Friday, August 15, 2014

Relishing Kampong play

One of the things I loved about Enid Blyton's boarding school stories was that there was always a half-term holiday. In Singapore, I suppose that amounts to the week break in March and September. Even then, the terms always felt a bit too long and by week 6, we would be wilting and limping along.

Thankfully, the last two weeks have had days off in abundance. Last week, there was the National Day long weekend and this week ended on Wednesday. It's meant that JED have had a lot of time to play.

The school-going twins have come home reporting that many of their friends have been or are still out of town. Effectively, if any primary school (bar Primary 6) child were to skip school on Tuesday and Wednesday, they would have been off from last Thursday till the coming Monday. 10 days. 10 days is a good and decent length for a holiday. Of course, the twins wanted to go and stay in a hotel or take an airplane; both of which we said a flat no to.

It's drawn attention to the fact that the twins, because of school and their age, are beginning to want the same things that their classmates have. And the last thing we want to do is to raise expectant children who think nothing about holidaying overseas every chance they get and also expect money to be spent keeping them occupied and happy.

So, in response to their plea to stay in a hotel or to go on holiday over the National Day weekend, we took them to a roof-top picnic where they could watch the national flag being flown in for the National anthem, the fly by and eventually, the fireworks. It was where they also ate frozen tubes of colouring (a blast from the past from our own childhood days), sat on the ground and ate fried rice out of plastic bowls and chased each other till they were drenched in sweat. They came to the conclusion that playing catch on a roof top was loads of fun, fried rice tasted better while sitting out in the open and out of a plastic bowl and that Mommy was right, those frozen things tasted foul.

Knowing that the last two days have been a holiday for them (PSLE Oral Exams mean P1s to P5s get to stay home and wrestle with their online learning platforms) but not for Papa, they knew not to hound us for a hotel stay. They did however try to  angle an indoor play gym session with their friends. It isn't that I have anything against indoor play gyms; In fact, I actually quite like them because I can leave them to it (except when Muffin jumps about too much and throws up). But  Packrat and I had long decided that if we didn't need to spend money entertaining them, we wouldn't. Our logic has always been why pay money to choose recycled air and an artificial play environment when the outdoors is haze free and free free? On top of that, there is so much literature out there about the 'over-protected' kid and the helicopter parent that emphasises free play, extensively.

So, in response to their constant mewing about indoor play gyms, I took them, to where I went every time we were on vacation. The beach. Granted the beach was much cleaner and less polluted back then but after I swept the area for broken glass shards, I left them to it. They jumped waves, got sand in their clothes and also got, quite obviously, very wet. It was about picking up sticks, digging up sand and generally, trying to empty the ocean.

Their only bug bear was that it was a trip cut short because of extremely ominous storm clouds that quickly dissolved into big, hail like drops pelting down at us. They did however get to experience getting soaked by the rain, sitting on newspapers in the car and having pools of water swilling around in their shoes.

All in, we did nothing special over the last ten days but played the way I remember play to be when I was a child. It had more to do with neighbours and friends, imagining games and playing make belief than gadgets, gizmos and a padded room full of plastic balls. And just as I did 30 years ago, when I called them in to dinner, they refused to come home. Eventually they did so reluctantly, under duress, but immediately begged to go back out again after dinner. To do what? Use torchlights to hunt snails and cockroaches. And they were bringing salt with them to see what it would do to the snail.

Ewww... Sure, go ahead (The after dinner play session) but NO salt (That would be just plain cruel to the snail) and don't forget to wash the cockroach juice off your fingers, JED!


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