Monday, 28 April 2014

Stand and stare.

Alan Bennett says he can only write in the house when it's completely empty. He doesn't have three boys then, or workmen going in and out, or a cleaner, or a husband. Not one that we know of anyway.

I haven't updated the old blog for ages and one of the reasons is that over the Easter holidays I was hardly ever alone in the house to write, and then I was working (more videos) and then I had workmen coming in and out (new decking, having the kitchen done trashed the old lot). Here it is

And the other reason was that I took a little break from social media, which started by accident over the holidays and then, when I realised I hadn't been on Facebook for a few days, or on Twitter, I continued deliberately. 

I think I'll see how long I can abstain for, I thought, a bit like keeping off the booze, just to see if I could. And it turns out I could. At time of writing I haven't been on Facebook for more than two weeks. It has ended up being a sort of monastical online silence. Not that I was chanting. Actually I was planting. This is some of what I was up to

And it was as I was out in the garden enjoying the beautiful emerging spring, rather than blogging or Facebooking, that I kept thinking about the Center Parcs ad, you know the one where they quote the poem, "What is this life, so full of care…" I googled it actually. Here it is in full 

WHAT is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs, 
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass, 
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
 Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
 And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
 Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
 We have no time to stand and stare.

W. H. Davies

And while standing and staring in the garden I discovered something. I discovered that 'family' is not a constant thing, it is a thing that we make, something fleeting, precious, that requires time and commitment. But most of all, time. 

What is a family after all? A group people living individual lives, going off each day in different directions to mingle with other different groups of people and experience different views of the world. 

But those moments when we are back together in the holidays, under the same roof, pottering in the garden, eating a meal, watching a bit of TV, going out to the cinema or a restaurant, these are the times when 'family' happens, that curious indefinable alchemy we sentimental types hold so dear.

I decided that family is a series of fleeting happenings and shared memories that when woven together make something bigger and more important than the individuals in it. Apart we are just the pieces, the scattered patchwork squares, together we are the tapestry.

So you could say I was concentrating on my tapestry for a few precious weeks there, looking 
inwards at how it is put together and taking care that this fragile thing made of disparate pieces is a strong enough whole, rather than looking outwards at the world via Facebook and Twitter. It has left me strangely calm, sleeping well and deeply each night, refreshed even.

Perhaps we all need to take a social media holiday occasionally? Time to just stand and stare.

Love E x



Tuesday, 8 April 2014

I'm more a Panda Parent than a Tiger Mother.

So Kate Winslet wants to hold on to her children's childhood for as long as possible by banning them from computers and mobiles phones and not allowing them to slump in front of the telly for hours on end. 

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's child-rearing edicts dished out by pampered celebrities who have no idea what it's like to be trapped in the house for days - nay weeks - looking after a multitude of young children by yourself, while staring out of the window wondering where your life went, with one eye on the clock for a suitable moment to pour that first glass of wine. 

Sometimes sticking a child in front of the computer, or letting him have your phone to do a bit of filming or play a mindless game, is a God-send for your average beleaguered stressed-out mum. But then Kate Winslet is not one of those.

Those days are far behind me now - thank God - and I wouldn't turn the clock back and not have spent the time I did with my three boys at home for anything, because of course there were good times too, finger-painting-coffee-morning-playground-lego-building-story-telling-cuddling-away-rainy-afternoon-fun. But it's a tough job to give up work and stay at home with babies/toddlers/pre-school kids and I'm guessing Kate Winslet, with her let them eat cake instead attitude, or rather let them play in acres of her Wiltshire/L.A. garden, isn't really in a position to know that.

Mind you I pretty much resent all child-rearing 'gurus', pampered Oscar-winning actresses or not, especially that Tiger Mother. You know, the Chinese mum with the two girls who accepts nothing less than a A * in every subject and forced them to practice piano every night so that there were actually teeth marks on the instrument where one of them had gnawed on it in frustration. 

I subscribe more to the pandering line of parenting, pandering to their every need that is. Forget Tiger Mother, I'm a 'Panda Parent'.

Can't be bothered to insist they clear the table and would rather just get on an do it yourself because they'll only make a hash of it and wipe all the crumbs straight on to the floor for you to sweep up later? That's me.

Should really nag them to death about picking dirty clothes off the bedroom floor and putting them in the laundry bin themselves, or better still leave it on the floor so it doesn't get washed and they have nothing to wear and 'learn the consequences of their actions', but end up picking it all up and washing it anyway because you'd rather have a quiet life? Yup, me again. Mostly.

Know that you should be telling them to practice the piano when they get in from school because you are wasting your money on lessons every week otherwise but would rather sit and have a nice undisturbed cup of tea while reading the paper? You guessed it.

And the thing is, all that is true and our kids are ok. The eldest two play their instruments (electric/acoustic guitars) morning noon and night and I've never nagged them to do it. (Mind you I did make sure they learnt an instrument that I thought was likely to still be 'cool' when they were teenagers and I think that helps).

They get their homework done without being chained to their desks. I think.

They will do things around the house when they are asked, and sometimes when not.

I let them go on the computer way too much but I make sure I can see what they're up to. For the most part.

And yes I know I pamper them, I pick them up and drop them off from things because I don't like the idea of them walking in the cold and the wet when they are tired. 

I like to bake a cake and leave it in the kitchen for when they get home from school if I know I'm going to be out filming or on a recce or something.

And I hug them and get hugs back. A lot. Does the tiger bully mother get that? I like to think not. But we all like to think we're doing the right thing when it comes to parenting, don't we?

The truth is we're all muddling along trying to do the best we can. Even Kate Winslet.

Love E x