We have a fairly quiet day today; seems that even with school alone, life is so fast-paced for the kids that they barely get time to play. Come afternoon, Husband finishes work and we aim to take them out on their bikes. However, the Youngest is suddenly so tired that she curls up on my knee and goes to sleep. Thus, he ventures out into the cold, whilst I snuggle up and write my previous post!
In the evening, the peace is slightly disturbed- and somewhat perturbed- by what can only be described as a massive meltdown from the normally-laidback Eldest. The Boy has broken one of her toys and so she temporarily misplaces her turd. I sit, mouth agape, and watch her; moving occasionally to dodge a flying object, until she’s gotten it out of her system. Eventually, she stops growling and slumps on me whilst we investigate where on Earth that came from?!
The kids have always been good at sharing and have never, ever been precious about stuff. However, this is the first time we have had an almost-seven year old share a room with an almost-three year old and it seems it has been gradually taking its toll. (Ironic that it was the Boy who eventually tipped the iceberg!)
So, we talk through a few ideas and eventually decide to create a little area for her on top of the wardrobe to keep safe the things she doesn’t want to share, for fear they may get broken. It feels like a good and calm solution and she even manages a little laugh; whilst Husband and I agree that it was a jolly good job that I was there to deal with it instead of him! (See, I do have my uses after all!)
Today is a somewhat busy day- both physically and mentally. Husband has asked me to do the talk for All Age Church online, and our wider Church have also asked to interview me about some recent God stories later on in the day. (A few weeks ago I would have ran a mile from either, but it seems something really has shifted this month! Let’s hope it lasts…)
So. Today, I’m half praying and thinking of the right things to say… and half obsessing over age-appropriate toys for the Eldest on Ebay! (Her birthday is days after Christmas).
These things don’t go together.
I’m genuinely torn today trying to do both, until I eventually give up. I pray for wisdom and the right thing to do here: to respect my daughter’s desire to have her own things and the space to keep them safe, whilst also helping her to prioritise the things in life that really matter. (Not to mention helping me to do the same!)
It’s a toughie. But it now belongs to God. Move on!
The interview goes well but the online service is awful. We have a meeting about All Age with the rest of the team that evening and I come clean:
I hate it. Hands up, I hate doing it. We were fulfilling a need during Lockdown but I really thought we would be back in the building by now! I’m still not even sure I like the kids appearing online- I’ve always been so careful with their privacy, but now it feels out of my control. I hate parenting online. The kids play up to the camera. This morning? Husband was busy distracting The Eldest from giving a 101 on sass , whilst the Boy basically just roared and clawed and screamed at the camera whenever I tried to speak. I asked him so many times to stop, but he ignored me until I eventually had to leave the screen blank- during a live service- so that I could remove him from it too. This is not fun. For anyone. Why are we doing this to ourselves?! Our kids don’t even watch the ones they’re not leading! Who is this even for?!
… good to get that off my chest!
The response was very helpful and gave us a lot to think about. Largely: faith is messy, this phase is messy and so the services are not only authentic but also have the potential to make other families feel better about their own messy lives too. (Wow… thanks… I think?!) Secondly, we don’t have to have the kids on camera; we don’t have to do a formal, formatted presentation and we don’t have to do things the way they’ve always been done. (Why is this so hard for us Church folk to grasp?!)
“Think outside the box,” my Faith Heroine encourages. “I mean, if you really don’t want the kids involved, your input could even just be you, sharing with others how your family have interacted with God this week, using a few carefully taken pictures of hands and backs of heads?”
Imagine that, hey?!
Food for thought.
Despite hanging my manky laundry out online yesterday, I am still in a good place this week. However… pandemic life is definitely waking up on a Monday morning, taking in a huge deep breath and wondering how on Earth we might manage to fill this week?
Thankfully, however, it fills itself. We have our single-parent Bubble visiting today and a few outdoor walks penned in with lone friends throughout the week. I’m incredibly thankful for this little allowance in the current restrictions and, while I’m sure it isn’t ideal on the Covid front, it is doing wonders for my mental health. We aim to make the most of it each day while the weather permits.
Later, a friend calls to pray and we end up talking about yesterday’s Ebay obsession. “Don’t start buying her those collectable toys,” she advises, “you’ll never stop! And those tiny bits will only get lost. What you need to give her is something like a toy box with a key…”
“Oh you genius!” I’m hopping about. The Eldest’s favourite bedtime book is about a toy box with a key! “It’ll be such a personal gift. I can decorate it and put her name on it. She’ll love it… but best of all, it will be entirely her own responsibility to govern!”
Brilliant. Prayer answered: happy mother. Amen!
Today we have accepted an invitation to walk with a friend. The Youngest doesn’t want to go, but I have learned my lesson and am firm this week: Mummy needs this, so it is happening! (Which definitely works most successfully when attached to the school run; it is much harder to give in when you are already out and about!)
Whilst walking, my friend gets upset about something I have little experience in thus far. I haven’t any real wisdom to share and it doesn’t feel appropriate to pray. So we walk and she talks and later, I wonder what I should have done better? Before the anxiety can kick in, however, she makes contact. “Thanks so much for listening today. I feel like a human being of value for the first time in a week.”
Wow. Is it just me or has this whole year been one long lesson in “doing” less and simply “being” more?!
Be present. Be available.
Today we meet my Godson and his Mum at our favourite park. It’s lovely to see them, and to compare notes as we observe a pair of two-year-olds conpletely ignore one another and insist on walking in opposite directions! Is this just typical of the twos or has 2020 made them anti social?! Neither of us can fully work it out. Having older children at the same age too, we discuss school progress and I remember another thing that I don’t actually miss about normal life…
It’s a perfectly lovely conversation and neither of us are competitive parents. But by the time I get home I’m already worrying. Why isn’t The Boy working to this level yet? Is there something wrong with the school? Should I be doing more with him at home?!
