I took the children to the Farm today to use up a few parenting hours and to return the favour to my husband for my morning off yesterday.
We turned up to find it was Teddy Bear’s Picnic weekend. For the first time in ages we didn’t have the kids’ bears in the car and no picnic (mouldy bread – bad housewife!) The same thing happened last year.
Luckily, as also happened last year, my rubbish tip of a car revealed two soft toys in its cluttered depths and we were saved the expense of having to buy one.
The lucky teddies got to bungy jump, raft across a pond to the pirates and even zip wire from the top of the Mill House.
Despite a distinct lack of communication amongst the staff and plenty of (mostly) patient waiting it was a great day. I’ve noticed that we parents are worse at waiting than the children. I found myself tutting at the slowness of some of the events and I wasn’t the only one. Yet the Farm does the event for free and it’s done by enthusiastic Rangers whose normal duties run to horse grooming and pet feeding, not going up in a cherry picker to drop teddy after teddy on the end of a piece of elastic. (Though they looked like they were having fun!)
I wonder why, as parents, we tut at standing in line even if our children are happy? Do we need constant entertainment more than they do?
There’s a virtue in boredom, especially for children. Mine are at their most creative and cooperative when I refuse to get out of bed in the morning or I ignore them in the bath so I can read my book. I feel guilty, yet they happily invent a game involving a jug, some bubbles and the creation of poo pie (thankfully not real).
When I first met my husband, and for too many years afterwards I’m ashamed to admit, I would berate him for laziness for just sitting. Although he would assure me it was valuable thinking time I would chafe at it, having been brought up to see it as sloth. My father liked to be busy and ensured we all followed suit. If we weren’t vacuuming or sweeping we were idle.
I can only rest if I’m reading. I rarely even walk the dog without writing my post as I am now. Yet I’ve discovered the importance of silence. I’ve learnt that the busy waters of my mind settle when left undisturbed, and deep thoughts rise from the depth.
For too long I worried about entertaining my children, making sure they had the right educational toys, the right activities, the right correcting input from me. Now I’ve learned they do better without all that. They fight less and make up quicker. They invent incredible games that only require a little advice from me (One at a time on the slide! After the third cracked head.)
I’ve been dreading school because Aaron will lose his partner in crime and I’ll be expected to fill the gap. But I’ve decided not to sweat it. He should also learn to sit and be at peace, to entertain himself, to be happy in his own company.
I used to think a first child got all the solitude, and never understood why I – as the second child – was happier in my own company than my sister. But now I think that, in the formative years from three to five, I was alone: my sister was at school for those three years. Whereas, for those formative years, my sister had me. Only a baby but company nonetheless. Someone to fetch and carry for, run around after, laugh with. Much as my daughter has had her brother, the never-ending playmate, and he only gets me. Poor sod.
Thankfully my daughter is pretty good by herself, though not often given the chance by an adoring brother. She will read stories, play with her dolls, make many colourful things out of pipe-cleaners and tissue paper. My son, so far, is not one for his own company.
Hopefully they’ll both learn new life skills when my daughter starts school in a few weeks. And Mummy can carry on reading her book!
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire gazed into the gloopy mud, mesmerised as much by the sound as the sight. It looked like a giant vat of simmering soup; grey and reeking of rotten eggs. She’d tried to be impressed by the walk through the geothermal reserve, but it really did stink. All around her, steam rose from patches of muddy water, like a never-ending bog of eternal stench.
The Pohutu Geyser had been impressive. Thirty feet of water shooting into the sky against a backdrop of blue and green, like a fountain on steroids. The effect was rather spoiled by the heaving mass of tourists all around. Even though she was one of them, it was hard not to hate the chattering crowd of picture-snapping visitors that cooed over the sights and exclaimed against the smell.
The seven days since she’d started the bus tour felt like a month. So many sights and activities crammed into each day, there wasn’t time to process them. She longed to sit still and let it all sink in. Trying to absorb all the new experiences was like trying to memorise the phone book. Lovely as it was to squeeze the whole country’s key attractions into a few weeks, she wondered if maybe less was more.
A trilling noise from her pocket pulled her attention away from the hypnotic mud. She tried to calculate what time it was back in the UK, hoping it might be another text from Conor. Now and then over the last few days she’d found herself texting him the odd snippet from her travels; as if telling one person about them, as opposed to entertaining hundreds through the blog, made it more real.
Claire as you have not responded to my counter offer in the last fortnight I have to assume you are declining it. I must say I am disappointed and I think you’re making a mistake. I require the return of your laptop, phone and car. Julia will deal with the details. Carl.
Claire leant back against the railing and processed the words. Any temptation to accept the counter offer had evaporated with her fight with Kim and the subsequent need to get away and find a new future. Still, hearing that particular door clang shut unnerved her. What if Conor also rescinded on the job offer, while she gallivanted around expensive tourist haunts twelve-thousand miles away? She’d already failed to get funding from Roger. One by one the options evaporated, leaving her stranded.
My car too. My little Skoda. I can’t believe they’re going to take that back. It will probably end in a scrap yard.
In desperation, Claire tapped out a response to Carl, trying to buy herself some time.
Apologies for the lack of communication, I have been forced to take an unforeseen leave of absence. Would appreciate having the option to purchase the car from you at a reasonable cost. Will be in touch when I return to the UK. Claire.
She hit send, wondering if Carl had a single cell of goodness in him, or whether he would now have the car scrapped just to spite her.
At least I swapped phones already and had the sense to make sure the blog is in my name.
It was small comfort. Despite the heat emanating from the steaming pools, Claire pulled her jacket tighter and longed for a Starbucks.