What parent actually has a couple of minutes to spare?
A child’s sadness that the most wonderful time of year is over has a familiar ring to it
I found myself wondering how much more I might get done when they were back at school. File photograph: Getty
Halloween was 302 days away, or so the tracker on my son’s phone informed me.
He has always loved Halloween. The dark side of the force is strong in him, we’ve always joked . . . kind of . . . and he claims it’s the best time of the year, much to the consternation of his siblings.
He likes to be different, a solitary Evertonian among my offspring, bringing delight only to his father in the process. It looks like it may be a difficult year for him living in a house of Liverpool fans, but he’s not for turning.
Seeing as they hadn’t yet returned to school following Christmas, a countdown to Halloween seemed premature.
“What’s that about?” I asked. “Christmas is only over,” I added, in case twinkling lights from the not yet dismantled Christmas tree were not sufficient reminder.
“Exactly,” he replied. “I need something to look forward to.”
And there it was. That same trait evident in me as a youngster. A complete inability to live in the present.
It’s a bit like those January blues we all face as the miserable weather takes hold
He wasn’t alone. I looked at the gloomy faces around me who weren’t remotely concerned by the possibility there may be a lunch box lurking in their schoolbag since December 20th, but instead were crestfallen at the prospect of a return to school.
On the one hand, it’s a bit like those January blues we all face as the miserable weather takes hold and the next bank holiday seems an eternity away.
On the other there was a familiarity about a child’s sadness that the most wonderful time of year was over.
“I can’t wait until we go back to Lanzarote,” said the perked-up child who hadn’t realised it had taken us 15 years to finally get that first family holiday. I hadn’t the heart to break it to him yet that wouldn’t be happening.
“I have the Junior Cert to look forward to,” wailed the one who probably loves Christmas most. “Well the mocks first,” I reminded, adding to his woes.
“I’m so glad that’s all behind me,” chipped in the eldest, winding up her brother with sibling privilege while having Electric Picnic to look forward to later in the year.
“Has anyone seen my Sonic the Hedgehog?” interrupted the youngest, the only one who seemed focused on the here and now.
I heard of it again in the guise of an inspirational quote
I’d heard a little about mindfulness, first from an Au Pair who lived with us some years back. She stuck Spanish words to her bedroom wall. “Reminders,” she said, because living mindfully took “a lot of practice”. I left her to it.
I heard of it again in the guise of an inspirational quote along the lines of “yesterday exists only in your memory. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. There is only now.” It kind of shocked the oversentimental side of me a bit, mostly the reference to yesterday not really existing any more. I mean of course I knew that - and without a DeLorean, plutonium or a flux capacitor, time travel was never going to be possible. Still rather than finding the quote inspirational, I found it more “grounding”, perhaps.
And then I came across actual grounding.
I watched it on someone’s Instagram story. Just a couple of minutes to calm stress and be “in the now” promised the instagrammer. I was intrigued. I watched and then moved on, wondering what parent actually has a couple of minutes to spare.
It seemed appropriate as my children wished half to two-thirds of the year away to remind them going back to school wasn’t that bad. Nor did they have to wait until weekends or holidays to be content. “The afternoons and evenings are yours. You don’t have to wish your life away,” I said to the middle child in a wise-sounding parental manner.
“Hmmm and what about homework,” he replied unconvinced, leading with my personal bugbear. “Let’s stick to that timer and not go over,” I answered trying not to rise to the perfect bait.
As deadlines loomed and excitable children bounced off the walls I found myself wondering how much more I might get done when they were back at school.
Then I remembered the grounding and the use of senses, though maybe not the correct order. I was to hear five things, see four things, smell three things etc.
I’m just rescuing Spiderman from the toilet
First thing I heard was the rustle of child six rooting in the boiler house. I tried to focus harder. First thing I saw was the same child run by the dining room door with a plunger in his hand. First thing I smelt was trouble.
“What are you up to?” I called. “I’m just rescuing Spiderman from the toilet,” he replied, scarpering up the stairs.
“Living in the now” was abandoned – sometime it’s helpful to forsee the toilet tsunami that’s threatening.