An Ordinary Day to Remember

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Scooting around
Nothing profound
Passing the day
Having a play
Boy and his dad
Momentarily sad
I’m in my prime
His smile is sublime
But time is finite
One day will be twilight
And then away
So remember this day.

I was talking of death with my mother-in-law this week. A relative is very ill and her cohort is slowly dying around her. She seemed a bit troubled, so we talked. I think she wants to talk about death sometimes but not many people want that conversation.

I’m ok with it though. I feel I’ve created my two time capsules nurturing two beautiful children and left them some thoughts and ideas with this blog. Let’s not tempt fate, but if a bus smashed into me tomorrow I’d have a second of pique – b@llocks – and then rest.

I’m happy with who I am and what I’ve done. Opening an improving mortgage statement letter, booking a college reunion, scooting about and making pizzas – a humdrum day. But what’s not to like. Life is good – and both quite long and quite short. So make sure to enjoy the ordinary days, I say.

Carol Singing

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School Christmas carols
Parents wedged in
Younger siblings
Making a din
Silence falls
Like a blanket of snow
Then many small voices
Sing tunes we all know
All upstanding
The grow-ups join in
All in good voice
The joy of a hymn
Our spirits all lifted
By seasonal cheer
The annual sing song
Gets better each year.

The annual Christmas carol service, at my daughter’s new school, is a step up from the childish plays of recent years.

Opened with an expert trumpet solo, studded with eloquent readings and conducted with vim and vigour throughout, this was a classy – and very traditional – Christmas performance.

She, smartly dressed in red shirt and blue skirt, never spotted us – lost in the crowd. But I could see her, through gaps in many heads, singing her little heart out. It lifted mine as I stood to sing too. You can’t beat a proper Christmas hymn.

Our Changing Seasons

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The changing seasons
of my children’s lives
Throwing and catching,
she improves before my eyes
Then rubbing together gingerbread,
her application a surprise
He seeks out phonics
and connects them into words
Three letters, four letters,
decoding as he learns.
Today is bright and colder
with leaves starting to turn
Our seasons steadily passing
It gets easier all the time
Their tiny years are over,
But, one day, I will yearn.

School Run

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School run
Is no fun
Crying child
Try to be mild
In the car
Getting later
So many people
Do nothing to cater
Me first
You wait
Milling around at the gate
Daughter searching
For her pals
Sees them
Runs
Little wave
Safely done
Then my son
‘I don’t want to!’
Take a moment
Out he comes
In the playground
Climbing frame
Changes the game
A kiss on the run
From my bun
His smiling face
Saving grace
Hard slog
Right old flog
It gone done
Not much fun
Ho hum
Tomorrow is another one

Man’s Best Friend

Unprecedentedly, I’m home alone this weekend. I’ve cooked some tasty meals, listened to some absorbing cricket, cleaned the fish tank, sunk a few beers, watched some great films, done some washing, tidied up, been late to bed, lied in. And now I’m out for a walk.

It’s a lovely sunny day. But it’s a solitary business walking without a child. No-one to hassle me for sweets or ice cream. No scooters, wobbling bikes, tripping up, tears, bruises or grumbles about being bored… And so my mind wanders to my erstwhile furry companion.

Poor old Mr Tumnus. His ashes in a box and his spirit in the sky in a red jacket, lapping powerfully just behind an electric bunny. I miss the old boy today. My kids have more than replaced him. But when they get older and need me less, I think I’ll need another hound to accompany me. Around about my 50th birthday I reckon. Watch this space.

Superhero

20110619-111639.jpgMy son announced this morning, in the car, that he has the superpower of sellotape. This enables him to stick inanimate objects together almost at will.

Fired from his hands in the manner of Spiderman’s webs, I remarked that his sellotape shots could prove mighty useful at present wrapping time. But his sister wasn’t impressed.

‘Show us then’ she challenged him. But he demurred. ‘I’m only a superhero on Tuesdays’ he said, confounding her. It’s hard work saving the world with sellotape, you have to sympathise. None of us can be a superhero every day.

Stamps

I’ve written before on the topic of ‘flow’, children and embroidering life with rich experience – large and small. And we managed all four this morning, thanks to a cheap packet of world stamps.

The agile, and occasionally restless, mind of my now seven-year old daughter was completely and delightfully absorbed in sifting stamps from España, Nederland, Polski and the long forgotten Deutsche Democratik Republik.

Some of these stamps were around when I was her age. And the fiddly licky hinges haven’t changed either. Throw in a cheap album and she was completely absorbed in finding countries, licking hinges and sticking in stamps – despite her brother’s periodic attentions.

We learnt some geopolitics – there are 200 odd countries to find, different political systems from democracies to dictatorships and some memorable symbols and landmarks – from the Statue of Liberty, to St Martin from Czechoslovakia on his snowy white horse.

And all for a tenner. Stamps trumped her Nintendo for prolonged attention and ‘flow’ and we learned some things too. Cards, chess, stamps, books – the old favourites are still the best for kids sometimes.

Immersion

Concentrating on boiling a ham on the hob yesterday, I was reminded of a key aspect of ‘flow’ – immersion. ‘Flow’ is ceasing to be self-conscious or unduly conscious of others and becoming thoroughly immersed in the task or activity.

When you look at it this way, a number of things we usually consider important in enjoyable achievement turn out not to be – notably the immediate judgement and appreciation of others. Also, a variety of things we consider dull can suddenly become a joy.

Take hoovering the house. Usually a chore, and one I resent. I enter into it – if at all – with little a priori enthusiasm. I have, however, discovered it passes more easily with an iPod, headphones and music.

Surprising then to discover last weekend during a particularly energetic and virtuoso vacuum – as I removed the ‘T head’ to more precisely target the skirting boards in the kitchen – I was in full ‘flow’. It was an absorbing task, in which my goal was evident, feedback clear (disappearing crumbs and detritus) and my mental energy was fully absorbed (in music and coordinated physical effort). Stone me, it’s that simple I realised.

I was talking to another parent yesterday about how this applies to kids, sports and music. The art is perhaps in helping a child to become completely immersed in the ‘process’ of playing football or the piano to the point they cease to be self-conscious or unduly conscious of you and your anxiety/impatience/projection of your own hopes and fears (delete as applicable).

A lot of what we do with children and activities is the opposite. We make them concentrate on us, keep pushing them on – before they’ve had time to master or enjoy developing skills – and most of all we distract them with incentives and threats. The art of ‘flow’ is to let them lose themselves in what they are doing and forget we’re there – not focus them on extrinsic rewards or punishments.

More immersion perhaps means less coercion. And letting go a bit and getting lost in what they’re doing makes parenting ‘flow’ more easily too.

Kisses

As my other half left the house for work one morning this week, my daughter was a bit sad.

My daughter and son were perched with me on the back of the sofa. My partner waved to us through the bay window – in the nice way she often does. She waved through the first pane coming out of the door. She waved through the roses as she passed in front of the central sash. Finally, she turned back for a final wave through the third pane, as she disappeared out of view down the hill. But my daughter still looked sad.

I said to her ‘Your kisses will have reached her’. She shook her head and held her hands apart like my Grandad sized a fish and said ‘They can only travel this far’. I said ‘Much further if you blow them’. She still looked sad. ‘Only about as far as the bookcase to the wall’ she said.

And then my four year old son chimed in with his piping voice – and winning smile – and said confidently ‘A kiss can go all the way round the world’. We all smiled and felt better.