While the Web and blogosphere fills up with back to school themes here in Spain we have another 2 weeks to go. The summer holidays here are SO LONG, the kids break up around 20th of June and go back 12th September. Almost 3 months. 3 MONTHS! It is such a long time. This year has been a really good one. Partly because I have had less work than usual ergo less stress but also because after last year I have taken extra care to relish every moment and I have. I have struggled too, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the demands of work, the kids, the house, and how everything continues on despite this massive thing that happened and which continues to roll over quietly in the back of my mind. I don’t dwell too consciously on whether my cancer might come back but I can’t fully forget about it either. H and I were talking the other day about the kids, speculating about them as teenagers and that scary little voice wondered if I would be here to see it. I don’t talk about it to anyone, not even H, because I know they would just tell me not to think like that, be positive etc etc and I don’t need to hear that. I am positive and I don’t think like that. Often. But it’s there. And I can’t entirely ignore it. I don’t know that I should. I have never been more aware that we only have today. Only today to live, to love, to make memories, no one is promised anything else. And holding on to that has helped me to revel a bit more in the little moments.
Not that it is all sweetness and light and perfect idyllic family life. Ha! The kids are cranky and bored and despite a great summer full of fun activities they are tired. They are craving the routine of school with the predictable days and weeks that tick over one the same as the other. God, aren’t we all? They are getting nippy with each other and little scraps are forever springing up. Y particularly is just tired. He can’t stop having fun and it’s getting too much for him. But. Then we have moments like yesterday afternoon when I got home from work and took them to the beach with a friend. Where the light was long and golden and the water was wavy and perfect for crashing about in inflatable donuts and boats. The water was so warm and we played for ages. As I watched their happy faces, grins from ear to ear, as they bobbed about on the surf, laughing their heads off, I tried so hard to mentally capture the moment. Thinking ‘keep this moment, hold it’. So many little moments we forget only to, MAYBE, remember one day when someone else prompts us, or otherwise lose them forever. Being out in the waves, jumping alongside I couldn’t take a photo but it was like one of those golden memories in Inside Out. The image of their faces beaming inside a golden orb rolling down to core memories, lighting up family island. Of course like many a real family day (vs a pinterest family day) it was followed by tantrums and fights and overtired tears (Y I am looking at you) But it seems to be to be the standard price we have to pay, and on balance it’s worth it.
Summer you have seriously been a beauty. We have splashed and dived and rolled in sand. Made sandcastles, floated on donuts, played football and frisbie on the sand. Had parties until late, laid outside until 1am to watch shooting stars, complaining and giggling and fighting under blankets on the sand. Visited family and friends and had them visit us, gone to new places. Gone out in boats, canal and sea, jumped on trampolines, jumped off rocks, climbed trees, hit up the Waterpark and kissed and cuddled and shouted and fought and made up, cried and laughed and loved loved LOVED it all.
I had every intention of regularly updating this blog through the summer, chronicling these long hot days and planning things to keep the boredom away but so far the summer is flying past and I have barely had time to pop on and keep up with blogs I follow, much less post anything of substance. Work is not incredibly busy but I am full time until the end of October so busy or not I am in the office, putting in the time. H also works a lot in the summer and when he has a job on he is out from dawn until after the kids go to bed. We all notice his absence hugely, I am sure I have mentioned this more than once but he really does keep everything going, always. The three of us alone, we cope for about 5 days and then after that it all slowly starts crumbling. I find it so hard to keep up with the house and the kids and work on my own and it really stresses me out. Seeing as more than ever this year one of our main aims is to keep life as stress free as possible he is trying to keep the jobs short but it is not always possible – when you are freelance and working in a seasonal industry you need to grab the work while it is going. Having said all that, we are having a blast. I think we are. The kids are at home when H has no work on but they have had a couple of weeks of summer school (more like day camp than school). Loads of their friends go, they play games, swim and seem to have a load of fun at the time BUT although they went last year and had a blast this year they have been more reluctant. Maybe because it was a bit old hat, maybe it just wasn’t as fun, but they moaned and moaned each morning as if we were sending them off to a 9-5 job rather than splash and play fun. Actually I think at least partly they have just been really tired and like any sane person were not really feeling like happy clappy jumpy excitement at 0900 in the morning. I feel you kids, I feel you. BUT life is real. We need to work, you need to go to childcare, your life could be a million times worse. I know more than a few kids who spend their summer being looked after in stuffy apartments by elderly grandparents. In contrast kids, is it really so bad? IS IT?Let’s reflect, and consider:
*quick note: The fact that it has taken me several hours just to download, rotate, rename and edit the photos from the last month or so should give an idea of how much we have been up to. And that I evidently take FAR too many photos, obviously.
