I’ve been reading The Art of Roughhousing by Anthony Benedet and Lawrence Cohen. I can’t remember how I came across it – I imagine it was mentioned in one of the dozens of parenting/home ed books I’ve read lately and it appealed to me partly because I don’t really do roughhousing and partly because Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen is one of the best parenting books I’ve ever read.
The book begins with the many benefits of roughhousing with your kids – apparently it’s good for emotional intelligence, physical strength, motor skills, it can “nurture close connections, solve behavior problems, boost confidence”. As I was reading I was thinking it all sounds great, but do I really want to wrestle? Not so much. Plus I’ve no idea how to go about it. Where do you begin? I needn’t have worried. In the next chapter, the authors give examples and they’re as simple as putting the kids in a trap (you know, with your arms or legs around them rather than an actual trap) and challenging them to get out. David’s always done this with Harry and Joe – he calls it a “cuddle trap”. Or sitting down on your kid and pretending you don’t know they’re there – I do this all the time: “This cushion is surprisingly lumpy!” Or standing palm to palm and trying to push each other over. Or simple horsey-rides on your knee. As I read, I thought it sounded doable.
This morning, Harry came up to the bedroom and flopped down on my bed. So I sat on him. As I told him about the book I’d been reading, I started to do stuff like grab him with my legs and roll him over. He was already laughing and starting to join in and he looked both a bit surprised and a bit thrilled. I told him if either person wanted to stop and get free they could say a word like “Peanut” and the other person had to stop immediately. He said, “Peanut!” I stopped. I said, “Didn’t you like it?” He said, “Un-peanut!” We started again.
We wrestled for about five minutes, trapping each other with our legs and trying to get free. He is surprisingly strong! And we were laughing so much that Joe came up to join us. I told Joe the rules and added “No biting and no jumping” and we did it for a bit longer. Then I told them there’s a list of activities in the book, from very simple to much harder and would they like to work through them. They both said yes and so we tried the pushing with our palms things and Harry beat me 4-1, FFS. Joe couldn’t quite manage it and got a bit giddy, so we stopped. Then there may have been some trumping and we all ended up lying on the bed in fits.
And it was just fantastic. The whole thing. I loved how excited the boys were – Harry in particular seemed really thrilled. I loved that it was me doing it and not David because it’s not the kind of thing I usually do with them – I noticed when we looked through last year’s photos that when anything physical was going on, David was doing it and I was taking photos of it.
But mainly it was just really good fun (and good exercise – I should think I’ll feel it in my thighs tomorrow).
Bit perturbed that the Amazon blurb says ‘Arriving just in time for Father’s Day … the perfect gift for rowdy dads everywhere’, but the book makes clear it’s great for mothers and daughters too, obviously.