Winter, in short, from a mother’s perspective
It’s wintertime. Last month I cared for my children, sick in the flu. Trying to make it up to them, what they missed out on in school preparations for Christmas. I cooked and baked, gingerbread and all. I read stories and decorated. I ran around the Christmas tree spreading glitter all over the place. Ok, that was all of us. But still, I was like a real housewife! Oh, and I sent my husband to all the formal Christmas parties and meetings, representing the family. Like a real man! I know, it’s like I had no dignity, but I call it traditional housewife syndrome: I had no time left, nor energy.
How come? Well apart from being the nurse, the chef, the cleaning lady and the nanny – I’ve added to my responsibilities the role of a hairdresser, carpenter (proudly building a combined room divider and shelf, even if a bit crooked) and photographer. The mandatory Christmas card with happily smiling sons – always hours of fun, for them: me chasing them around, trying to tidy them up. Them dressing up as part elf, part Santa, with huge Santa beard, and sometimes a red Rudolph nose. And suddenly they both want the beard and if they can’t have it there will be tears in my happy picture. It’s a huge project.
Oh, and there is of course the role of the party planner.
I’ve arranged Christmas for the big family I dearly love, parents and cousins included. It was a beautiful evening, all candles lit, gifts exchanged, my kids were happy and family was happy – and I was dead tired even before we started, but that’s how it goes. I’ve got a nice and understanding family, who is kind enough to bring food along to these events, leaving me with less to do. But still. They know, they help out, they even let me sleep for a while on the couch last year.
I’ve arranged new years eve dinner and celebration for very enthusiastic kids. Dancing around a cold, winter naked cherry tree in our very small garden, throwing home made paper airplanes (“rockets”) around to mimic real firecrackers seemed a beautiful ending of last year.
Preparing for a nice family holiday is always a bit stressful. I was in a state of constant desperation. Time to do the things you want tend to be limited by the things you need. I like spending some quality-play-time with my children. I like cooking a nice meal from time to time, watching a movie or seducing my husband sometimes too. Enjoyable things that are kinda necessary, in a good way.
But cleaning is also, unfortunately. Less fun, but pleasing once it’s over. If it would only be over, once and for all, so I could get more time and energy left for the fun parts? Couldn’t it be, just this once? But household work just never ends!
I know, we need to feed, care for and educate our young. Keeping everyone reasonably healthy includes a whole lot of cleaning and scrubbing. Of course it doesn’t end. And sometimes the household work might go along with the kids quality time and education too, if we can get them inspired, encouraged to help us out… But. It’s not the most efficient way to do things. I sometimes need to do the dishes, without them slipping on wet floor from trying to help. I need to cook without them burning themselves, or spice things up by adding, say, a whole can of salt into he mix. And when I need to vacuum, I will need the vacuum cleaner for myself, although of course I appreciate them trying to help. But they look so let down when I go ahead and vacuum again, right where they just did it for me!
I want them to have some fun along the way, but I also want to get things done. So I try and distract them. Get them going on a project or playing something elsewhere, when I work on some boring necessity. This means I turn my back on them. This is where it turns interesting. And cause me a lot of trouble.
My children are always eager to make a mess where vigorous cleaning just made a fresh space. “Oh, look, this will be a perfect place for a hut!” or I will find carefully built castles there, building blocks occupying the rest of the room. Oh, I know. Lots of parents keep their homes more orderly by keeping toys in the children’s rooms. Sometimes I wish I was one of them. But then again, to me, family life includes the whole bunch of us. So we have toys everywhere. And my kids are around me all day long, if not in school or day care. They have their rooms, they go there sometimes, to show their friends or to pick up a toy, but they like to be close to where we are. Watch what we do. Make us watch what they do. Mimic what we do. Make us mimic them. It’s all give and take and it’s wonderfully rewarding if you manage to keep your sanity, which is undoubtedly hard.
The kids create whole new ways to do things. Create new games. Create their own toys, given paper, scissors and tape. Or whatever they can find in the litter box. They make new worlds, under the stairs is “space” for example, complete with glow-in-the-dark stars, hovering skyrockets and paper planets in string. Some toy animals are aliens. A flashlight is a lightsaber… They can experiment for hours in the kitchen area, allowed to use dish soap and some spice. Then they freeze it, or pour it into small bottles, labeling them “love potion” or “poison“. I watched them turn the rocking horse into Rudolph the red nosed reindeer last week. They are social, curious and creative. I’m immensely proud of them and believe they are geniuses in the making – but they are also, just a little bit, tiresome.
Now I’ve got the flu. Still, things are on their way towards a new spring and I’ll start over. Making time to write again. Or so I thought.
They wake up happy and enthusiastic at 6 am. They get breakfast and kisses in bed by hopeful mum, praying they will go back to sleep. They won’t. They’ll soon be giggling or playfighting or both, pillows and blankets thrown about. Then they start making themselves toys and tools out of anything they can find. Today, before 8, I had a fully dressed pirate happily chewing on a claw and a black knight shooting sky rockets up into the air, in my bedroom. We tried to have a sleep-in morning. We were out of luck this time.
We need to get them out and running, before someone starts climbing walls. One sofa is already retired from a whole year of service, since intense jumping and climbing made it tear in half. Well, the new (old, second hand, big and hopefully strong) one, is forbidden to play in. Oh, how they try and sit still. They get so tense from trying I’ll need to redirect them to the floor and some crazy disco dancing every now and then. They compete in who can jump furthest across the carpet. They play balloon-volleyball (good for an indoor activity, even in adult furniture rooms). They pillowfight. They play wrestle, or just hug each other, the difference is small. A whole lot of love, but also a whole lot of noise. Outside is always better.
Today we had snow, so that’s always fun. Sledding down slopes with the whole family is wonderful. Cold, and exercising, but fun. Father ran first, with a sled and giggling son behind him. Soon they where human pyramids going down the slope, roaring with laughter and I felt the mother’s nerves could take it no longer. I went home so they could have their Boy time, hoping for Father’s better judgement to apply. They came back for lunch, rednosed and smiling faces all over the place. Dripping muddy snow, soon-to-be-water from caps and mittens.
When properly exercised for at least an hour, they relax pretty well. A couple of minutes or so. Sometimes in the sofa. But then it’s not the jumping that causes trouble. It’s the general melt-down effect. They sort of slide gently downwards. Pull their feet up. Slide some more. Always ending up upside down. Giggling.
You might think they have concentration problems. They have not. My oldest is 7 and won’t stop reading until I tell him to stop. He reads fast, 200 pages a day easily – but his legs just can’t stay still while doing so. I need to peel him off those books on a regular basis so that he can run around in circles for a while. How many parents need to tell their kids to for God’s sake Stop Reading!?
Little brother is writing his first letters, with everything he can find: pencils of course, but with sticks on ground, string on floor, spaghetti straws on plate… He sings a lot and knows a lot of songs from heart, also making up his own, sometimes including rhyme.
I think they are both brilliant. But how much stimulation does one little brain need? Don’t they ever just get fed up? But no, now they are private investigators, searching for clues. I soon get ink marks from fingerprints on my table. I’m not happy about it, but it was clearly unintentional. Then suddenly someone has invented a snow machine, and I get tiny paper confetti, home made from scissors and paper, neatly collected in a bowl, poured over my head by happily yelling son “Look mum, it’s snowing!“