I've recently gone through a bit of a phase of beating myself up. And not in a fun, Fifty Shades kind of way. I mean beating myself up with those thoughts that seem so automatic. Those 'I'm shit at that' thoughts, or the 'why did I ever become a parent?' thoughts, or the 'what's the bloody point?' thoughts.
And all of this accompanied by hormonal mood swings (which are no better just because they're hormonal, right?) and bone-deep tiredness for which there seems to no explanation other than I'm getting old, old, old.
And luckily, because I practice mindfulness regularly, I notice all of these things before they can really take hold. I bow down to my tired limbs and show respect to them in the form of sofa-lounging or slow yoga or hot tea. I observe those pesky thoughts and recognise that it does me no good to jump on their particular bandwagons. I thank them for their troubles and do my best to wave them on their way. Not always easy, but I get there in the end.
And although I recently harped on about the wonder of my two Lads in my A-Z of Parenting blog post, I have to admit that - on a bad day - they do no less than sap the energy from my very soul. The constant bickering. The NEED for a Fortnite battle pass. Their explosive veto on any food I have prepared. I do, not, contrary to their apparent belief, have endless reserves of energy from which do attend to their every whim.
And sometimes, when I have finally made it to the sofa of an evening - the washing folded, the dishes gleaming(ish), the packed lunches nailed and the Lads in question finally in bed - I can feel what is left of my energy, sinking into the depths of the sofa like wax dripping from a softly glowing candle. And even in this state, I am able - hell no, I'm ready - to get my Game of Thrones fix.
But you can bet that before Jon Snow has even begun to softly smoulder in his outrageous furs, the Lads will begin their factory-line production of bedtime-related struggles.
- A frowning Lad at the door . . . "I have a headache."
- A gasping Lad at the door . . . "I'm so thirsty I'm gonna die."
- A creased Lad at the door . . . "I can't get comfy."
- A smirking Lad at the door . . . "I made a den in the dark."
- A half naked Lad at the door . . . "My poo's a funny colour."
- A fully naked Lad at the door . . . "I have growing pains . . . everywhere!"
But recently, as I become increasingly aware that this funny old life is basically a massive theme park of swings and roundabouts, I have noticed that the reverse is also true. Whilst my Lads regularly, but unknowingly convince me in body and mind that I am devoid of all vitality, they also - equally unwittingly - have an uncanny knack at jumpstarting my engine.
Take Big Lad's unstoppable eagerness to learn guitar and the unquestionable, twingy-twangy delight it brings into our house. That totally revs my motor.
Little Lad's tendency to bring me daisies when we're out and about. More energy hurled my way.
Solid hugs launched at me after a long day at school. Ping!
Singing Queen songs over breakfast. Ping ping!
Our private captivation over the last custard creams in the biscuit tin. Ping ping ping!
All of this and more enables a generous and unflinching energy swap between me and my Lads.
And today, as I left for the school run with Little Lad (Big Lad is FAR too rad to walk to school with his mother), the energy swaps were at a bit of a low. I'd slept in. I'd missed my morning yoga. I'd let my coffee go cold. I'd nagged Little Lad repeatedly to just bloody-well get dressed and not spend so much time seeing how far he could fling various items of clothes around the living room (very far, as it turns out).
I was literally dragging my heels as we stepped out into the cold winds of the morning and I had no clue how I was going to get to and from school without crumbling in front of my son's very eyes.
So when he announced (after some veerrrry slow scooter riding) that he had an itchy arm he couldn't scratch on account of the massive coat he was wearing, I fought off the inner impulse to tell him to stop being such a child. Instead, I paused on the pavement, breathed deeply, and told him to do whatever he had to do to sort the itch out. Who cared if we were late to school? Who cared if I spontaneously combusted from frustration? It would be fodder for the seagulls.
Anyway, just when I thought my energy levels could sink no deeper, I lifted my gaze and saw Little Lad scratching the itch.
And what I saw was pure joy.
If I have ever, ever been successful in teaching my Lads how to be in the moment and savour their physical sensations, then this was proof of that.
And just like that I could feel it too. Not the delicious satisfaction of an itch being scratched, exactly, but the joy, the energy, the buoyancy of my little one devouring such an exquisite moment. Sorcery? Witchcraft? Voodoo? Who knows?
All I know is that it got me smiling, it got me laughing, and it got me striding back up that hill after the school run, high on endorphins and making light work of my to-do list for the rest of the day. I can only hope Little Lad has breezed through his school day in a similar fashion. And if not, we might have a bit of a back-scratching sesh when he gets home.
I'd love to know about energy swaps you've had with your kids. Or neighbours? Or friends? Or random people in the street? Hit me with them and maybe we can start a digital energy swap!
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