This edition of “Ramblings” is dedicated to all parents of young children. John and I have just returned from a 5 day holiday spent with our daughter and grandchildren – and I am full of respect for parents who cope with the demands of young children on a daily basis!
Our grandchildren are Alba, aged 2, and Huw, aged 5 months but wearing 9 month old clothes because he is such a chunky fella! We were staying in a cottage on a farm in West Yorkshire; a remote location near to Holmfirth. The views from the farm were stunning – when the clouds cleared! We had a good journey there and stopped at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the way. This was a place that I particularly wanted to visit and we were fortunate to have a few hours of clear skies and sunshine in which to enjoy it.
Unfortunately the weather then turned and the rest of the holiday was wet and stormy. Katie (our daughter), Alba and I went out at 8.30am to feed the animals in the pouring rain which soon turned to sleet. I think that Alba was so stunned by the bad weather that she gave up all thought of taking part and just watched in awe as Grandma spread straw for the calves, threw vegetables at the pig, ran from the geese who were getting fractious, and negotiated the chicken coops to find eggs amidst the poo! I repeated most of this in the rain on the following day but gave up by Wednesday. The things you do to entertain a 2 year old!
The weather was so bad that we had to find ways of entertaining Alba without spending time outdoors. We made two visits to the children’s museum and discovery centre, Eureka, in Halifax. This was a great success. There are a series of exhibits which reflect modern life, science and technology. For example, there is a children’s size Marks & Spencer food store, with small shopping trollies, plastic food, and a cash register that children can access. There is a Post Office with parcels, letters, post box and scales for weighing. There’s a section where children can find out about their body through interactive displays and models. I also particularly liked the Sound displays where children could listen to different kinds of music or create sound from a variety of objects. It was so entertaining to see Alba running from one display to the next and experimenting with the various interactive displays. She kept returning to the garage, checking the engines and “driving” the small cars there. Watch out in 16 years’ time when she is able to drive!
There was a swimming pool on the farm which was a helpful distraction in the bad weather. A selection of floats and pool toys helped with some imaginative play for Alba and Huw. Part of this imaginative play was hair washing and Alba entertained us all by offering Mummy some “hairpoo” instead of shampoo! There were times when we resorted to Cbeebies for calm times – and some relaxation for the adults. One programme (which parents may be familiar with) is Baby Jake, the story of a baby and his large family. Alba kept referring to Baby Jesus when it came on television – I can see that I will need to address her Biblical knowledge more carefully!
There were times when the children were hard work, especially Alba who is at that stage where she gets over-tired, is confused by her emotions but can’t articulate her feelings. She is testing out the boundaries and discovering what is and is not acceptable behaviour. It made me think about whether God views us as challenging toddlers. We talk of God as a parent, and we are children of God. We often test out the boundaries of our faith, feel confused by our emotions, and find it hard to articulate our needs to God or listen to his response. There are times when we do not express ourselves well in prayer, or assume that God has not responded because we have not received the response we hoped for. Parents offer unconditional love to their children, no matter how challenging they are – and God offers that same unconditional love to each one of us.