When we had a new washing machine delivered I kept the box. Perfect for a new playhouse for the misses 20 months and 3-and-a-very-important-¾.
I didn’t want a playhouse advertising a manufacturer of white goods though, so that night when the misses were snug in their beds I set to work dismantling the thing and turning it inside out. Not as simple a job as I’d imagined, when I discovered that the cardboard wasn’t that of a regular supermarket box (funnily enough) but high-grade reinforced triple layer cardboard.
Following the job of dismantling, it became swiftly apparent that my trusty glue gun wasn’t going to do the job of sticking all this high-grade box stock back together. Some kind of industrial strength hot rubber glue type of thing was required. Which I didn’t have at 9.30 on a Saturday night. Thank god for extra-wide clear packing tape. It might not be beautiful but it’s certainly effective.
A couple of hours later we had a tall house with a pitched roof, with skylight (the manufacturer’s input, not mine – a happy chance), tall arched doors and a round window.
When miss 3 ¾ saw it the next morning she gasped “It’s a PALACE”. Instant payback for my two hours’ labour!
It was the day of our mid-winter party and while the husband got the bbq going (New Zealand mid-winter can be quite nice, on a good day) I sorted out the house, removing precious and delicate toys from the playroom and giving the Palace pride of place in the girls’ bedroom.
It was an hour or so into the party when a little boy came up to me to report that ‘someone is jumping on the wendy house’. I rushed to the scene to find at least two little boys hurling themselves at my Palace. It was looking decidedly less 'palace' like and more 'ruined castle'. One door was off and the whole structure was on its side in a sorry, squashed-looking state.
“Out!” I ordered, “Everyone out, now, no one plays in here any more.” I didn’t even take the time to identify who was doing the jumping or who the ringleader might be. Two hours I spent, with loving care...
I hope I’m bringing my girls up to respect others’ property – whatever it may be. I believe I am. ‘Boys will be boys’ gives a child, an adolescent or an adult male an excuse for ignorance. Of course children make mistakes – it’s all part of the learning process. But there is a high proportion of parents who allow their male children to behave in a destructive, disruptive way, unfettered, unchecked and undisciplined, because, they say, “Boys will be boys.” Boys will also be wife beaters, child abusers, brawlers, depressives and suicides. Much more so, in this country especially, than girls.
Doing something about this negative trend begins when they are born. Letting them know that they are expected to be sensitive – with regard to the belongings of others, the feelings of others, and consequently with regard to themselves. Teaching our children these things contributes to their sense of belonging, of community and of connection. It’s the foundation of strength and a sense of self. If we don’t allow them this, we’re jumping on their own castles before they’ve even been built.