There was a lot going on in July. Apart from various excursions around our home island and outings with friends we had several trips away. One of my sisters lives in Singapore; luckily she gets work trips back at least once a year and we went to visit them the Christmas before last so we haven’t gone too long without seeing each other but when she lived in London we saw each other every few months and I never, EVER, stop missing her. So with 2 weekends free between her work obligations I made a very un-‘me’ decision to go to London to see her, just the two of us, for a couple of nights.
Yeah, ok, the pics are fairly unremarkable. In my defense I was far too busy walking and chatting and hanging out to take too many pictures. And I already have more pictures of London than anyone really needs. But you get the idea. I was there. It’s London, you know what it looks like. No cute snaps of photogenic kids this time so, moving on…
The following weekend I went back with the kids to see my parents, also in the UK, and to catch my sister again on her last weekend before she went home. The timing of my sister’s trip landed quite fabulously on my mum’s 60something birthday so we organised it so she could have all 3 of her girls, and 2 of her grandkids, with her to celebrate. It was so special; the last time we were all together was 2014, so although it was a little extravagant to have 2 trips to London 2 weekends in a row, I TOTALLY justified it to myself. And anyone who would listen long enough. Repeatedly.
We got back from the visit to my parents a day or two before one of my very best friends arrived with her family to stay with us for the week. The weekend after they left was H’s 40th birthday which we celebrated with family and friends on the beach until late. It was absolutely perfect, he didn’t stop smiling all night..
and then – I sprang a surprise holiday on H and the boys – we left for the north of spain the wednesday after the party. He was very surprised, as were the kids. I was more than a little proud of myself for sorting it all AND sitting on the secret for weeks and weeks. For years we have talked about travelling around our home country more but usually all of our holiday time and budget is taken up visiting family and friends in the UK. Yet there is so much we want to see and we really, more than ever, want to start making little spaces in time for the four of us to get out and explore together, just us. Summer is brutally hot here and a perfect time to visit the much cooler, greener north. Last year we celebrated 10 years of marriage and we always thought we would do something special to celebrate. As it turned out I had to do chemo and radiotherapy instead. Them’s the breaks. But now I am fine! and H was turning 40! The stars were aligned. It was absolutely fabulous and worth it a million times over. I think this will deserve its own post.. watch this space.
And in the little moments in between all the other madness:
I feel knackered just thinking we did all of that! It has been such a busy month but so full of family and friends and laughter and joy and love. We spent a lot of money doing it all, not particularly money we have to spare. Usually I am very sensible and cautious and all those other adjectives that can also be translated as BORING but which help us to stay on the straight and narrow and (mortgage aside) largely debt free. It can be stressful juggling our accounts especially with the very unpredictable nature of H’s work and the total lack of work for at least 3 months of the year. So I don’t spend money on big things very lightly. But one of the things my experience of the last year (tl;dr: cancer) has taught me.. (and YES personally I feel it has taught me a shitload; not a universally popular opinion but it is mine and is genuinely how I feel) is the impermanence of things. Not like I didn’t know it before. But now that concept is really REAL to me. I am hyper aware of the uncertainty of tomorrow. Maybe that fades over time, but in a way I kind of hope not. Because I truly think it is a blessing to actually really feel like all we have is the here and now. Of course I plan and hope and dream for a long future. But I want to live NOW. The old me probably would have decided to do only one of those trips to the UK. But my sister lives so far away, I see her so little, in the scheme of things what is a few hundred quid to spend a weekend alone together? My parents won’t be here forever, what cost is it really to let them have all three of their daughters together for a day or two? I don’t think we can remotely understand how nice it is for my parents to have us three all in the same place. Even being a parent I can only imagine the silence and emptiness when my kids eventually leave home and the joy to see them when they return. And even then it is only something I can imagine in relation to my own kids, I find it hard to actually connect that with how my parents feel about me. But they do. My mum cries for days after we leave, and this birthday, as it turned out, she needed the lift more than ever because our darling sweet cat, Sonny, died, only a few days before we arrived. He was originally our cat but for various reasons totally irrelevant to this story he moved in with them about 2.5 years ago. And they loved and adored that cat like a little prodigal son. It was, is, really sad. And I am so so glad we were there to scatter his ashes and hug her tight.