“No.” Husband stops me in my tracks and do you know, I’m actually impressed with how quickly I get back on board and get a grip. We all spent the last Lockdown talking about how academic education wasn’t everything; how slowing down and spending more time on play and creativity and family was a gift and a joy and a lesson to carry for life. See how easy it is to forget it!
Be present. Be available.
I tell the Youngest that we are seeing the Bubble Twins tomorrow and she shouts, “Noooooo!” Followed by, “Not sharing with friends!” Just in case I didnt get the gist.
I may not be ready to part with her now in my newfound peace, but it strikes me that a day at nursery still wouldn’t be a bad idea, afterall!
Today is the day that I marvel at my newfound boundaries!
We have had a few cases of Covid in our parish now, and each time have been involved in a meal rota to provide for those struggling in isolation. The first time I cooked, I offered to take food for a second family at the same time, as the lone parent was having an extremely difficult day. “I’ll just do a bulk batch – no issues!” I said, forgetting that I don’t actually own the big pans I used to borrow from Church, and also forgetting to communicate with Husband and realise that he had back-to-back meetings which spanned across the proposed knock-and-run delivery times and into bedtime!
Oops. My kitchen looked like this and my face was just as red:
This week however, I realise that the day I’ve signed up for coincides with a last minute Bubble visit and I’m just not going to have time to pay attention to both. So I call someone and swap. Instead of just pushing through and doing both badly. This is new for me! So today, my new cooking day, looks like this:
I know. Amazing. Praise God for crock pots! I also contact another single Mum I used to support pre-lockdown. It’s her daughter’s birthday tomorrow and she’s struggling to provide anything. We have time to bake in the morning so I ask her if I can provide a cake? “That would be amazing,” she says. Then adds, “She has asked for something like this…”
Ha. Ha ha. Haaaaaargh?!
I consider it. For a brief ten minutes I actually contemplate the hours of planning and effort I would normally put into making my own kids’ cakes (with months notice)… and then decide that’s not my role here! That is too much. Husband pops to Asda instead and picks up the closest thing he can find! I relax knowing that we have given what we can, but have preserved what I can’t.
And that’s OK. Boundaries are good. Peace is in high quantity today!
In the evening, I curl up with my Bible-in-a-Year. I am a tad behind, but have really been enjoying Luke’s gospel. It starts all warm and Christmassy, but soon gets incredibly challenging; I find myself wondering how vastly different life and the world would look if we actually lived according to this word?! Sell all of your possessions and give to the poor; love your enemies; bless those who curse you; deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. Perhaps this is the real reason alot of Christians like me don’t read this as often as we should?! Yes it is life-giving but it’s also lifestyle-destroying, and that is hands-down uncomfortable even for those of us who know and claim to love it.
Not at all for the faint hearted.
I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere close to the purpose with which I began. I’m slowing down, studying everything; digging and searching; examining my faith and filling in the gaps I’ve left to rust with time. So many notes, so many questions!
Husband comes to bed and I throw them all at him at once.
“Good question,” he replies as he brushes his teeth. I wait. He climbs into bed.
“Well, what do you think?”
“About the question!”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
He’s on Sky Sports News.
“Are you kidding me?! What’s the point of being married to a Vicar if I can’t get instant access to theological answers when I need them?!”
“I’m off duty.”
“Are you for real?! Seriously I feel short changed here!”
“It’s half past ten mate. This is not pillow talk. Email me…“
“Email you?! Email you?!”
“Yup.” He carries on scrolling.
“Why? You know, if you’re just going to Google it I can do that myself…”
“Don’t be rude! Of course I won’t Google it.” He says in mock offense. “Every Vicar knows it’s on Wikipedia…”
Pillow to the head.
“Honestly, pointless! So if I email you now you’ll discuss it with me in the morning, Reverend?”
“It’s my day off!“
It is indeed his day off, but we have to go and pick up a donation of bulbs for school from a garden centre. We go together thinking we can make an outing of it, before seeing the huge queue to get in. Honestly, it is the biggest mystery of this second Lockdown, how garden centres are allowed to open when so many other business are forced to close?! I mean, who is prioritising pansies in November?! People are clearly going to look at the Christmas lights…
We stay in the car, swerve the queue and end up at a nearby lake instead.
Whilst there, I observe a common scene. A grandparent looking after a small child, taking a photograph-a-minute on a phone and then pausing supervision to look through them! This always makes me smile, as I wonder just how many of those snaps go straight onto the family WhatsApp Group- just to make sure everyone knows we are having fun! This morning’s scene is the best yet, however, as the little boy stands next to a crowd (gaggle, swarm, school?!) of ducks, whist the Granny kneels down on the ground like a budding paparazzi, shouting and gesturing at him: “NOW PRETEND TO THROW SOME BREAD!”
Brilliant. I don’t know why this makes me laugh so much, but it does! (Possibly because it’s been about two years since any of mine were babysat by grandparents, so all offended can reassure themselves I’m just jealous...)
In the afternoon we rest, bake, play games and watch the only Christmas movie I allow in November: Nativity! Husband and I agree that Fridays are finally settling into Sabbath days, and I feel a whole lot better about Sundays.
Finally, in the evening, Husband and I also agree that it’s a crying shame how long we have lived in this new house without … err…. ‘Christening every room.’ We very briefly consider an energetic evening ticking off a few locations, before remembering that we also have two episodes of The Great British Bake Off to catch up on and an unopened tub of Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer…
I mean, after 11 years of marriage and a year like 2020, it’s a no brainer really?!
Much love to you all, thanks for reading! Stay safe xx