A few weeks ago, right before the Easter holidays, something groundbreaking happened in our family. The Boy, our second-of-three, learned to ride his bike independently. He had been on two wheels for quite some time, but still needed a push off and someone to run alongside him; which is fine, except that it made taking all three of them out on my own near impossible, given that the Youngest is still steering into roads!
But… all of a sudden … there it was. The Eldest showed The Boy how to kick off in one short, polite, heart-bursting exchange, and by the end of the afternoon they were tearing up and down the street alongside one another, leaving me to concentrate solely on the Youngest. (Who is indeed still steering into roads, but is now doing so on pedals instead of feet!)
It sounds like such a small thing, but, like growing out of nappies and breastmilk and car seats and prams… this one little change further propelled us into a new stage of life- one with more freedom, more independence and a much-needed increase in activity.
This, combined with the welcome arrival of Spring and the first stage easing of Lockdown rules, made for a pretty awesome school holiday. Whilst Husband worked the first week, we played out on bikes or saw friends in gardens, parks and picnic spots. In the second week, while he was off, we did some of the same, whilst also taking some long anticipated trips to the beach. I even got myself a bike! We packed a picnic and rode five miles down the canal- five miles! – with the Youngest in Husband’s bike seat and the older two flying solo; fuelled by regular snack breaks and the promise of a giant ice cream at the end. The sun shone, with an interlude of snow, and the varied company was fantastic.
I was buzzing.
This is it. Summer is upon us. The UK version of the pandemic is backing away slowly. We are now family-bike-ride types. This is the next stage of EVERYTHING!
Or… is it?
As I rode my new second-hand bike home from the five-miles-away park with the sherbet-covered double cones and the exhausted-but-proud children… I felt flippin’ fantastic. Husband was watching them at the park while I nipped home in a quarter of the time to pick up the car. The plan was I’d then go and collect the kids so that he too could enjoy a solo ride back home. With the wind in my hair and freedom in my sails, I sang praises all the way home. What an absolutely brilliant day, week, fortnight! How wonderful to have reached this magical stage of family life!
You just know that a twist is coming, don’t you? And oh, what a twist!
I bounce into the house, grab the car keys and jump in. Turn the ignition… nothing. Ten turns later, a car with a Covid cough and flashing red lights tells me beyond all doubt that the battery is flat and it won’t be going anywhere.
It is past four o’clock, Husband is stuck at a park five miles down the canal with three exhausted kids, three bikes and two bags’ worth of supplies! I call him to break the good news. (And to ask who I call and where the number is. Obviously.) He is thrilled.
Breakdown are on the way when I get a brainwave. Our LML has a 9 seater minivan and a generous disposition. I call her to see if she can pick them up and we work out that although she can, it will take her an hour to get there.
“No, na, no way. I’m done!” Husband tells me when I call again. There is shouting in the background. “We are in the toilets! The Youngest needed a poo and the older two wouldn’t get off the park to come with us! Had a right carry on getting them in here and now she doesn’t even need one! They’ve all lost the plot. I’ll just set off and bribe them with food I can’t stay here another hour!”
I feel awful. Really awful. Poor Husband! Poor kids! But there really isn’t anything I can do from here waiting for breakdown recovery, so you know, I just boil the kettle…
Meanwhile Nine-Seater-Nanny calls and double checks we definitely don’t need help because she can set off now? I call Husband to see how far they’ve gotten and he tells me, “nowhere! My ruddy chain has fallen off! I’m trying to fix it but there’s a kid on the back. Can’t get her out incase she runs off, but it’s just fallen over with her in it and so now everyone is crying again!”
I mean… are there even any words?
And… are you laughing?!
Shame on you! (And me to boot.)
It gets better…
By the time Nine-Seater-Nanny pulls up outside of my house to drop off her own kids and free up her child seats, breakdown recovery has been and almost gone. Seems lockdown has had an effect on the car’s fitness too- it’s now rebooted but needs more exercise! I apologise to her disappointed children, who were excited by our trampoline, and head to the park to rescue Husband myself.
Twenty minutes later, the scene that greets me at said park is hard to describe, but I will try my best to do it justice! For there stands Husband, red-faced and sweaty, brow furrowed, fingers blackened from chain grease, his bike upside down in half repair. Beside him stands the Eldest who is crying hysterically; wide-mouthed, red-faced, scrunched up balls of maximum-volume wailing. She doesn’t want to go home. Just behind her stands The Boy, also wailing, except his has a more sheep-like quality. He is crying because he does want to go home. But to top it off, the crowning glory (pun intended), has to be the Youngest, who is sat in front of them all, half naked, POOPING INTO A LUNCH BOX.
I mean… just picture that for a moment.
By the look on Husband’s face it is too soon to laugh, so I suck it up and raise my eyebrows instead.
“Toilets are shut.” He says by way of explanation and starts packing everything away!
I bundle the kids and their bikes in the car, tell Husband to have a nice slow ride home- after fixing his bike!- and I’ll get the kids fed, bathed and in bed before he arrives. This, fortunately, goes to plan and we are halfway through our Domino’s before his face finally breaks into a laugh.
“Has it just hit you?” I ask.
“I think so!” He chortles through tears. “That was ruddy hilarious!”
Strangely enough the kids ask to do it all again the next day, but we opt for the beach instead- if only for the sake of Husband’s mental health!
Perhaps we are not quite at the stage my freeflow bike ride home led me to believe?!
This week, the first week back at school, has followed much the same theme. Three times I have left the house in flip-flops and a cardigan, only to return later to get changed because it’s actually freezing. We are sunbathing one day, wearing three scarves the next. Summer is not quite ready, but she is teasing us. The Youngest has started pre-school (woohoo!), and while I had many ideas about what to do with this precious time a few weeks ago, my first childfree hours have largely been taken up with appointments and meetings about restarting life as we used to know it. Play groups, children’s church and so forth are just around the corner… but not quite yet. Meanwhile, though seeing friends has been great, the opportunity to see immediate family is still a few weeks away. (That is, a few long weeks emotionally, but short weeks practically!) It doesn’t actually leave much time to clear, sort and steam clean the grotty lockdown factor from the “new” house, ready for the very first visit of the Mothership!
Nevertheless, that is what I intend to do.
Meanwhile, Husband and I are now fasting sugar for a month as it seems our thrice postponed trip to Cornwall might actually go ahead this term, and our bodies are far from “beach ready!” (Almost like, I dunno, we ate our way around the world over lockdown or something?!)
All in all, this whole new phase and stage feels very much like a time of preparation for the next. We are gearing up and making plans for post-lockdown life… but it’s not quite here yet. I am looking with realistic ambition at the school Dad on his bike, with his three young kids riding single file ahead; but then my ordinarily-savvy five year old just tried to cross the road at a red light so… these kids are unpredictable. We are almost certainly not there yet!
And while I feel more confident as a parent this side of the third lockdown, I also dropped my three year old on the floor this week when a giant house spider crawled up my bare arm. Seems I am also …. NOT THERE YET! (I mean honestly, I spend half my life anxious about the safety of my children, then along comes one measly spider and I leave them for dead!)
Still. If I remember rightly, this time of preparation, this space in the gaps between one phase of life and another has a name. We are all back in the Liminal Space, and from what I remember, it has immense value and opportunity too.
So let’s ease our way in and out as gently as can be.
Let’s be mindful, patient, slow and steady,
Let’s be present in our liminality.
God bless you and allow you to grow in Him, whatever your situation may be!
Much love, thanks for reading xx