So now we are in August and the summer is halfway through. In another 5 weeks the kids are back at school. I am not sure we have ever had a summer go so fast. So far it is everything I hoped for. At some point there will probably be a post about this dammed heat and how hideous it is and how LONG the summer is and WHEN WILL IT END WILL THESE KIDS EVER GO BACK TO SCHOOL?! But for now I am flying high on the bliss that was July. It truly rocked.
to sign off,a harpist’s song from 1400bc that I saw when we were in the British Museum in London. So apt.
“Follow your heart as long as you live!
Put myrrh on your head.
Dress in fine linen,
Anoint yourself with oils fit for a god,
Heap up your joys,
Let your heart not sink!
Follow your heart and your happiness,
Do your things on earth as your heart commands!
When there comes to you that day of mourning,
the weary hearted (Osiris) hearts not their mourning.
Wailing saves no man from the pit!
Make holiday, Do not weary of it!
And finally. To my darling Sonny. You were an absolute legend and a total weirdo. We all adored you and you will have a place in our heart forever, you should have grown very much older, we all feel cheated that you went so soon.
don’t judge, we all have fat times
(no he didn’t die from being massively overweight, he slimmed down rather a lot after his ‘troubled time’ – ssh lets not talk of it)
Finally! The summer holidays are underway. The endless ‘fin de curso’ (end of term) meals and parties and presents and celebrations finally done. They seem to last all of June and makes it one of the most expensive months of the year. I could have just started the month by standing outside the school with my wallet open, full of notes, and told everyone to help themselves amd the effect would have been the same. Every day there was something to pay for: a present for this teacher and that coach, last minute birthday parties being squeezed in before everyone scatters, meals with this group and that, tickets to a ‘concert’ where my youngest and his friends showed off the tumbles they had learnt. Okay that was quite cute but I am still sceptical that a formal show in the village theatre was really necessary and suspect our payments for a 15 minute demo of manic dancing and tumbling to insane techno music mainly served to reduce the cost for the overwhelming majority of older kids who had a 1.5 hour show after us. Call me cynical. I prefer bitter.
We also got pressed into paying for a ‘meal’ in the park afterward. Allegedly hamburgers. In reality pathetic looking little patties on a plain bun. What? No lettuce or tomato? Ha! Not. even. cheese. Parents are walking targets. Anything related to our children and we just shell it out. God I am so bitter. Am I tight? I really don’t think so. You sell me a service ie a kids gym group. I pay for said service. I pay. I use. It is a business transaction. Why do I have to buy you a present for selling me the service I used? I DON’T UNDERSTAND. I pay. Don’t worry, I pay and for form teachers happily and willing. But for the rest I have yet to be convinced. I want to resist, stand up for my principals, but I find especially here it is very hard to go against the grain. People don’t as a rule complain about this kind of thing. If it is done you do it. When the burger plan was underway I suggested to our friends that we bail and book the nearby pizza place instead. You would have thought I was suggesting an actual military coup rather than suggesting an alternative friday night plan. My husband actually told them to ignore me in this really apologetic tone. Yes, he is still alive. I am used to it. It only grates the tiniest bit. In the darkest most bitter part of my heart haha. Well they were all eating their words as they stared at the sad excuse for a meal they had been conned into (I ate beforehand,rebellious interloper that I am, in full anticipation of the shit show it turned out to be) and HELL YEAH I was absolutely smug about it.
