The four of us – we’re a neat little unit and we love spending our free time together. James and I often do things on our own, but we hardly ever divide up the parenting and do different things with each child. Now the boys are getting older this is actually a really refreshing thing to do. Six and four-year-olds are great company when they’re on their own – free from having to compete with each other, they behave like mini-adults.
This bank holiday weekend, we didn’t all want to do the same thing on Saturday. Instead of one person compromising we decided to head in very different directions. Gabriel and I caught the train to Cambridge to soak up some culture, while James took Tom for a country walk at the Devil’s Dyke.
For a bit of change, I’m going to share James’ point of view as well as my own – I hope you enjoy hearing from him!
After catching the train from Ely to Cambridge (which takes barely twenty minutes) we walked to the Fitzwilliam Museum. The museum is pretty impressive from the outside – a proper museum you might say, with steps, columns and porticos. I wanted to look at the paintings with Gabriel so we headed up to the galleries first. As soon as we walked into the Impressionist room I was surprised to hear a little voice next to me say, ‘look mummy, those paintings are by Claude Monet – we’re doing about him at school.’ Delighted with this discovery, we had a good look at the Monet paintings on display and chatted about them. Springtime was our favourite and later on, we bought a postcard for him to show his class.
After that, we headed downstairs to look at the Ancient Egyptian things. I still remember a school trip to look at these, so it was nice to look at them with him. I then persuaded him to take a look at some of the amazing ceramics on display – my favourite are the teapots. This led us round to the cafe and we enjoyed a civilised lunch together – a ploughman’s for me and a cheese roll for him.
We left the museum after that, and walked into town to look for the little bag of Lego he wanted in John Lewis. It was insanely busy, as ever, but it’s much easier to navigate this with just one child in tow. Then, it was back to the train station to catch our train home – tired, but happy.
I really appreciated this time on my own with my eldest son. The endless chatter of two children can be deafening sometimes and it was so simple to focus my energy on just one child. We chatted about interesting things, and there was no eye-rolling or huffing from either of us!
Things Gabriel enjoyed:
- Getting the train
- Going the museum and looking at the Monet paintings
- Having a grown-up lunch
- Going to John Lewis (!)
James and Tom met us at the station and we had a nice little reunion – Tom’s happy little face told me he’d had a great time with his daddy.
As a parent, you put a lot of energy into trying to control the way your children behave towards each other. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it’s completely futile micro-management. It’s not always healthy.
The joy of spending time with just one of your children is that you can throw all that away. The relationship becomes immediately simpler and more enjoyable – and you automatically stop doing a lot of the boring things that you think you’re supposed to get right. It’s both more adult, and more equal.
Tom and I walked along a section of the Devil’s Dyke – a huge earthwork that has divided this part of Cambridgeshire from Suffolk since Anglo Saxon times. The narrow path runs along the top of a grassy bank, with a ditch on one side that drops more than the height of our house. We followed it for about a mile, then cut diagonally across wheat and oilseed rape fields to get to Swaffham Prior and its two windmills. Finally, we walked back along the road to find the car – a total of three miles. Circular walks are rare around here.
- Not being made to wear a coat.
- Filling his pockets (and mine) with chunks of chalk from the ground.
- Spotting the difference between different kinds of poo, and working out which ones he needed to avoid treading in: dog vs. sheep vs. rabbit vs. bird.
- Collecting sheep’s wool from thorns.
- Realising that “dyke” rhymes with “bike”. And “like”. And “hike”.
- Eating wine gums whilst being carried along the final bit of road (“because being carried makes my legs tired”).
We also saw a buzzard, kestrels, “sleeping horsies”, courting owls, and a hare’s bottom. Tom’s summary of the day: “I liked it very nice. It was nice doing it, just me and you’’
How about you? What do you enjoy doing when you have time with just one child?