25 February 2016

Parenting at the Pointy End

Feeling sad and nostalgic - and wishing I had a time machine

Last night I lay awake writing this post in my head. This week I've been discombobulated, out of sorts, tearful and nostalgic as the reality of this latest stage of parenting has made itself felt. I feel the need to put it all into words, so I can reconcile myself to our new reality: My kids aren't little any more.

Every stage of parenting (and life) has it's pain and its rewards. It's just very easy to slip into a wee bit of melancholy when you compare your rose-tinted memories of "the simple fun-filled days" of yesteryear with the serious business of parenting a teenager and an adolescent, with one lone seven year old bringing up the rear.

I've been overwhelmed with nostalgia for the days when homework was simply reading a PM book together each night and I could relax a bit knowing that we had years ahead of us to get our parenting crap together, years to figure out "adulting", years for our kids to nail the academic side of life.
We had a reassuring buffer zone of time.
It's OK, I kidded myself. By the time we get to High School we'll have it all figured out. We'll know what we're doing. We'll be sorted.
The days really are long, but the years really are short!
But here I am, still parenting by the seat of my pants, still often feeling like an imposter-adult, still making it up as we go along.
My buffer zone is gone and we are here.
Parenting at the pointy end, where the rubber meets the road and the proof of our parenting is in the pudding (will my child make it through adolescence in one peice???! The concrete of their personality is setting, what kind of person are they becoming?? Have we taught them enough? Have I been a good enough role model? Do they have the necessary skills to navigate the wide world of high school and beyond?)...
It's scary.
It's serious.
And it doesn't feel like much fun at all.

My emotions have had a field day this week: Nostalgic and Full of Regrets ("Why didn't I cherish every moment like old people told me to?" etc etc).

Wishing I had a time machine and I could go back to when life and parenting was simpler, more fun, less make-or-break.

Consequently I did what introverts do when they are feeling like an Avicii song (Wake me up when it's all over... when I'm wiser and I'm older...) -- I retreated.
I pulled back into myself, and I tried to bury my head in my smartphone.
Being honest here, people!
Under pressure I tend to retreat. Like a turtle facing danger I withdraw and hope that when I pop my head back out, the danger will have passed.

Fun was as easy as delving into the dressup box
So there I was, playing turtle. And my kids knew it.
It's hard to hide the fact that mum is hiding from life when she's in her room on that addictive brick game app, wishing the dishes would do themselves.

One by one they came in and pestered me. I'm ashamed to say, they had to pester me for quite a while as I tried to wave them off with a half-hearted "go make your lunch box..."
Dash, the eldest, kept grabbing my hand and making me mess up my brick formations. It was really annoying.
"Go away!" I said, fending him off one-handed while trying to make a line of bricks with the other.

"Mum," he said. "Don't you think it would be better if you put down your phone and spent time with us? Then we won't have to annoy you..."

And there we have it folks - the wisdom of children. Out of the mouths of babes teens.
Put down your phone mum. Engage.

With a burst of determination, I shook off my nostalgic turtle-headed denial, went into the kitchen and switched on the kettle to boil.
"Who wants a milo?" I called. "Come get it in the kitchen!"

I piped cream on top of each cup and warned, "Don't drink it yet, wait for everyone."
When we were all sitting round the table I fessed up.

The kids aren't little any more

"I've been feeling sad," I told them, "and nostalgic. Do you know what nostalgic is?"
"It's when you remember how things used to be and you miss it. I'm sad cos I miss you guys being little and all the fun we used to have. Now it's like we're all going in different directions and it's all so serious and we don't have fun together much anymore. I'm just not ready for your childhood to be over!"
"I'm not ready either!" (Fab)
"Yeah, or me..." (Dash)
"Well, I'm only seven, so my childhood is definitely not over...!" (Scrag)
"Yeah, he's only seven!"

OK then. So shall we have some fun? Shall we get this party started then?
Spend more time together? Play more games? Cards? Swim in the pool after school???

(I should mention that this discussion is taking place at about 8 o'clock at night. My kids struggle to get to sleep when it's light and hot, so bedtime has been creeping south of 9pm all summer).

In a burst of enthusiasm someone (I think it was Fab) blurted, "We should go for a swim right now! that would be crazy fun! A swim in the dark!"
And we were on like Donkey Kong.

The good old days

In the twilight, we got dressed in our togs, bounced on the trampoline for a bit to warm up (yes even me-- "mum's bouncing! mum's bouncing! hahaha" etc) then we hit the surprisingly warm pool.
And laughed, and splashed, and dunked mum, and hugged each other and had handstand competitions. And probably really annoyed the neighbours.

Then we got out, dried off, had showers and made lunchboxes, very sensibly.
I came out from my shower to find Miss Fab snuggled up on the top bunk with her little brother reading him Dr Seuss.
After which we all piled in my bed (daddy is away) and had a book snuggle.

It was pretty magic.
A night to throw out the rule book was just what we needed

The fun doesn't have to end just because the kids are older. 
It doesn't have to be all seriousness and intensity and grown-up-ness.
We don't have to drift into gadgets and mindlessness and ignoring each other.
We can deliberately, purposefully do nutty things together and play.

Most of you are probably thinking, Well duh! but I had truly lost sight of that.
Playing has always brought us closer. It's been the glue that has held us together.
The fun times together have been the high points in some pretty rough times (which with the magic of hindsight I had conveniently forgotten. Parenting is always a challenge, whatever the age).

"The family that plays together, stays together."
We may be at the pointy end of parenting now but it's probably even more important that we keep playing together, because "the days are long but the years are short" and "one day these will be the good old days."

Am I the only one feeling this way? Anyone else been here? I'd love to hear from you, (so I know I'm not crazy).



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