The importance of play

I’m sitting in Shinjuku Chuo Park, in a patch of sun. The place is packed today with nurseries: lots of pre-school kids with brightly coloured baseball caps. Reminds me of Copenhagen. The use of public space by nurseries and schools is something both cities have in common. It’s such a clever way of using public spaces and ensuring good investment in them because they are being used. Something the UK could learn from.

Nursery kids at Shinjuku Chuo Park

Anyway. We’re here at the playground again because this is what travelling is like with a 4 year old. Our 4 year old at least. He’s gone from a routine where he has free play all day to one where he’s in a confined space of a hotel room or restaurant or shop or train or museum or shrine. All day. It’s no wonder he’s acting up. And when I say acting up, I mean being a nightmare. Causing both of us to wonder what exactly we do next and neither of us having a clue. Those parenting moments wen you think: “Fuck. This is mental. Who is this creature? How do we tame it? Can I leave?!” We had that last night when trying to put big M to sleep after little M was down. He didn’t want to get out of the bath and that was it: caged tiger, hidden dragon, all spitting and firing at once. So little M woke up and then we have two overly tired little ones screaming.

That’s the thing about travelling. We are all in a small room together. There is no space to give time-outs or allow big M to cry it out or re-centre himself in his room. It’s very intense and I’m wondering how others do it. If we had loads of money, we’d get two hotel rooms next to each other. But it’s twice as much (and accommodations is already expensive) and would also mean every night Dan and I would be apart. So…

On ‘dead worm road’ on the way to Meiji shrine…
Acorn collecting in Yoyogi Park

Importance of play. This is one of our tactics, after a debrief over corner-shop beer and whisky in the small hours of this morning. Others include reducing sugar intake, remembering healthy snacks, eating proper meals at set times, communicating expectations and no physical interventions (ie. if he refuses to leave playground/get out bath, don’t pick him up to force him). These things we already know but it’s good to remind ourselves. When tiredness and irritation kick in, it’s hard to parent perfectly.

And most of all: cuddles. For everyone. It’s important to feel connected. Especially for the adults. Go team.

Post-bed time coping strategy

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