Any parent of a small person not living under a rock (even if they wish there were) would know of Bluey. Set in Brisbane, it is a celebration of family life and is infinitely relatable. It’s the Peppa Pig of Australia which is excellent news because Peppa is obnoxious and annoying. The episodes are diverse and astonishingly accurate portrayal of what it is like raising small children. It is a show that parents have admitted to watching long after the kids have left the room. To pick a favourite episode might be a bit like picking a favourite child.
‘Army’ is a celebrates neuro diversity, ‘Baby Race’ is the episode that very nearly made my heart dissolve and for every mother who enjoys the peace and simplicity of a lone walk, then the episode ‘Beach’ will have special meaning.
But the only dog bone I have to pick with Bluey and it’s not Bluey’s fault, by the way, but the show in all its relatable brilliance has made me realise how useless I am at playing with my child.
Chilli and Bandit (Bluey and Bingo’s parents for the uninitiated) are nailing parenthood and crushing imagination play and I am envious of a couple of fictional cartoon dogs.
They are making me look bad.
I was an excellent parent, albeit a very judgemental one, before I actually had my child. Pre motherhood, I was very uninformed about what kind of parent I would be, perhaps it was a coping mechanism for the shit time I had trying to fall pregnant, my way to get through the possibility of not having a child was to be very clear about how I would parent, and this also meant being oblivious to the realities of parenting. So when I would hear or read about parents saying that they didn’t like playing with their child I would huff and puff at the indignity of people having children who couldn’t bother to play with them. A decade or so ago, I recall reading a column in the weekend paper, written by Mia Freedman she confessed that she did not like playing with her child and she in fact would ‘dread it.’
Pass me my slice of humble pie.
Lest this be an open apology to Mia and to others because I thought that they did not know how grateful they should be to have a child to play with in the first instance and what I know now is of course they are grateful for their child. I am grateful for my child every single day but nobody said being grateful meant sitting in the dirt and doing the voice of a monster truck talking to another monster truck.
Though I don’t like playing with my child, not all playtime is created equal so herein is my manifesto on play.
2. Even better, I love a full day’s activity. I love spending time with my son, but I’ve long said that I parent better out of the house than inside the house, so a full day out – a theme park, the zoo. A full day’s activity almost always equates to a decent bedtime routine unless you’ve driven a long distance to get home from said activity and your child has fallen asleep, then it’s game over. Literally.
3. I can tolerate a park, but the quality of the park is in direct proportion to the existence of nearby cafe. A park without coffee is less than optimal. I am yet to understand why urban planners don’t include little takeaway coffee nooks in all parks.
4. In theory, playing Lego should be a leisurely way to spend an afternoon but what almost always happens is that out of the 5302 pieces strewn all over the Lego table, I will pick up a small grey piece to add to my tiny little house and even though there are 3043 other small grey pieces my son will tell me that he was just about to use the EXACT piece I have in my hand. I then have to relinquish said piece and gosh, are we having fun yet?
5. Board games. There are board games that require a PhD to read through all of the instructions (Jumanji) there are board games that require an engineering degree to put them together (mousetrap) and then there is Monopoly. Monopoly however can take a long time to play, but on the plus, you are seated. To keep the game moving along I use to let my child win and I found the easiest way to do this was to forget to pay myself whenever I passed go. This was an excellent for my own time management but bad for my son’s resilience, not to mention that I am pretty sure The Barefoot Investor would consider this irresponsible parenting.
6. Now we play Monopoly, and my strategy is to win at all costs. Hell that no fury than a child who doesn’t get to buy Boardwalk.
7. Only this weekend I spent
hours 20 minutes playing Minecraft with my son. This doesn’t mean sitting in front of the TV watching Minecraft but rather being in the backyard pretending to be zombie. The trouble with this kind of imagination play is that I don’t get to use my imagination but instead I’m constantly berated for using the wrong voice and getting the action wrong. He is incredulous when I don’t follow his rules and sighs in disappointment at my efforts. In life, I want my child to respectfully push the boundaries and challenge the status quo, I just don’t fancy him doing it on a Sunday afternoon when I’m being deprived of my freedom and forced to do ninja moves.
8. Art and craft is mostly tolerable. That is, providing there is no glitter, glue, play doh, pom poms, feathers and tiny bits of felt. And that there is definitely no sole sharpie lids. Every parents shudders when they see a lid without a sharpie.
9. Cooking with kids could be defined as an activity but it is a highly controversial and the scale of enjoyment very subjective. To participate you need to be fearless. Or you need to be Jaime Oliver.
9. Hide and Seek. Played well, there are some very obvious benefits of this game.
10. Here is some advice that you won’t read about in any parenting advice column. Pay attention, because this is magic that you won’t see on Bluey. When your child is making their own fun and playing on their own, under no circumstance should you MAKE. EYE. CONTACT.
11. There is a game that quite frankly is both genius and enjoyable and I can’t take any credit for it (I read about it on someone’s Facebook feed.) Here’s what you do. You (the parent) lies down on your bed and your child has to sit beside you and using just one finger they have to draw a picture and your job is to guess what they’ve drawn. If your smart (and don’t guess to quickly) this could equate to 30 minutes quality play time with your child, it’s sort of educational and you get a back tickle for your zero effort. Sheer brilliance.
And if all else fails, there is always back to back Bluey episodes to watch.