Rant over. I feel better. Moving on.
We celebrated the first day of the holidays with a quick trip to a beautiful rocky beach about an hour away. I love rocky beaches. Sand is my mortal enemy and with rocks everything just feels cleaner. Yes, less comfortable, but as I am not much of a sun worshiper I can take the tradeoff. We haven’t been to many since having the boys, I would rather deal with sand than wobbly toddlers climbing rocks but this year feels like the year we can finally explore more far flung beaches where they can clamber and explore rock pools and find crabs and overcome nerves to jump off rocks into the sea. So that is what we did. And it was perfectly perfect.
I have been easing myself into work slowly. In all honesty I could work full time, full on, if I had to. But I don’t have to. Work is unseasonably quiet and by about 2pm I find myself at a bit of a loss. As I work a 5 minute bike ride from home I have been going home for lunch and, more often than not, staying the rest of the afternoon, working from there as and when needed. And its been really nice. To just enjoy these early summer days before august comes and brings with it too much heat and general apathy that sees the kids lying in sweaty piles on the living room floor moaning no more swimming. The other day it rained and we were all relieved for the excuse to just hang out at home and do very little.
I am finding it hard to find the time to post regularly. In amongst the moaning and glorious summer fun. Which is annoying because the main point of this exercise is to share bits of me and our life for our future selves. Or for my kids if my future self is, in the future, a past self. Ifyouknowhwatimean and i think you do. Wink. Yet the main reason I don’t have time is because I am with my kids. The irony of sacrificing actual time with my actual children in order to lose myself trying to convey some fake-idyllic version of my life with my perfect family is not lost on me. Hence I do not blog when with my kids. And when I am not working I am always with my kids. Except yoga! (More on that later) and friends! And LIFE! But really. With the lighter nights and fun packed days the kids are in bed around 2130/2200 which leaves me about an hour lying motionless on the sofa unable to engage in anything that isn’t me. On a sofa. Watching the telly. This post has been sat in drafts for days and days. I have had to change ‘this week’ to ‘last week’ to ‘recently…’ Until I can’t take it anymore. I am sat in the dark with you both asleep beside me and dammit if I won’t get this finished tonight!
So. Kids. Lights of my life, dearest souls, givers and receivers of the greatest love there is. I hope to record here snippets of our life. Parts of me. But know that they can only ever be the tiniest glimpses. We are having so much fun. I can’t record it all. I am not a natural diarist but it is happening and we are living it every day. You will just have to believe me. Our days are full of the good the bad and the ugly; kisses and hugs, shouts and tantrums, I love yous and tongues sticking out and you don’t love me and I SO SO DO. Mummy you are the best. Mum you suck (I am. I do). Swimming pool and football and frisbee on the beach. Hold my shoulders I will swim out a bit further. Stand on my shoulders and I will be your springboard. Late nights with friends, late nights with cousins.
Its not all here, not even the half of it, but I can tell you real life is full on and I love it all, every second. And so do you. You are loved, adored, happy. We all are.
Was strong, tall, dark and handsome. He had long wavy hair that curled down past his ears and a tickly beard.
Laughed a lot, loved being a clown, tickling us, playing tricks on us
Worked away a lot. I missed him so much my heart hurt.
Wrote me letters and postcards when he was away ( I still have them all).
Loved music and always had it playing when he was at home. Pink Floyd; wish you were here.
Took me to the fair and bought me a plastic bow and arrow. Flying around on the small aeroplanes, watching him whizz past.
Played rough and tumbles, play wrestling and tickling. Climbing on his back, riding around like a horse and bucking us off.
Played in the water, diving down under the water holding tight to his shoulders. Climbing up his back and standing on his shoulders and jumping off, standing tall in the palms of his hands as he pushed them up up and away I flew.
