We are less than one week into the school holidays. This is the last Summer before big boy starts senior school and small one moves on up to the bigger primary site. Time is passing; boys are growing; things are changing. Nothing stays the same for long.
In the run up to the school break, I was counting the days with a feeling of anticipation tinged with excitement and fear in equal measure. There was a longing for a period of respite from the routine; a break from the structure that both confines us and keeps us on track during term time. At the same time, I felt a desire for some sort of simple framework to keep me from losing my self and my sanity… a few plans for the boys, some friends of my own in the mix and visits to places that inspire me. A walk in the woods is enough to keep me going; a stroll by the water or a grown-up conversation whilst a football is being constantly kicked close by.
There is such joy in the spontaneity, the freedom and friendship that Summer holidays bring and such pain in the fights that erupt between brothers for reasons I cannot understand or explain. I know I am not alone. When we meet up with friends, the first few moments are so often a sigh of relief at being out of the house and knowing that, for a few hours at least, we can relax in ourselves and our company and take a break from being the referee.
In the past few days I have thought back often to times that had not crossed my mind in oh, so long. Small boy’s friend meowing on hands and knees, wrapped in a big brown rug yesterday, reminded me of days spent making jumps from upturned buckets and bean poles, cantering round the garden, neighing into the evening air. I remember day after rainy day, drawing the heads of horses with pencil on white paper and then, as I grew older, practicing the shape of the body as well, time after time till I felt it was right. Those days… the ones where a small towel was a saddle and a skipping rope reigns and string stirrups for the silver birch tree with a bend at the bottom of our garden. Those days were simple, joy-filled ones. Days when I made my own entertainment, lost myself in a magical, make-believe world where people became animals and drawings could maybe, possibly, come to life if only I wished hard enough.
Sat high on the top of the slope overlooking the Bloody Hollow play area at Hatfield House today, and back home with my boys, plus one, I felt grateful to witness moments of simple joy at play. I had been feeling a little anxious last week as two freelance jobs came to a natural break, leaving me with no certain work or income over the holidays. My only work for the coming six weeks would be whatever I could motivate myself to do after boys’ bedtime and even then, income was far from certain. The anxiety did not last long. I did a few sums at the weekend, drew up a budget and a meal plan… something I have not done for as long as I can remember, but it eased my concerns; all would be well. As both sons swerved and sprinted their way around the playground today, all feelings of fear fell away and I sat back in the shade with my friend and our picnic, feeling blessed that I have these moments to enjoy. No feelings of lack, just simple abundance for this treasure of childhood time and the gift of being able to watch my children play and grow. We don’t get these days back again, though the memories last. If I had a regular job, right now, I would probably feel that I was missing out. Those adventures of their own making are the ones the boys will likely recall.
Both boys, I am glad to say, make friends with new kids at the drop of a hat and I am now becoming accustomed to the way in which big boy now cooks up a plan with his chums. This afternoon, the idea was a spontaneous sleepover. I agreed to their suggestion, made arrangements with his friend’s Mum and breathed a sigh of relief as the atmosphere in the house was relaxed; no sibling squabbles this evening. Footballs were kicked – over the fence and back again and the outer layers of sticks were stripped and the ends scratched into points for digging earth in the garden. Big smiles and dirty nails featured heavily in our house as my third call to come to the table for dinner was finally heeded and I sent them off to wash their hands before sitting down to chicken drumsticks and the improvised meal I had pulled together as we had added one to the plan. An hour or so later and big boy appeared pale in the bathroom and promptly leaned over the toilet, emptying the contents of his stomach into the bowl (I don’t think it was my cooking). Small boy watched, horrified, from the bath and I called my friend and apologised to her son as the spontaneous sleepover dissolved and then reformed as a plan for another evening. Nothing stays the same for long.
Mum came; friend went; big boy crawled into bed and I read to small one a story that big boy had enjoyed on several occasions after he had been gifted the book. It does not seem so long ago I was reading it to him and now he has (almost) outgrown it and little brother is loving the same tale. How quickly things change.
Tomorrow, we have no plans. It is a day to take as it comes and I am grateful for that.
As I sit here at my screen in the (almost) silence of the early hours following a nap with the boys after story time, I wonder if I have conveyed what I intended to put down as I began this post, not long before nap time. I think I have. It serves as a reminder to myself to enjoy these times. Such ordinary days as last rainy Friday on the sofa and Monday in the park are what a childhood, or a life, is made up of. Holidays can be special, for sure, but these simple days of football and friendship are our life and are to be enjoyed in the moment as much as we can. In five weeks, I imagine, I will be here again, typing out a post about how time has flown and we’re all back to the old routine again.
This is it, right now… this is your life. Who knows what will happen next or how things will pan out. We can plan, plan, plan, but it may all unfold in ways different than expected… I know, my life has. Everything changes. So if you are suffering right now, have faith in the fact, that nothing stays the same for long. If life is good, but slipping by too fast, take a moment right now to be still and be grateful for all that you have. Be present. Enjoy this gift of a life as much as you can.
You know it already… I’m reminding myself.