I REMEMBER when we were small, whenever we’d ask my mother what she wanted for Christmas, she’d reply that she wanted “a bit of peace”.
Not all the peace, just a bit — there isn’t a shred of greed in a proper Irish Mammy. We assumed she meant peace in Northern Ireland or maybe the Middle East, but now, of course, I get it — she just wanted us to leave her alone.
I was thinking about this recently when we watched Marriage Story on Netflix, with Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. (It isn’t the worst, if you like Woody Allen movies without the jokes.)
There is a bit at the start where the couple list out what they like about their partner, and he says he loves the way she plays with their son, really plays with him.
At this point we see a shot of her getting down to the kid’s level to examine some toy, just in case we missed the point — she really plays with him.
It had the desired effect. I felt a bit guilty. I don’t really play with my kids enough, and when I do, it takes a deliberate effort.
I have to remind myself to stay there as long as they want me to stay there, and do whatever they want me to do. The truth is, particularly on a weekday before or after work, that I’d rather have five minutes on my own, pushing a bit of dirt around the worktop on the counter in case my wife thinks I’m skiving off.
(She likes to fold the washing in these situations — we all have our own moves when it comes to getting ‘the bit of peace’.)
I’m going to try and do better this Christmas. Obviously, I don’t know what Santa is going to bring at the time of writing, but there is a good chance there will be a raft of new toys that really need to be played with. My five year old will want me to play with his new Transformer.
This usually involves me lying on the ground holding an old Captain America, while he bashes it with said new Transformer. Maybe there are parents out there who enjoy doing this, but I’m not one of them.
A lot of this is down to the fact that I’m getting too old to be lying on the ground. It’s grand for Scarlett Johansson, she probably has four people to look after her glutes.
But I’m at the moany-groany phase now when it comes to lowering myself down to the ground. It doesn’t help that when I finally get down there, I’ll end up lying on tiny plastic toy that popped out of a cracker on Christmas morning — that hurts.
But not as much as the look on my son’s face when I say I’m too busy to help him play Join The Dots. So, it’s time to really play with him for a week.
Which means I really need to impose a mobile phone ban on myself. I’m addicted to my mobile phone, have been for a while. As far as I can see, we all are.
Less phone time is my new year’s resolution, I’ll write more about it here next week. Right now, I’m going to pilot a four-hour window every day, just to see if I can switch off the internet and switch on to my kids.
With any luck, they’ll take pity on my old bones and allow me to play games that involve sitting down.
Our seven year old has started playing chess for some reason, I might even let her beat me a few times just because it’s Christmas.
Hopefully, the weather will play ball, so we can get out and mess about in some woods for a couple of hours. And maybe when we come home I’ll be allowed to crash out and watch Where Eagles Dare on ITV4+1. Anything for a bit of peace.