Showed me how to dive. Showed me how to dive backwards. Again, again and again.
Played a trick on my mum and little sister one night when we went out for dinner. Told them it was past midnight and we laughed and laughed as they got practically naked in the elevator on the way back to the apartment in the rush to get to bed.
Made us sunday morning breakfast almost every week he was home. Pancakes (thin for mum, thick for him), and all the english breakfast essentials.
Always woke up before everyone else, showered and looking fresh whatever time we stumbled downstairs.
Took my mum a cup of tea in bed, every day.
Was loud and American and different from the other Dads. Cooler. Not to me, please! But to my friends.
Made amazing barbecues, all kinds of meat, salads.
Loved cooking in all forms, a mean spaghetti bolognaise, a mouth watering curry. Hours in the kitchen chop chopping and leaving it all spotless behind him.
Taught me how to wiggle my ears, whistle through my teeth, tongue twisters; how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, red lorry yellow lorry.
Told jokes and teased mercilessly.
Tucked me into bed. One night, when I was probably too old to be tucked in, they both came clattering up the stairs to my shouts TUCK ME INNNNN and tucked me in so tight I couldn’t move, all of us laughing.
Arm wrestling, thumb wars, slappy hands, bar tricks passed on from friends and workmates.
After dinner conversations that lingered for what felt like hours, card games, poker played with toothpicks instead of coins, Risk and Cluedo (sore loser).
Weekend movie nights, trip to Blockbuster, two movies, popcorn (he loved the aur popped stuff so much he would go to the cinema just to get it and bring it home) and sweets and pizza and Haagen Daz (such luxury!).
These memories and a million more. Laughter. Happiness. Joy. Fun. Love.
Its been a busy couple of weeks. Summer is almost on us. We changed to our light spring duvet this week and we are moulting layers of clothes like crazy. At this time of year our house and garden really earns its keep. In winter we barely venture onto the patio, the winter sun hardly limping above the buildings opposite for long enough to warm even a small corner of it. So it spends the winter months abandoned in damp shadows. But now. Now the mid morning sun creeps across the table outside and we eat more days out than in. The kids can be obliged to sit and ‘relax’ for about half an hour after lunch before their ears prick with the sound of neighbouring kids outside and they rush out the door, their shouts of pleasecanweswimmumpleasepleasethankyou trailing behind them. On these days it feels like picture perfect family life. Less of the endless tidying and laundry and other chores, rushing between activities and refereeing fights and more pottering around doing my thing, them outside doing their own thing. Long afternoons laying on the grass watching them jump in the pool again and again ‘mum watch this one’ ‘mummy mummy watch me, watch me’ and timing races around the water’s edge. This blissful co-existence, so far from the intense dependancy of the baby years, as beautiful as those years also are, is absolutely my happy place in this parenting journey.
I have been taking it easy since the surgery but have had a few good reasons to leave the house as extra-curricular activities start wrapping up and have their end of year celebrations. Last week we had a father-son football match. The boys usually play 4 x 10 minute quarters in their league matches but they played 2 x 35 minute halves in this one and I am not sure who was more wrung out at the end, dads or kids! For the record, the boys won but the Dads took it surprisingly seriously and gave them a good run for their money.
Then there has been end of course meals and get togethers all the usual events that usher in the end of the school year. 15 days of school left. I always feel excited about school ending for the summer. It reminds me of being a kid – the promise of sun and sea and fun stretching out before me like an infinite world of possibilities, september a vague notion like promises of ‘when you are older’. I am excited for summer. I will be complaining about the heat and bored children in no time, like everyone else, but it has been a long, rubbish year, and I was so weak and unwell last summer that I can’t wait to run into the surf with my boys, spend afternoons helping them clambour onto bodyboards or over rocks, afternoon ‘quiet times’ of crafts that create more mess (and stress?) than works of art.
To which end: today’s outing – first beach day woooo!
