s camping holiday.
My parents were – and still are – keen exercisers and they kept us fit too. Mum would take us swimming, Dad arranged pub walks and sometimes, we went cycling. Sometimes these walks were a little boring so my brother, sister and I would often race each other or bag a back ride off someone to make it more fun.
As brothers and sisters do, we of course also took every opportunity we had to wind each other up, and to make our walks more entertaining by playing on my brother’s fear of spiders (aren’t children terrible!?). Halfway through one such walk, he stood happily in a pile of leaves until my sister pointed out there were probably spiders exactly where he was standing. He got frightened and grabbed Dad, who tried to pull him out and they both crashed to the ground with my brother still clinging on. Neither of them were hurt so it was all right that the rest of us were laughing.
At the weekends, we typically went shopping in Croydon on Saturday mornings and in the afternoon, we might have gone to one of our nearest parks, Park Hill or Lloyd’s Park. Sunday was usually spent being incredibly lazy and staying in bed till late. On Sunday evenings, my brother and sister went to swimming club in New Addington. My dad took them and stayed at the pool, whilst Mum and I stayed at home. It was a nice feeling to watch Coronation Street and Heartbeat together whilst having a hot drink and buttered crumpets. Mmm!
Of course, I loved being taken on holiday. We camped, visited Europe and New Zealand or spent a week in a cottage. Camping or staying in a cottage was a lot of fun, with plenty of walks, bike rides and even going out crabbing! Our parents also brought along traditional board games like Monopoly, Boggle and cards to play in the evenings. I often wonder whether anyone still plays traditional board games, or if today’s families are more into taking turns on the wii.
My mum is a teacher so when the summer holidays came around, she had lots more time to spend with us, and took us to see the latest films at the cinema – I remember getting to go see Hercules, Pocahontas, A Bug’s Life and 101 Dalmatians (not the animated one!) on the big screen. We somehow convinced Dad to take us to see Matilda and A Little Princess… everybody cried at the latter, although Dad claims he had something in his eye. When Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was in cinemas, we all went to see that as a family – strange to think that 11 years later, families are once again out at the cinema watching Harry Potter.
The parties we had at our house were always enjoyable and I never minded helping out with food, blowing up the balloons or decorating the playroom. What made our parties really fun was that my parents got involved. Do you remember the game Sardines? Our parents would send one child to hide, and then one by one the rest of the children are sent out to find that first person’s hiding place…and to join them no matter how squashed. Once all of us were squashed into our one hiding place like sardines, stifling giggles, our parents would come and find us. Trust me, it’s lots of fun and you really must try it with your kids.
Having chatted with 21st century Mums and Dads, I think most seem to have a good balance between silly, more physical games and using technology to play games. One thing that perhaps never changes is the ritual of a good bedtime story…
As kids we loved how our parents always sent us off to sleep with something nice in our heads. Dad would sing songs to us by our beds, most notably ‘A Four Legged Friend’ and ‘I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly’ or Mum would gather us in her bed and read stories to us. I remember the Mog stories, Percy the Park Keeper, my sister’s big book of fairy tales but most of all, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Sometimes we just drifted off halfway through story tapes.
So that’s what my parents did with my siblings and me in the 90s. What are you twenty first century parents doing with your children? Are you reading to them using iPads or using interactive technology to play games with them? Do you ever dust off that Monopoly box?