… in the same way as boys do. I have decided that this is one of life’s Universal Truths.
Here’s how a car-play session goes between Joe and Daddy:
Joe: Brrrrrrrmmm. BrrrrrRRRRMMMMM!!
Daddy: Brrrrrmmm. Rrrrmmmmm. BRRRRRUUUUMMMM!
Joe: ‘Again, again!’
Beams and nods. And repeat. Many times.
Now. Here’s how a car-play session goes between Joe and Me:
Joe: Brrrrrrrmmm. BrrrrrRRRRMMMMM!!
Me: Brrrrrmmm. Rrrrmmmmm. BRRRRRUUUUMMMM!
Joe: ‘Not like THAT Mummy!’
Smashes cars together in frustration. Stomps off in a huff. (Joe, not me. Most of the time.)
As a relatively self-aware Mum I know that I find it easier to relate to what are traditionally considered to be ‘Girl’ games. In the early days I used to try and encourage Joe to make a garage for his cars, and tuck them into bed. Naivety doesn’t even come close. In my simplistic mind it had worked for Ella so surely it was worth a try, right?
At some point it registered that Joe is a BOY. So I watched him playing with Daddy. And I made mental notes. And I tried very very hard to man-up my car-play:
- I practiced my ‘BBRRRRRUUUUMMM’ in the shower. To amused looks from my other half.
- I Googled ‘playing with toy cars’. Have you ever done this? Fascinating. And in some cases a bit, well, weird!
- I watched Toy Story. Again.
- I even crept into my boy’s room during school-time to have a play on my own in a desperate attempt to jettison any remaining awkwardness around all things mechanical.
- I made myself available for motor-mania at every opportunity.
Things have improved without a doubt, but there is no getting away from it – Daddy-car-play is still preferable to Mummy-car-massacre in his eyes. Sigh. If Daddy’s not around then my pathetic attempts will generally suffice. Under sufferance, and amid much eye-rolling and fist-clenching from my boy. He’s very patient.
I used to think it was just me, but this weekend an impromptu session of Mum-therapy showed me I’m far from alone.
Dropping Joe off at a friend’s house for a birthday party I was corralled into joining the other Mums in their garden for a glass of the red stuff. Imagine. Relaxing on a Saturday afternoon instead of chipping ice off the freezer or getting tooled-up to do battle with the oven-spray. You know, they really had to twist my arm.
The party was in honour of a little pal of Joe’s who has just turned three (my boy is three-and-a-half). In a perfect reflection of text-book-preschoolers the group, which numbered four, spent a happy time largely ignoring each other. Until one decided it was time to play on the ride-on tractor. At which point cherry-picking, caterpillar-hunting, and random digging were simultaneously abandoned and the little men swarmed around the vehicular honey-pot in a mass of grubby knees and pointy-elbows.
We Mummy-guests offered objective support from a distance in our bubble of relief while the resident Mum exercised her parental muscles to resolve the conflict with a lesson in sharing and a fair degree of small-boy-lifting and re-siting (who needs kettlebells?). Re-filling her wine glass we did the empathy thing and then collectively reflected on boys and their toys.
To a woman we have all experienced the car-play scenario above. Many many many times. And it seems impossible to resolve, despite our best creative attempts.
I’m sure there are Mums out there whose car-play is to the satisfaction of their young male offspring. but now I know I’m not entirely alone I don’t feel so bad. I do my best. In car-play with my boy, in character-play with my girl. And every single time I do anything remotely child-related. That’s what being a parent is about after all. No instructions, no rule book. Just a terrifying fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants ride where the only thing you can do with any certainty is – your best. The odd cry of ‘Vive la différence!’ works too.
And so does the odd glass of red.