In ostomy reversal recovery news the bullethole is slowly healing and everything is going really well. Looks like the flange really stained my skin though as I really would have thought the mark it left would have faded by now (2 weeks later):
Shame they couldn’t site the ostomy just a couple of inches lower and save me laser removal on the little tat I got when I was 18 but I kind of like these two marks, twenty years apart, right next to each other. The tattoo is small and cheesy but it has always reminded me of who and where I was when I got it and my scar will do the same. Lets hear it for strong bodies with marks that tell tales of loves lost and battles won!
It rained last night. That lovely big, fat, noisy rain that lulls you back to sleep everytime you start to surface. Because it is warmer now we sleep with the window open so it was especially loud and lovely, pushing cool freshness into our room.
It is hard to appreciate the rain when you grow up in Scotland, or any other rainy place. Everyone enjoys rainy days occasionally but when it is the norm, not so much. When you have no choice but to schlep out with boots on and umbrellas in hand it is a soggy annoyance. Don’t even start me on drizzle.
Living where we do, rain is very much an occasional occurance. So much so that we can go months with barely a drop. And when it rains visitors laugh as my kids press their faces up against the glass, or run outside to get wet. People tend to stay in and avoid it, as it passes relatively quickly, they would rather wait than get unnecessarily wet. At the first sign of a few drops parks and football grounds clear in minutes, as I drag my feet to call my kids in I am warned by helpful, horrified, friends ‘they will get WET!’ As if the rain will melt them into a puddle like the wicked witch. At school they are not allowed out to play if it has rained. Not only when it is raining but if the ground is wet from earlier rain. I can’t help compare this to our short stint in the UK when O was 6, when they played sports in short sleeves. Outside. In November. My own memories of watching cousins play rugby in pelting rain or snow. Warm weather makes people somewhat delicate, apparently.
We had friends over for dinner last night. A very yummy mix of Butter chicken, onion bhajis, tandoori chicken, rice and poppadoms. Photos do not do it justice.
The kids loved it, we loved it and we all ate far too much. Later we played pictionary which was great fun with Y resorting to near hysterical charades to supplement his pictures. It is the first time we have played the adult version with them and it was really good fun in between the inevitable tears “I don’t know how to draw a mooooonkeeeeeyyyyy”.
This morning I decided to tackle the massive bunches of cilantro I bought at the market yesterday. You may live in a city where you can find most ingredients most of the time. I do not live in such a place. Judging by the stock in the nearest shops to me, cilantro is a crazy-exotic herb which is ordered on a possibly biannual basis. I was actually shocked to find it in the market yesterday. At any rate a local shopkeeper urged me to buy lots when I do find it and to freeze it to avoid exactly the kind of runaround I usually find myself in. One exactly like, in fact, the one I was in the middle of and which precipitated said advice.
So. Two big bunches of cilantro and one Indian meal later I had to face up to my decision and take it in hand
Actually this picture does not do justice to the size of the bunches. They overflowed a carrier bag. Here it looks kind in unremarkable. Anyway above we have one bunch chopped (in bowl) and one to go. This is a very sanitised version of what really happened. I didn’t take pictures of the carnage on the counter where I did the chopping. Cilantro massacre.
Both bunches chopped and some olive oil added I popped it into some ice cube trays and a while later:
We will see how these work out in practice…
After my thrilling herb filled morning we headed off for the weekly family meal. ‘Only’ 16 of us today. And as always an absolute glut of food. We had ‘Tumbet’ which is similar to ratatouille, layers of vegetables first lightly fried in olive oil and then baked in the oven with tomato sauce.
We can all agree I am no food photographer but then people already look at me weird when I try to take pics of food at a table full of people so you will have to forgive the absence of food styling. The food is there to be eaten, not photographed! This meal is a firm mallorquin favourite. I am not big on meals that require hours of hands on prep, no matter how tasty but the communal effort is part of the fun. Whoever is cooking usually turns up about 1130 or 1200 and gets cracking. Then as others arrive; 1230, 1300 they pitch in with whatever needs doing. Its a really smooth operation with everyone kind of milling around, dropping in and out of the action zone, kids playing around and about. It could be chaos with so many people but after so many years (for me, a lifetime for everyone else) it all just kind of happens in a naturally easy way.
