Back from Blighty and with mixed feelings. The late summer evenings sipping wine whilst gossiping with friends, makes for a nostalgic feeling of home. I have been mentally comparing my two lives since we arrived back last week.
But the biggest difference is my son compared to other children his age.
Now I shall begin with a caveat - I am not the comparing type of mum and neither are my friends. We all find parents whose kids are better at this and that slightly sad. I also know my little one is unique so totally incomparable. However....
We found ourselves in an adventure playground in Dulwich on a beautiful day - sunny and warm, (or very hot judging by the cries of sun-cream clenching parents) with ice-cream vans on all sides. The playground itself was full to the brim with children speaking multiple languages and from multiple races - London at it's finest. So our little boy rapidly joins in the fun, wanting to do everything at once, frenetically running from one side to the next.
There was a large pirate ship for climbing on, complete with balance beam, slides and swings. It was surrounded with spongy, bouncy landing pads. It wouldn't prevent a fall or a scrape but it was cushioned to minimise a broken bone or six. Our three year old was scared. He couldn't master the pirate ship frame because he lacked the co-ordination to do so.
'Ahhh' we sighed, rushing to help him. 'Bless him" we thought, "he is new to this and still very little' - until it became obvious that actually it was more than that.
He had never been on such paraphernalia. Our village slide onto sand posed no real danger or indeed effort. And because the weather is so hot here, we don't really spend much time at the local parks.... Yep, here come the excuses! He hadn't been on a round-a-bout or swing since he was very little. Nor had he spent much time outside. Blah blah blah.
It dawned on me that we spent a lot of our time in the indoor play parks where everything is highly managed - everything has a soft landing. The indoor play areas at Eckamai and Funairum are great and we have been there on lots of occasion. They provide hours of jumping,running and laughter but in reality they don't have any real world prep and by that I mean levels of challenge.
Even at his school the 'soft play room' (a padded cell) meant he was able to run and jump and fall with no fear. A fear he couldn't shake at the adventure park. We have turned our rambunctious three-year-old into an overly cautious scaredy-cat.
But the scaredy-cat is me really. The surfaces at home are all tiles and wood flooring so jumping from sofa to sofa is a no-no. The fact that I am not sure of the A&E response units getting here and through traffic, makes me question every activity with a scrutiny reserved only for health and safety pen pushers.
I often read things about children spending too much time watching telly, playing on iPads, or staying indoors and never once considered the real impact of those things because up until now, they didn't affect us.
But it has certainly made an impact and comparing my three-year-old to our friends at home, there is a real difference. I have seen the differences in teaching children here - more complicit, polite etc, but to see the physical and emotional response in my own child was a real surprise and one I am open to suggestions of how to change.