It’s a bit late to write a happy new year post, but I think my lateness is perhaps symptomatic of what I’d like to talk about: a busy, often tunnel-vision family life that I’ve realised is preventing me from really looking at and appreciating my two beautiful children.
Really looking. It seems such an obvious thing. But towards the latter half of 2015 I found that this had become less obvious for me. I’d be consumed by some task or other and suddenly notice one of my children. Of course that sounds ridiculous, but I’d notice how beautiful one of them was or how they had a particular expression on their face that I felt I hadn’t seen before. Then I’d notice myself noticing it and noticed that I don’t notice it as much as I should!
Days can be packed to the brim, which is great; I feel a sense of purpose, productive, a real sense of achievement at the end of everyday. There was a time, pre-family, when I didn’t feel this way. I call that my ‘searching phase’ – I was always looking then, but in a different way…looking for a good career, a husband, a family.
Now I’m so BUSY. I work part-time, I have school bags and healthcare forms to sort out, food to organise and cook, prescriptions to remember. A house to keep tidy, children to keep entertained and educated, things to remember to do. And not forgetting exercise to fit in, quality time with my husband and some semblance of a social life.
So it’s amidst these many tasks that I had the ‘noticing moment’. I’ve come to a realisation: I haven’t got the balance quite right. I need to put down the washing more. Stop my brain from jumping forwards to what needs to be done next. Some call this mindfulness. But it’s mindfulness with and of my children that I need to practice.
“Mummy, can we play this game?” , my 5 year old said a week or so ago. Sadly, I have to say this is one of those times when my established modus operandi kicked in. “In a minute” or “yes…I’ll just so this first”, I’d say. Then I’d find that my ‘jobs’ had taken up the day and there was no more time and the game was forgotten. Of course I read her school books with her or practiced certain words but these had become another feature of my ‘task list’.
My eyes fill with tears as I read that back, as it shouldn’t be that way and I feel ashamed at letting it get to that stage. That day however, I did put down the washing and played the game. For ages. It was a puzzle sum game and we really enjoyed it together. We moved onto school reading books, but I didn’t just get through them. I let her lead the way and she wanted to play different word games. We spent a whole afternoon doing this and even moved onto (with little sister in tow) that well known family task: making cheesy mushrooms together.
The point was that I didn’t give in to the ‘evil chore voice’ in my head. This stuff still got done (albeit a little later than usual!) but the real accomplishment was watching how much calmer and even more motivated my children became when they had my full attention. When they saw that I really listened and really watched their little faces.
I have to be realistic. Everything still needs doing, it’s always going be hard to reach that mythical perfect family balance. But 2016 for me is about savouring moments, afternoons, whole days with my children.