I was talking with a friend last week, whose eldest daughter starts primary school this month. I asked her the usual questions – how are you feeling about it? will you miss her? – and her reply really got me thinking. She told me that she’s not really one your looking back or forward. That she tries to appreciate every stage her children are at, and savour them – accepting both good and bad times.
Her words stayed with me as I picked Lucas up from preschool that afternoon, his first proper session. Normally I’d be rushing back home with the children; thinking about what I needed to get done that afternoon; mentally planning for the weekend. But this time I heard my friend’s words in my head and it gave me pause. I suddenly stopped thinking about the things I needed to do, and thought about how in a year it will be Lucas starting primary school. I thought about how much has happened in the last year and how short a time it is really, how much I’d like to savour our time together.
We walked past the bakery and he spotted some biscuits with faces iced on them. His own face lit up as he pointed them out – “FACES, Mummy, look at the funny faces!”. I replied in my usual way, “oh wow! Maybe we can get some one time,” and although I didn’t mean it as a dismissal, his posture dropped with his muttered “oh.” Normally I’d have kept going, trying to engage him in conversation about his afternoon, but this time I stopped the buggy and crouched down.
“Lucas, would you like to get some biscuits today?” I asked him. The excitement returned to his face as he shouted “YES PLEASE, MUMMY!” and I couldn’t help but laugh. I gave him a big hug, we turned around, and took pleasure in choosing the faces we wanted. We made a plan to get home and eat the biscuits while snuggling together on the sofa, while the babies played. We chatted all the way home and I felt for the first time in a while like I’d done right by him.
Here’s the thing: sometimes I worry so much about spoiling Lucas, about him turning into a demanding brat, that I forego the opportunity to have fun with him. In hindsight, it’s easy to see that one biscuit on one day (that he didn’t even actually ask for) is not going to spoil him, but it did give us a really nice shared experience. It was simple, easy, and cheap, but my normal pattern would have meant we’d missed out.
Since that day, I’ve been looking to create fun wherever I can. I catch myself before automatically saying “no”. I let Lucas do what he wants to, where possible. I trust him not to push it and I can feel him relaxing in my company. He’s calmer, handling transitions better (something that he’s always struggled with) and he’s finding it easier to shake it off if things don’t go his way. Consequently, our time together is naturally more enjoyable.
It’s not always easy, but I feel like we are on the right path. And when I struggle, I know my friend will be there to remind me to savour the moment – even if that ‘moment’ is cuddling my screaming preschooler!