I'm sitting at my laptop on a cold, drizzly day (NOT what I moved from the North East to South Devon for, btw), hugging a mug of decaff, listening to the contented sound of the Lads' laughter at Star Wars lip-synch videos on You Tube. It's a family kind of calm. A family kind of quiet.
And I'm allowing this You Tube indulgence because this morning we went to a family kind of workshop. That's right. All four of us. In the rain. A workshop about 'Happiness'.
It was run by Relax Kids coach, Sophie Adey and promised fun crafts, mindful colouring, calming activities and simple relaxation exercises for the whole family. Considering it's the first day of the half term holidays and I know that I'm in for a week of complex negotiations about You Tube, the PS4 and the purchasing of overpriced movies on Amazon Prime, what's not to like about that?
And yes, you might be wondering why, as I am a mindfulness teacher, would I not just set up a family workshop right there in our living room? Surely mindful colouring and calming activities are not beyond me after my extensive training? And you'd be right. But it seems they are beyond my children as any time I gently suggest we might do such things, I am met with impulsive contortions of their whole bodies and faces and belly-deep groans that would rival a dark lord of the underworld.
Through the magic of Facebook, I found out that Sophie knew all about me and my own mindfulness courses for children and was delighted to have my little family on board. I glumly explained that although I take great delight in spreading mindful happiness throughout the land, it seems to bypass my own children. Her quick response that she knew what I meant and that she had another Relax Kids coach attending the session with her children for exactly that reason, did a lot to reassure me.
So I explained clearly at dinner last night, whilst Little Lad was picking bits of sausage out of the sausage spaghetti he had requested(!), that we'd all be going to these happy family shenanigans the following morning. They particularly liked the idea of taking their own cushions and blankets so I said no more about it.
Skip forward to this morning and Big Lad was arguing - no, make that HOWLING - that I had dared to interrupt his sophisticated movie-viewing plans to take him to something as unimportant as a workshop about Happiness. I almost pointed out that the fact that he was displaying such anxiety over being torn away from the TV was reason enough to attend such a thing, but thought better of it. I know by now it's best to stand my ground and let him work through his disappointment in his own (loud) way.
Anyway, we finally got in the car, with two Ikea bags filled with fluffy cushions and Super Mario blankets and Big Lad still huffing and puffing (Little Lad had, in the meantime, begun to act like the angel-child we thought we'd never had. "I'll come to the workshop mummy. I want to do the mindful colouring. I'll do mindfulness with you Daddy." His voice all sing-song and pretty as if the grumpy tones of his brother's voice had somehow knocked his into full-on inexplicable, obedient splendour) We were late leaving, but hey, why break the habit of a lifetime? And we had no idea where we were going, but hey, see previous point.
By the time we rocked up to the workshop, crashing through the doors with our over-stuffed Ikea bags, we were about fifteen minutes late. It occurred to me in that moment that I must never, ever forget what parents may have gone through to get themselves and their kids to my own classes. Everybody walks through that door with a story.
And when Sophie greeted us at the door, she seemed totally unperturbed by our drowned-rat / mugged by the parking meter / hassled by demon children demeanour, and welcomed us warmly. Big Lad immediately plonked himself down away from the main action to draw some lightsabers (naturally) and Little Lad joined me and his dad on cushions on the floor. We were, by that point, ready to relax for the rest of the year, never mind for the next hour and a half.
I really enjoyed the way Sophie moved through the seven main elements of a Relax Kids workshop (Move, Play, Stretch, Feel, Breathe, Believe and Relax) and I really wanted to properly take part in it all. I was darned if I was going to let Big Lad's huff bother me. Or the fact that the hubby ducked out for a strong coffee in the middle of the yoga stretches. Little Lad and I were in the zone.
We moved swiftly through imagining anxiety being like a meerkat in the brain, talking about what made us happy, stretching for all we were worth, indulging in mindful breathing, making positive affirmation treasure boxes and even having a go at family massage. Big Lad did dip in at various points, my favourite being when he poked me square in the eye whilst trying to whisper to me what makes him happy (Luke Skywalker's lightsaber, if you're wondering). Well, you can't have it all, can you?
What did make us all happy though (and I can say this without a doubt) was curling up with the Super Mario blankets and cushions (Ikea bags were not in vain - yey!) at the end of the workshop and being led through a gentle meditation by Sophie. Although I do this for others all of the time, there is something wonderful about being invited to curl up with your own family, with no housework to do and no meals to prepare and other families in the same room, doing the same thing at the same time. There was a mum just opposite me who looked so cosy and settled with her two beautiful daughters I almost had a little tear.
So for those last few minutes, the hubby could forget his caffeine cravings, I could forget the chores waiting for me at home and the Lads could indulge in the stillness of their parents. And whilst we often have 'family cuddles' in bed at home, there was an extra level to this in that the point of it, the value of it, was being endorsed by somebody other than their moaning old mother.
And for that, Sophie, I thank you.
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