The simple things

In amongst the whirl of iPads, DVDs and all the other technological accoutrements of modern family life, it’s so often the simple things that our kids keep coming back to. They’re largely the same things which gave me hours of fun when I was their age. But when did I forget about these?

Somewhere along the line I grew up, became a responsible adult and forgot all about those sepia-tinged days when I could spend entire rainy afternoons pushing Matchbox cars around an improvised obstacle course in our living room, or play card games with my dad, or invent games of my own with nothing more than a pencil and paper. Life was fun.

Somewhere along the line I became all sensible, realising and accepting that real life throws a variety of slings and arrows at you. Games were things I played with dedicated consoles and sophisticated hand controls, no longer the products of a child’s active imagination. Fun remained a part of life, but tempered by reality.

Somewhere along the line, water became a scarce resource to be taken seriously and used with careful thought. Efficient showers instead of luxurious baths. Hosepipe bans. In excess, a climatic threat to homes and infrastructure. A precious commodity, not something to be wasted.

Paddling pool triptychTo our children, though, water is so much more. On the one hand, they are so much more aware of its scarce nature than my generation was growing up, when all we were told was that water was so abundant that it covered seven-tenths of the Earth’s surface. But on the other, they’re still willing to embrace the fun it offers in many forms. So when we showed up at my parents’ house last weekend and they discovered the new paddling pool, they were beside themselves with delight.

Isaac and Toby were soon racing the entire length of the garden so they could leap in at full speed, while Kara splashed happily in the middle while the boys wreaked havoc around her. There’s nothing that brings a smile to my face more quickly than watching the three of them playing together like that, with joy that is both unconfined and unadulterated by any grown-up sensibilities.

And it’s not just water. The boys love their cars (and, to their father’s delight, Top Gear), regularly testing one another to list all the models available from a specific manufacturer. They quiz each other on national flags, challenging each other to name a country based on the colours of its flag. They both love to draw and, in Isaac’s case, write. (Our eldest is much like me in that he takes great delight in manipulating words the way a knife-thrower casually tosses blades.)

I couldn’t be more delighted. They may be products of the 21st century – all three of them are as comfortable with a touchscreen display or a mouse as kids of 30 years ago used to be with a Rubik’s cube – but they haven’t forgotten the simple things. I hope they never do.