I often find myself in a rush. I really want to see things happen, and fast. It gets to October, and I can see the year has almost gone – then comes December, and it’s a whirlwind of activity. Everything needs to be done quickly or more importantly – now! If I have an idea, I want to put it into action immediately – I can see a way to be better and I want to be better, now.
This often makes me impatient with myself and others – including my children. It’s hard to let my children be ‘bad’ at something. I know I can do it well and quickly – wrapping a present, tying a shoelace, and so it goes on. Unless I intersect with ‘slow imperfect action’ (the perfect learning action), I deny my children the opportunity to learn – and the freedom to fail and try again. This is a beautiful, normal process, which I failed to fully grasp in the past, and one I still need reminding of.
Perhaps I have been in a rush my whole life. When I assess how things are going, I judge whether they have happened well – instead of whether they happened at all. You may remember in the previous issue of Parenting, I was learning the art of waiting. Well, learning to wait, to be patient, has been hard won. It doesn’t come naturally, and yet it has happily spilled over into new areas of my life – ‘good things come to those who wait’. The end of the year is the perfect time to quiet my mind, my soul and myself – in effect, to slow down and take a long, honest look at where I have come from, and where I am heading – a self check-up if you will. And what I see is gradual, sustainable change – progress, even – just more gently and slowly than I ever imagined.
This past month was crazy. It featured the two most extensive corporate gigs I’ve had in 2015, plus three major fundraising events. I was involved in Tearfund’s five-day Live Below the Line challenge, a blog for the New Zealand Herald, and running our household, as Hamish was away with work for a lot of it. Basically, I worked myself to the point of exhaustion – running on five hours of sleep a night, neglecting all extra curricular activities – and all in all, it went really well. The children were good, the work was great, the fundraising and charity work was really valuable and I am stoked to have made it through in one piece. But the story of my crazy month doesn’t end there. A few extra things were added last minute. I received news that Hamish couldn’t come on holiday with us – which meant I had to pack for a week of camping on my own. We got up at 6am and out of the house calmly (not a small miracle), but found out at the wharf that we weren’t booked on the ferry ride and there was no space for us.
So we made a new plan, with one of the children refusing to get in the car and come to the airport. After finally making it to Great Barrier and setting up camp, I couldn’t light the gas fridge or start the car. I’m not saying I didn’t cry during any of this, but none of it was crushing or a sign that I was useless or a failure as a mother. In fact, all of it was very much like life can be, a well-meaning mess, an imperfect situation that requires some effort and attention. And that is what I gave it – some of my attention and effort. I stayed the course and kept going – calmly, slowly, patiently.
Amongst it all, there were moments of real kindness – a hug from a school mum, encouragement from a friend, love from my dad, compassion from the woman at check-in and assistance from a neighbour. In truth, I don’t believe we are meant to do life alone – we are designed to help each other out. It’s a beautiful exchange – a life-giving one. Reflecting on the past month, I notice I’ve changed. It’s almost hard to believe. I’ve been calm in the face of stress and the occasional mishap – and I like this new me. It has to do with regular exercise, creative time, de-cluttering our home and giving myself credit for completing steps one through to nine, even if step 10 doesn’t quite get done. I have also been kind and patient with myself, allowing me to be kind and patient with others – which is the best bit.
Today was a celebration. I had gone to sleep at 9.30pm the night before and woke at the indulgent hour of 8am! At some point after ‘not-homemade’ pikelets, the children and I went to the beach, where we stayed for five glorious hours. Swimming, running on the sand, reading books and nibbling on chips, playing volleyball with a giant tennis ball, and being so thankful to be alive on this day, with these folks, in this land – my tūrangawaewae. It was supreme. A few years ago, I would have left home with a sense of chaos and most likely some shouting. I would have been angry and seeking to lay blame with the booking miscommunication. I may have become indecisive, and coerced my son into the car, and fallen apart at my failure to light the fridge.
So you see – in the face of mild, first-world adversity, I can take stock and see that change is slow, and creeps up at times, but by golly, it’s worth the wait. The children said to me today, “Mum, this trip is going better than I thought it would without Dad.” I had to smile, and then I called him and asked how to get the solar power to the sockets in the camp kitchen.