I heard excited squeals from the back yard this afternoon. I went outside to find Bird and the Pixie jumping up and down next to the four wattle trees we planted a couple of years ago along the fence, now in full flower. Last year they produced a few flowers here and there, but this has been their first proper show. I was taken aback by the size and intensity of their bright yellow baubles as I turned the corner and joined the girls in their wattle enthusiasm. We picked some for the house and now have explosions of yellow in our living room and bedrooms. Three out of the four trees tower above us; the fourth one has always struggled, but shows great determination. We bought them in tubes as seedlings and although I expected to like and enjoy them, I was not prepared for the beauty and happiness they have brought into our yard. For some reason the wattle this year seems absolutely fluorescent, or maybe I’m just paying more attention.
Today after school, we sat outside for the first time this season. There is a hint of spring in the air, although it is meant to get colder again towards the end of the week.
Last week I visited our beloved naturopath for a massage and brief consultation. One of the many things we discussed was the Pixie and her night terrors of late. We are working on a number of different things in relation to this which I won’t explore here, but one thing I took away from that appointment was the advice to “turn the volume down” in our lives in general. One of the ways I like to do this is to minimise screen time and slowly bring some calm and rhythm back into our daily routines.
I have always believed that small children (or rather, everyone, including hypersensitive adults like myself!) can be very affected by things seen on television, but since the baby was born I’ve been fairly lax in regards to screen time and it had well and truly snuck back into our lives most days of the week. I had also not always been paying attention to what the girls were choosing to watch, now they are old enough to select their own programs on iview rather than me having to do it for them. So it was a timely reminder to bring myself back to what is important. We’ve spent the past five days screen free and I’m amazed that the girls have barely even noticed. (It helps that they take advice from their naturopaths – either our lovely local or my sister – very seriously! Almost hilariously so.)
Another thing I like to do is to try to slow down our afternoons. I find this difficult as if I don’t get dinner on as soon as we get home from school it becomes very late by the time we eat. Ideally I like us to eat at 5.30pm which then leaves time for a warm bath and books before bed at 7pm. On the days that I can, I’ve been preparing as much for dinner as possible before school pick up. This might be something as simple as pre-chopping some veggies and putting them on a baking tray ready to go in the oven, or if I’m really organised I will have something ready to go in a pot – in winter that means dahl, soup, stew. I also make an effort to set something up on our kitchen table for the girls to do when they get home. If something is sitting there ready (pencils, a puzzle, some books, paper, etc.) they are immediately drawn to it and will often spend an hour quite happily pottering away, having some snacks and making, drawing or reading.
It might sound or look idyllic, but I can tell you that the intermittent moments of peace are always balanced out by the busy-ness of little children. It takes work to hold them in this space. It takes planning and commitment to stick with them through after school grumbles and arguments and demands (for food! drinks! favourite pencils! more paper!) and still get dinner on the table while entertaining the baby through her grouchy hours before bed.
But in those moments that I remind myself there is no harm in sitting with them for ten minutes, when I have a hot cup of tea in my hands, when I can see growing brains absorbed by something quiet and gentle and creative, when the baby is munching on something and watching her sisters, when dinner is bubbling on the stove and fresh flowers are being handed to me from our very own garden, or when, on my luckiest days I find myself with a pen in my hand and the opportunity to scribble down an idea or a sentence: in those brief but incredibly full moments, I am grateful, I am content.
In the blur of motherhood it is not always easy to remain present. But it is always worth the extra effort to take things down a notch, to turn down the volume and I’m grateful for the reminder this week.
Because these are the moments I hold onto.
These are the moments I will remember.