Monthly Archives: February 2012

The colour of God

One brother to the other:

“I know what colour God is.”

“What colour?”

“See-through.”

Dramatic pause

“But the kind of see-through you can’t see.”

Thoughtful pause.

“And even though you can’t see God, he’s always hugging us or holding us, isn’t he?”

The other brother says, with a weary eye-roll that suggests this is theology for babies:

“Of course he is. He’s got the whole world in his hands.”

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Laughter therapy

The house falls quiet for the first time in more than twelve hours, and I let the silence settle over me like a favourite blanket.

I love this time of evening. We call it grown-up time in our house, and the boys seem to accept that it’s simply something that helps to keep their parents sane.

I switch on the kettle, savouring the sound of the water reaching boiling point. The anticipation of a quiet cup of tea to mark this peaceful moment is arguably more delicious than the tea itself.

A month or two ago it got dark at four o’clock but tonight I strolled along the beach at half past five and it was daylight still. It might be February but spring comes early in these parts, and my soul just knows that it’s already here. You can even taste it – I breathe in deep lungfuls of salty sea air and it fills me up with hope – the perfect but intangible distillation of what Spring really is.

This Spring I plan to laugh a lot. I’ll breathe in hope and exhale humour. I don’t laugh enough and today I caught myself in full-on Victor Meldrew mode. Lighten up, I told myself,  un-furrowing my brow as I realised that frowning makes the world seem a much darker place. Laughing makes it lighter.

Yesterday marked a milestone in our family, and the alchemy of the moment was more magical than first steps or words. We laughed together, but it was our first proper family in-joke, consisting of a genuine misunderstanding which led to a little micky-taking and ended with us cracking up together. Now any one of us needs only to say ‘bacon chocolate cake’ and no-one can help but laugh.

I love the natural capacity kids have for humour. From slapstick-style falling over to witty repartee my lads have got comedy covered, but I’m so often too distracted / busy / stupid to see the funny side.

And yet teaching a kid to prioritise laughter is such a gift. The funniest people I know seem to be the most resilient, too. I aspire to be more like that, and to encourage that emerging trait in my kids.

There’s often so much confrontation in our household – so much more than I had expected there to be. If we’re not issuing ultimatums, cajoling, or demanding then we’re enforcing time outs, removing privileges and doling out lectures. It gets so dull, and it’s so much more fun to laugh together.

It’s time we did that so much more.

Tantrums, threats and taramasalata

I smother a third slice of toast with taramasalata, and skulk away from the toaster. My guilt is compounded by a downwards glance which gives me cause to remark aloud to the empty kitchen: ‘I can see why it’s called a jelly belly’.

Weary with defeat, I crack open the bottle of beer that not two hours ago I vowed to leave unopened as a treat for the man of the house.

It was all going so well this evening. Granted, one son faithfully delivered his nightly performance of The Exorcist j-u-s-t as I was making dinner, but we recovered well.

(I swear he’s been this way since birth – when hunger strikes it hits him hard and no matter what time I start preparing supper you can bet your bottom dollar he’ll be pleading for a snack minutes before meal time…

… Tonight I was probably to blame. I enticed him away from his grandparents’ house with an elicit mention of the croissants I’d picked up while shopping earlier in the day, but when he seemed to forget about them upon entering the house I figured I could have dinner on the table before he’d remember. Wrong. Cue wailing and door slamming because I wouldn’t oblige with croissants – and hot chocolate, no less – as an appetizer ahead of bangers and mash.)

Sigh.

I served up peas on the understanding that one son adores them. Or so he told me. Wrong again.

When croissant-gate was over there were smiles at the table and tea was declared ‘the best ever’. Pudding was as much fruit as I could persuade into them along with yoghurt, mini meringues, and a drizzle of golden syrup. Followed by a croissant and hot chocolate for one. Yes, really.

I washed up the day’s dishes – an endless task – while the boys watched TV. When a tired squabble erupted out of nowhere we turned the TV off and I sent them off to wage war with Star Wars figures instead of one another.

Stupidly, I perched on the edge of my desk chair and scanned through the day’s work emails. Minutes later I was absorbed in a quick but complicated email exchange and when another squabble drew me from my concentration I felt disproportionately harangued.

One boy had hit another, as boys are wont to do, but in that moment all the days of endlessly urging ‘no hitting’ erupted into impatient fatigue and I raised my voice and sent both boys to their room. They protested loudly and refused – as boys are wont to do – and the battle of wills threw me over the edge. I may have unplugged the Wii and brandished it aloft while threatening ill-considered consequences unless my instructions were obeyed.

Not my finest hour. Hence the easy comfort of stolen beer and too much taramasalata.

We all calmed down, and clambered into my bed for cuddles and a debrief. We ended the day with books and tickling and laughter but I seek the cheap solace of white bread and beer because I have this nagging feeling that all they’ll remember in the years to come is the yelling and the day she nearly threw the Wii out of the kitchen window.

Mamawish

You should know that I’m the kind of mother who doesn’t laugh things off as often as she should, and who tends towards a little introspection.

I wish I remembered much more often that I have a sense of humour.

I wish I shouted less. 

I wish good intentions were much more powerful than they are.

My parenting style is way more confrontational than I would like. I don’t really have regrets in life except for all the times I’ve lost my temper with my children and been more ratty / grumpy / ill-humoured than the situation really warrants.

I’m trying to change, and it astonishes me how difficult change can be.

(I’m also my harshest critic.)

What about you? Are you the kind of parent / partner / person that you wish you were?

And if so, what’s your secret?