We had the joyful experience of a mad dash to the children’s hospital recently. Obviously I won’t go into details, but everything is fine now, except for the fact that I’m pretty sure I’ve got a few more grey hairs on my head.
Seriously – nothing reminds you so brutally of how little control you have over just about anything when your child is poorly and you can’t really do anything to help them. It’s like a big slap in the face from reality. And another sharp reminder of the fact that this little person is not invulnerable to nasty viruses just because you happen to love them quite a lot.
Afterwards I was trying to combat this feeling of residual despair with a bit of the old ‘mindfulness’. Just trying to appreciate the moment a little more – the quiet normality of rinsing shampoo out of my daughter’s hair, that sort of thing. And while I was rolling around on the carpet with my son (normal procedure) with him bursting into hysterical laughter every time we met in the middle, I was definitely trying harder to notice all the details – his halfway-through back molars and his fluffy blonde hair and the string of dribble leaving his mouth as it slowly dripped towards my face (teething is fun). And it did help. Frankly, you don’t know what is around the corner. The only antidote is to just love people and appreciate them.
But mindfulness is hard.
I read a lot (and have probably written about) mindfulness as in ‘enjoy every moment because it goes too quickly’. And it’s true, it does, and I genuinely think mindfulness as a tool for mental health purposes is a good thing, but:
I’ve come to the conclusion that is, in fact, physically impossible to enjoy every single moment.
There are some moments that are just un-enjoyable. (I dare anyone to Pollyanna their way out of stepping on an upturned Megablock. Go on, I dare you.) And when you have two children holding onto the same object and screaming incoherently at each other, you’re probably not loving it.
But as well as the obvious no-human-enjoys-this moments of parenting, there are lots of middle-of-the-road, ‘meh’ moments, too. For example, I spend a lot of my day thinking a mixture of the following:
‘But I just tidied this room!’
‘I’m VERY tired.’
‘How do we produce this much washing? How?’
And I spend a lot of my day saying the following:
‘The washing machine/table/toy basket/my head is NOT for climbing on’
‘Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease can you stop moaning for five minutes. PLEASE.’
‘No, you can’t have another banana. You CANNOT be hungry. You literally ate five minutes ago.’
You get the picture.
I don’t know. I adore my kids, I think they’re the best people in the world, and every day they make me laugh and smile and after they go to bed we usually spend a few minutes wistfully flicking through the pictures we took of them that day and remarking upon their brilliance, even though we’ve spent a good chunk of the afternoon longing for it to be bedtime. I don’t regret a single second of being with them – it has been the best thing ever.
It’s also hard work.
It’s also, sometimes, frustrating and exhausting and annoying.
You can’t enjoy every moment.
You just can’t. So I think it’s important to acknowledge that. Some days are just ‘meh’, or some moments in the days are just ‘meh’, and it doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate it, or you don’t love your children enough, or that you’re not a positive enough person. It just is what it is.
I have decided to stop aiming for perfection in most areas of my life (because I don’t have the energy), and ‘mindfulness’ is also one of those things. Sometimes instead of watching my kids play, I am staring off into space pondering if it would be a waste of money to book a hotel for the night purely for the experience of waking up naturally, at a reasonable hour, in a bed I do not have to make myself. Other times, both of my children are scrambling onto my lap and I’m holding them tight and thinking of nothing other than how it feels to have them there, in my arms, for this very moment, safe.
Until one of them accidentally elbows the other one in the eye.
Then I think about the hotel again.