After THAT I dropped O at a friend’s and took Y to a birthday party. Where there. Was. More. Food. I have felt full to bursting since before lunch even started. And yet food. Food everywhere. At this point I have that post-christmas lunch feeling. Like everything will be okay if I can just lay really still on the sofa with my trousers unbuttoned. Unlikely to happen because NOW we have O back with friend in tow for a sleepover. Cue pizzas and crisps and no doubt later demands for popcorn or ice cream. Not that I have the slightest intention of eating another drop but even being involved in more food prep today is making me feel ill.
And on top of it all the movie the kids have chosen to watch is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
So now you are 9. NINE! Your last year of single digits. Every single year has seen so many changes as you grow and grow. From baby to toddler, from toddler to preschooler, preschooler to primary. And yet I never stop marvelling at the changes one single year can bring. How much you grow into yourself, develop interests or skills, become more you.
The physical changes are really the least of them but they are still notable. You have of course grown taller and ever leaner. It seems I am forever noticing your trousers are a bit tighter in the waist, shorter in the leg. Who would have guessed that squidgey round little ball of a boy, all crinkles and dimples and soft round edges would be one of the slimmest in his class, all elbows and knees and hard sharp angles? Even that beautiful face, once so round I used to joke we could barely see the bones underneath is now slim and defined. Your eyes are always the same; gorgeous big blues framed with thick black lashes that go on for days and have the Mamas and Abuelas cooing over you wherever we go. Still. Always.
You are a gorgeous kid but it pales in comparison to your lovely gentle soul. There is something different about you that I have never been able to put my finger on. There is a goodness, a very sweet innocence that just pours out of you and is picked up by anyone around you. You are thoughtful and kind hearted, so eager to please, so keen to be liked. You move through the world in a happy, dreamy, bubble, more or less oblivious to the world around you. This makes you, on the one hand, one of the clumsiest kids I know, and believe me I identify with you on this. Your ability to enter a room and somehow inadvertantly clout your brother on the head while spilling something is unsurpassed in this house. It also makes you oblivious to many of the uglier things in life. Everything in this world is amazing to you, it is all beautiful and wonderful. You rarely complain about anything. Quite the opposite; you have an infectious wonder about the world and a positivity that makes me smile for days. You are a great travel companion because you find beauty everywhere. Your friends come over and you run me ragged with requests for smoothies, or pancakes or some other home made treat. Not even food, maybe a craft we recently did together that you want to share. To you these everyday things are AMAZING and you want everyone to share in your enjoyment. The world through your eyes is a truly beautiful place and I wish it was easier to always share that view.
You are bouncy, a real tigger, chatting a mile a minute, full of ideas, never still, always looking for what to do next. We have still never found your off button BUT this year an amazing thing has happened. You will suddenly go to your room to just hang out in peace and quiet (!), not often and not for long but it happens. Waking you in the morning is getting harder (you have always PINGED awake at about 7am) and that feels significant, a sign of pubescent years to come. This is a Great Thing because your endless energy is hard for us mere mortals to deal with. It can be hard to keep up and there were times it felt like you would never learn to enjoy a bit of quiet and peace (and give us some of the same!).
You have become more independant. Not so long ago you wouldn’t go upstairs alone, much less the garden. This year you have started walking to the football ground with friends, running to the shop at the end of the road to pick something up, the other day even going to the park alone. These are difficult milestones for most parents I would guess. We worry so much. But your courage has been hard won and I can’t bring myself to give you any cause to wobble by showing fear or worry at this point. I secretly call your Dad “should I let him go?” “Is it safe, will he be okay?” and so we loosen the cord a little more, giving you more freedom, anxiously waiting for you to come back safe, fighting the urge to sneak out and check on you. This are not small accomplishments. You worry a lot and it can paralyse you so these ‘small’ steps show how much you have grown in yourself, in your confidence.
