August 31st 2017
Ah, the Summer Holidays. Don't you just love them? I love them sooo much I've just paid fifteen quid to sit in a seriously scruffy soft play centre whilst I write this blog post. I love them sooo much I've just drank a sub-standard gallon of coffee and am now tightly crossing my legs as every single toilet in this place is blocked (true!). I love them sooo much I have just allowed my children to tie two phallic-shaped soft play thingies together and encourage about fifty toddlers to swing on them precariously over the ball pit whilst respective parents look on in horror. That's how much I love the summer holidays, people.
Ok, ok so I'm on the home run now and things are getting a bit desperate hence the sub-standard coffee in the sub-standard soft play centre. But actually, I have felt more than a little love for the summer holidays this year.
Why? Well, I've been lucky enough to not work this summer AND I'm lucky enough to live on the English Riviera which has, let's be honest, a whole lot of benefits. Me and the Lads have had our fair share of sunshine, beaches, rockpools and ice creams, all only five minutes down the road. I've found it's easy to be mindful when the sun is streaming down on your shoulders, the sound of the ocean is your main soundtrack and your children are smiling up at the sky. And maybe it has been a collection of all those moments (as well as my daily meditation practice) that has given me the strength I've needed during more pressing times (blocked toilets and tightly crossed legs totally included).
We've had a steady stream of visitors this summer, as many of the friends I recently left behind in the North East have fancied a bit of this Riviera magic. Last week, I had a friend and her entire family come to stay which meant my small house was turned into a not unpleasant hippy-type commune. This friend, let's call her Slapper (she won't mind), said on more than one occasion that she has learned much from me about parenting. Now let me just take this opportunity to say that Slapper is one of the most fun-loving, energetic and outrageously positive people I have ever met so I couldn't fathom how I could possibly give her any useful ideas in the realm of parenting. To me, she seems endlessly patient with her boys and totally capable in every aspect of the word. But the way she said it and the way she smiled suggested she was not dicking about.
And she even said this AFTER I had had shown my true parenting colours.
So imagine it's the day after you've dealt with a HORRIBLE display of behaviour from your eldest child during a lengthy stint of 'Foot Golf'. You've got that vague sense of relief that you got out of it alive, that lingering worry that you've scarred everybody for life with how you dealt with things all masked by a hangover from a LOT of wine and a family bar and a half of Lindt Excellence. To put things plainly: my brain was foggy.
So my foggy brain was now busy coping with Little Lad's absolute refusal to bloody well get in the car so we could all go for a coastal walk. I'd bigged this coastal walk up and up to Slapper and her lot and was not now going to start agreeing with Little Lad that the walk would be 'boring and stupid' and 'it will hurt my head and my legs and my heart'. He was going to get in that car and it was going to be now.
I have no idea how but he finally appeared in the front passenger seat wailing that his life was over. Ideally, I would have wanted him in the back but I wasn't about to dispute that particular point with a hysterical six-year-old. Instead I kept half an eye on him with the driver's door open and shrieked to the other kids in the garden that Little Lad's outburst was currently contained and we were ready to go.
That was when I saw it. The slow rolling of our car. The slow rolling backwards down our very steep drive and inevitably towards the main street.
With Little Lad inside.
Now don't ask me how this occurred, but in that moment, I made only the mental calculations absolutely necessary. Don't jump in car, you'll add to the momentum and car will roll faster. Don't scream like loon, it won't help anyone. Don't waste time on using the most impressive swearing combination known to man no matter how tempting it may seem. Lean into car. Get handbrake on. Now.
And that's what I did. I smashed my legs into the side of the car and yanked and yanked at the handbrake so much it probably thought its luck was in. I forgot about everything else - speaking, thinking, breathing, just a vague, background awareness that my legs were bashed in and that my child needed me.
The car eventually stopped. Before smashing into the garage over the road. Before crashing into any oncoming cars. Before anybody got hurt. I looked up and saw that Slapper's hubby had all his body weight against the boot of our car and somehow - between us - we'd stopped it.
The breath whooshed back into my body with such an incredible force that I barely found the strength to stand. But I knew - somehow - that I had to walk round to the passenger side, open the door and give Little Lad the biggest hug of his life. I'd had a scare, yes, but it was surely nothing compared to what his little heart had just coped with. When his tiny, shaking body collapsed into mine, I knew that had been the right thing to do.
And after I'd stroked his hair and told him everything was fine and that I wasn't angry, who was there to do exactly the same thing for me? Slapper. She knew that I'd need to allow my eyes to fill with tears, to allow my breath to shake and my body to shiver and to collapse a little - just a little - into a moment that was no longer dangerous. She knew I needed a moment of surrender and within that I would find the strength for whatever came next.
And what came next was finally doing that bloody coastal walk. It was absolutely the best thing to do. Bucketloads of fresh, sea air for all of us, movement, walking, stirring of energy, calming of souls . . . throbbing, bruise-ridden legs too but we won't dwell on that. Sometimes being mindful is about knowing what you need in the moment, and then having the confidence to follow through.
And yes, my clever brain did all that post-trauma stuff where I re-lived the car-rolling event over and over - especially in the next few days of meditation practice. And Little Lad seemed to be inwardly re-living it too as even now, whenever he sees my swollen, multi-coloured legs he looks at me sharply and says "We don't speak of it, ok? We don't speak of the car thing."
But I am speaking of the car thing so I can say thank you to Slapper, and her super-hero bloke. Thank you for rescuing us in more ways than one. And thank you for saying that kind, kind thing about my parenting skills even if I have no idea what you mean. I guess it doesn't really matter if we don't fully understand the ways in which we inspire each other, as long as we are ourselves enough that we give it a chance to happen in the first place.
Bloody love you.
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