This photo says it all: how to make your kids smile for the camera? Blow bubblegum bubbles in their face and show them you're still a kid.
As a mom, I'm constantly struggling to walk the fine line between being fun and being strict, and setting logical rules while maintaining them. As I get older, I have little patience for people who take themselves seriously and those who only think (and talk) about work or themselves. But, most of all, I get fed up with myself when I realise I'm taking myself too seriously.
My son says he loves to "chillax," surely a result of all of my over-programming. My children teach me daily that, more often than not, spontaneity, creativity and simplicity should reign.
The other day, after my kids gave me a piece of bubblegum from a party favor bag, I started blowing bubbles like a bored teenager. I had forgotten all about the satisfaction of a huge bubble, the sound of its obnoxious POP and the addictive gum-snapping which, thrillingly, used to drive my mom crazy. I didn't realise the enormous effect it would have on my children until I watched their eyes expand and their devilish grins show respect for my hidden childhood talent. I'm nowhere near qualifying for The Bubble-Blowing Olympics, but, in the eyes of my children, I could see how much they loved seeing me do something that they thought only kids knew how to do. For a few minutes, I like to think that they saw that I, too, was still a kid.
Two months ago, my children started attending the neighborhood's public school down the street from us where they speak Italian all day long. It's exhausting for them as the learning curve is steep after their four years at their previous American school in Israel where all subjects were taught in English. They now come home tired after hours of no relief in their own language. As predicted, they are picking up the Italian with rapid speed and speaking much more fluently than ever before. But all they want to do is chillax in English in their cocoon at home once they fling off their shoes. I get it.
After my son's first day at his Italian school, he came home and reported that all his playground had on it was a tree. No swing or slide, no soccer ball or jump rope. It's understandable, albeit very unfortunate, that funds might not allow for a jungle gym. But the notion that neither a soccer ball nor a jump rope could be provided by the school is something I just can't understand. "The teachers want us to use our imagination," reported my son. The "playground" is actually more of an entrance to the school than an area where you'd expect to see children playing, with two benches (occupied by the teachers), a couple of weeds, and a cement pavement in addition to its lonely tree. My son ends up reading more than playing tag since the "you're-IT" often leads to aggressiveness.
My American side wants to anonymously deliver potato sacs full of Nerf balls or six packs of bubbles-with-wands to the school janitor and see what happens. I'm not saying that the kids need a trampoline, a waterslide or a merryground. But what's wrong with a ball? Am I asking too much as a parent to ask that kids have the option to play with a ball at recess? In Italian, the word for recess is "ricreazione." How can children foster an imagination or creativity unless there are either related objects or teachers/mentors nearby to inspire them? What kind of recreation is involved in hanging out on asphalt without anything that remotely resembles children?
I might start sending my son to school with a pack of Hubba Bubba. If they won't let him play with a ball, he may as well try to learn how to blow a ball. Sometimes I just wish adults would let kids be kids and stop taking themselves so seriously. Pop.