Our garden is huge. I’m not bragging here, I’m just stating a fact. Our house is tiny (I think I may have mentioned this before 😉 ), but our garden? Well it’s at least three times the foot print of the house. It’s wider than the property, unusual in a terrace cottage like ours, and around 100ft in length. It has a shed and what was called, rather grandly in the property details, a “summer house” (we still call it that but really its a glorified 15ft wide shed, with a porch and a deck at the bottom of the garden). It’s flat all the way down (unusual in an area called the Surrey Hills!) and it’s what truly sold us the house.
We moved in just as I found out I was pregnant (typical!) but I remember thinking how exciting it would be to have all this space to play in. The first year I had Oscar the summer weather was awful. The beautiful summer maternity leave I’d been promised never truly materialised and hanging out in the garden every day we were not. Oscar went through a phase of experiencing the “witching hour”. Did your children ever do that? Inexplicably and inconsolably start wailing for around an hour, usually in the late afternoon? Mine did. Usually between 5 and 6. You could set your watch by it. And the only thing and I’m serious when I say the only thing that ever helped calm him down during these periods, was taking him, in my arms, out in to the garden. I would walk him around and he would look up at the trees and the sky and stop crying. Just like that. I willed the rain to cease every day!
But we never actually played in the garden much.
Last summer was, and I’m not exaggerating when I say this, glorious! It was a polar opposite to the previous year and there were times we had to stay in as it was just too sunny! We got good at applying suncream quickly and thoroughly and finding hats that had been dropped en-route. The garden became more of a place to hang out, but it suddenly started to show it’s dangers too. We’d baby proofed the house to within an inch of it’s life, but never considered the garden. The thought of Oscar diving off the two stone steps onto the patio face first still makes me wince. He was upset, I mean who wouldn’t have been be having just taken of half the skin on their face, but he was more upset that I would let him straight back out into the garden once I’d cleaned him up. Seriously! I liked that he wanted to be outside, but I spent the whole of last summer shouting STOP! and WAIT FOR MAMA, every time he ran down the garden. In the end my heart couldn’t take it any more and I got quotes to have fences put up all over the garden. I wanted a pen (albeit a large pen) to keep him safe in. But in the end it was so expensive, I just made a barrier out of chairs across half of the garden. Their physical presence, seemed to deter him most of the time. I mean he did climb through the legs a couple of times, but all in all my stress levels went down and I could enjoy being out there with him. And I had to be out there with him constantly. He had no interest in playing with me, but as the summer wore on he got good at stopping at the top of the steps and putting one hand in the air to indicate he wanted to descend them. He wasn’t really interested in playing with many of his toys in the garden, except his ball and his little toddler slide. And those he adored.
We went out as much as I could take sitting on the grass and watching his every move.
And now he’s nearly 2. This past week the sun has miraculously appeared. In March! Well that was that. He refused to stay in the house a moment longer. It’s not yet summer but that doesn’t matter to the boy. He has discovered the best way to tell me he wants out is to bring me his wellies (he’s an actions speak louder than words kinda guy) sometimes before he’s even dressed. He adores being allowed to run around the entire garden, now the barrier has been removed. Next door have put up the most amazingly sturdy fence where there was only bushes before so it’s much tidier and safer up at the end. He’s new domain is the deck outside the summer house. He has all his push around/ride on toys around him and he’ll push them around or lie next to them, watch their wheels in motion. He rarely rides them – too slow Mama! Gotta keep moving. And I have discovered that I don’t have to be sat next to him every second. Maybe this is a confidence thing. I am confident in his confidence? But it’s fab! I can go and hang the washing out or tend to my herbs or take some photos, occasionally looking up to the deck to make sure he’s not pulling up Daddy’s onions or trashing the strawberries. And when I’m done I can go and sit on the deck and have a ‘chat’ with my little guy. I think the garden is good for him. He’s never unhappy in the garden. He’s only unhappy when I have to bring him in (it’s rare for him to come in of his own accord – most times I have to carry him and it worries me how I’ll cope when he gets too big to carry – maybe by then he’ll respond to bribes 😉 ).
I can see that he’s going to be out there all the time – the garden we fell in love with, is really going to come into it’s own this year.
I can see his development changes so clearly in the garden. I wonder why that is? And I truly believe he’s learning stuff too? Not academically maybe, but he’s so curious and pushing boundaries of what I thought him capable of yet. He ‘helped’ Ben plant some strawberries last weekend and he and I have looked at some ‘wiggly worms’ today. He has no concept or understanding of what these things are or mean yet, but we’ll come to that. He’s just so happy to be out there. And maybe that’s going to translate throughout his life. Maybe he’s just going to be an outdoorsy kinda kid. Ben was. Me? Well not so much. I didn’t go in for camping and tree climbing and running and all that.
Hang on, yes I did! I climbed trees in a sort of park over the road from my house, so regularly that we each had our own tree, like old men in a pub. We made dens out of fallen branches and went tadpole spotting in the stream and digging for buried treasure. I used to make Acorn ‘butter’ and rose petal ‘perfume’ with ingredients I found and blackberry crumble from wild fruit we gathered. I rode my bike everywhere, even to school, from the age of about 7 to 11. We were never indoors in the summer holidays! But I was rarely in the garden, I was all over the village where we lived. I was young, but I was courageous, adventurous and often in A&E 😉 Thank you mum for letting me be that way. I was so an outdoorsy kinda kid. Why did I think I wasn’t? What happened to make me forget? Isn’t it crazy that it’s taken such a little person to make me remember?
Come on Oscar – lets go play!