So, today I was sitting in a ludicrously out-of-the-way soft play centre, with no adult company, reading my book. The book in question was How Children Learn, by a chap called John Holt, and I have to say, I was taking the opportunity to feel pretty good about myself. I was reading all about how children instinctively seek as much information and input as possible, when learning about something new, and only try to hone in on what information is useful to them as a second stage. That they need all the irrelevant information as well, in order to spot the patterns, which then lead them to focus on the more relevant bits.
And I was feeling pretty good about myself. Because I don’t know why Daisy had been harbouring (for some weeks) a burning need to visit a soft play centre with a ball pool. A ball pool which she, at nearly seven, would be allowed in. Our last attempt to fulfil the ball pool need failed, because it was in the toddler section, which she knows perfectly well she is too big to use. So today, I scoured the web for information on soft play with ball pools in the main play frame. It wasn’t easy – I can only imagine that most soft play clientele are less specific in their requirements than us, because mostly, their websites are not very clear about whether they have a ball pool, and whether the nearly-seven-year-olds are allowed in it.
Anyway, I discovered that a place in Warrington appeared to fit the bill, so I piled the children into the car, drove them the 15 miles or so to Warrington, in fancy dress (half price if you come dressed as a princess or a pirate – I felt distinctly grubby about suggesting the children dress up to save me £5, but I did it), and sent them off to play.
The book made me feel like I had done the right thing. Daisy clearly perceived a need in herself that could be filled by the opportunity to play in a ball pool. I don’t know why. It wasn’t just a passing fancy, she’s gone on about it for weeks. I’m not great at responding instantly to these things, and there was a certain amount of self-sacrifice involved for me – I usually avoid going to these places without another adult to chat to, I don’t much like going to new places without some moral support anyway, it was miles away, and the uncertainty of the fancy-dress-discount made me nervous. Anxious. But I went. I met her apparent need, at some small personal cost to myself, and then read about it why it was good that I did. And I felt good.
And then Henry made two different children cry through random acts of violence, in the space of 5 minutes, and I realised that meeting her need had meant taking him into a situation that was too exciting, too stimulating, and beyond his ability to cope. I sacrificed the needs of one child for the needs of the other. And what’s more, Daisy wasn’t a bit grateful to me for doing it for her. It all went a bit sour, frankly.
I compensated Henry by doing maths games on Education City (website) with him when we got home. After I’d given him down-the-banks for the biting and hitting incidents, obviously.
Still, tomorrow’s another day, eh?