You have played football for 2 years now. All your friends play and more than anything, ever, you want to be where the action is. You asked to be goalie. It was a good choice. I know many people assume goalkeeping, in younger kids anyway, is for kids that don’t really want to play, run, do too much, but we thought it was very astute of you to pick that position. You can’t run very fast, by your own admission, and you get tired very easily. You were never a kid that ran and ran like some kids do. It has always been a bit harder for you. So goalie seemed a good choice. But it wasn’t a cop out, you never took that position to just stand there, you gave it your all; you would dive for the ball with no fear at all, totally focussed and determined. Training 3 times a week plus a match at the weekend and you never asked to miss even one. And it is not an easy position. Your team have not had a good season and we try to make light that at least you and the other goalie get a good workout stopping goals. It is true. Without you two the losses would be greater and yet you still take the greatest part of the heat when matches are lost. It is hard as a parent to stand there and watch you on the pitch when it is not going well. You really have reached that age where we can no longer always rush in and comfort you or make it better. You have to stand there alone and make the best of it for yourself. One match went really wrong and you started crying in goal. You are not a kid that cries easily. My heart felt like it was tearing in two. It took everything I had to not run in, scoop you up and take you home, like I could have done, would have done only a couple of years ago. I had to just shout my support, tell you to keep your head up, keep going. We were both so proud of you. You were in a hard position but you stayed the course.
It is a hard process for both of us to let you find your own way through these challenges. For you, because undoubtedly some things do feel like they are getting harder, like you are noticing for the first time the unfairnesses in life. For me, because of course I still want to make it all ok with a cuddle but increasingly I am reminded that you are moving away from that now. It feels sometimes like we have arrived at this line in the sand where you are you, on one side, and I am me in the other.There is no longer the overlap there was when you were small, when the hurts were simple and easily fixed. Where we were so entwined as to seem like two parts of the same person. My little shadow, always just a step behind me, holding onto the edge of my shirt to keep the connection physically real. Always sat not next to me but practically on top of me, it felt at times like you wanted to climb back inside my skin, no closeness was close enough. Now you often want to walk ahead of us the last little way into school. Not for embarrassment but I think just to feel big, slowly test the feeling of seperateness. Any kisses have to be grabbed (with permission, of course!) before we reach a certain point on the journey where friends might see. Cuddles are often clumsy affairs as you launch in with all the energy of a 3 year old but the grace of a newborn giraffe. Pointy hurty joints and all. At a strange height which leaves me halfway between a lean and a crouch and not knowing where to put my arms and head. Yet you will hold my hand as we walk down the road and you still want to be tucked into bed and read a story. You are not above a cuddle on the sofa as we watch tv. But you are standing on your own two feet like never before. On your side of the line in the sand. Yourself, separate from me. You look poised to take off, and off and off. And it is harder than you can know not to hold onto the hem of your shirt, trail behind. That is my task. To breathe, and let go. Be here. On the sidelines cheering you on.
Your football craze grows and grows – you are not just mad about playing football but also watching it, listening to it, talking about it, collecting football cards and head full of trivia. Where once you were practically glued to me and had barely a second glance for your Dad now you are his shadow, following him around bending his ear about the latest football news. I find myself wondering how to connect with you, what we can have in common. I knew this would come, it is only natural after all, but it doesn’t make it any easier. We read a lot together and as I run you here or there I reassure myself that it is enough. It is okay just that I am here. I feel like the support artist, the behind the scenes assistant all dressed in black so as not to disturb the main show. Maybe you don’t notice now but – just know. Like planning the trip to see your football team, working out dates and buying game tickets and plane tickets and sorting hotel. Writing the clues for the treasure hunt that would reveal the biggest present of your life so far. So you could go with your Dad. How much I wanted to go just to spend 90minutes watching your enraptured face as you watched the match. But that wasn’t for me to share. It was a special trip for you and your Dad. As it should be. But I am always, always, here. Trying to smooth your way in anyway I can. Watching and cheering you on.
It really has been a year in which you have grown up in many ways. You are a lovely, lovely child and I am so happy you are mine.