This week I spent three days on a staff retreat in Norfolk. We stayed in a beautiful old house in the middle of nowhere, it was freezing cold, but we had such a laugh! Places like that generally really freak me, as I am a real townie. This is my worst nightmare being miles away from the nearest Tesco, no internet connection, no mobile phone signal, no television – alone and nothing to do.
I got to thinking how this type of life would be even scarier to my children, who are very much of the 21st century and rely on technology and us as their parents for their entertainment. As parents these days we tend to spend so much money making sure our children get to do all the clubs and extracurricular things we can, to fill their time and make sure they are ‘rounded’ people. When they are not at these clubs then our children are provided with virtual lives to live in, Xboxes, Wii, Nintendo DS, internet and TV. Very rarely being encouraged, or having the time to use their imagination or physical abilities to entertain themselves.
We arrived in Norfolk on Tuesday afternoon, and as adults managed to spend a pleasant evening chatting over a glass of wine together the first night (all of us bemoaning the fact we couldn’t check our email and Facebook accounts!). The following morning I got up and went for a walk in the gardens. There was a very fresh breeze blowing across the flat Norfolk fens which was invigorating to say the least!
I came across a children’s play area, and headed for a swing to sit on, enjoying the silence. I then found myself beginning to make the swing work, throwing my legs backward and forward, making the swing go higher and higher. The cold breeze took on a different meaning, it was no longer just invigorating but invoking all kinds of wonderful childhood memories of the park at the end of our road and the amazing times I had spent there as a child with my Mum and Dad. I was so excited that I had remembered how to make the swing work, I laughed out loud at my achievement as the wind took my breath away. How sad it was that my parents had spent so much money on my piano lessons as a kid, but now I couldn’t remember how to play; the extra hours my Dad had worked for me to have tenor recorder lessons also, but I am not a virtuoso performer. None of those things had really enhanced my life. Yet here I was enjoying something so much that hadn’t cost a penny to learn, just a bit of their time and encouragement. I could remember my Dad showing me how to swing my legs back and forth, the laughter we shared as I got it so wrong, legs all over the place and the sense of achievement I felt when finally got the hang of it.
I have spent hours nagging my girls to do their piano practice when we should have been sitting on a swing together! The real things they remember, the real things that make them ‘rounded’ people, are the FREE things – our love, our time and our encouragement.
See you at the park!