There’s not much I remember from my childhood. Small snippets come back, like the wattle tree out the front and the time our dog walked over the freshly polished floors and how mad mum was. I spent most of the time trying not to get maimed, I think. I had two older brothers and I’m certain they did not appreciate being asked to play let’s-line-the-dolls-up-and-pretend-we’re-the-teacher. Nor did they care for cooking mud pies. Although they had no sign, I’m sure if they thought to get their hands on one it would say in big, child-scrawled letters NO GIRLS ALLOWED.
I had friends up and down the street and I visited them as often as I could, sneaking away on more than one occasion and giving my parents heart attacks at the discovery of their missing child. But then, I don’t think any childhood is complete without a planned and kind-of-carried-though getaway. You made it two doors up? Bravo! Mission completed!
The truth is, I remember large portions of my childhood as being in solitude. I created imaginary little worlds and spent my time keeping out of the way of the boys.
Maybe because of that, I have this fierce desire to create an extraordinary childhood for my kids. And by extraordinary, let me clarify.
I’m old enough to understand that grown-up life can sometimes come with a sort of dissatisfying monotony. That’s why we seek adventure, change, colour and thrill. I am, however, strangely drawn to the homebody life because I find contentment in what some might call an ordinary life. I say some might call because when we grasp the perspective of viewing mundane routines as opportunities to transform ordinary into extraordinary, it gets a little on the thrilling side.
The other night, Joel and I were in the throes of domestic exhaustion. He had pinned his body to the couch. I was on Facebook, or something equally as enriching. We’d hardly spoken since he got home, too caught up in our own reasons to neglect each other and recoup ourselves. It was an ordinary weeknight. A usual going-through-the-motions. Suddenly, I grabbed a rug, poured Joel a whisky and told him we were going star-gazing. I pretended it was a great adventure, this event, and that we’d have to go on a moon walk first to get to the star-gazing bit. We scrambled around the side of the house in the dark, trying to see who could see the moon first. The cold air hit our faces and we threw down the blanket, snuggled close and made shapes out of the clouds. It was grand, and something we’ll be doing more of.
It’s taken almost thirty years but I have come to see that living an extraordinary life is not about glitz and glamour in the slightest. No ma’am. It’s about creating memorable moments out of the mundane. It’s about asking yourself, “Now how do I make this special?”. Making sandwiches? Serve them on fine china. Listening to music? Put on a ridiculous outfit and turn it into a dance party. Can’t get a crying baby to sleep? Take them for a walk under the stars. Hungry? Make some homemade potato chips, run an afternoon bath and eat them in the tub. (Yes, that really happened. Ella kept looking at me all like, Seriously?? We’re really allowed to do this??)
I do all these things for my child because I want to fill her memory bank with endearing memories of childhood – of love and play and adventure and colour. I want family and tradition to be a huge part of her identity and her security, and I want her to grow up experiencing how full and rich life can be when you throw around a bit of imagination. Mostly, though, I do it for me. Taking time to reframe the mundane doesn’t just benefit our children–it restores our own motivation and perspective. Sure, Ella gets a kick out of it, but the truth is that I feel inspired when we drop everything and gear up for a moon walk. The contrast of night exploration against our everyday routine feels adventurous. Sipping hot drinks in our raincoats and getting wet, when we’d usually be huddled inside hiding from the rain, feels different and special.
Don’t worry, it’s not real coffee. We keep empty coffee cups about the place because we’ve got a girl who does not like to miss out on big people stuff. Plus, it keeps her occupied for about 10 minutes which is, like, an hour in parent time.
We have a lot on our plates, whether we have children or not. Whether we’re well off or struggling financially. Whether we’re alone or in partnerships. Life is hard despite all these variables, so we’re tired and stressed. We’re busy and overwhelmed and we’re chasing all sorts of dreams. And yet, when I’m all up in life’s grill, the ordinary continues to ground me in a way nothing else does, and tweaking a few things here and there means my life is filling up fast with memorable moments, a rich parenting experience and a feeling of adventure despite groundhog day routines. It feels better to spend more moments thinking my god…this is special, rather than how long til I can call it a day?
And you want to know the great thing about all this? It may start as effort but over time, like eating better or exercising, finding ways to create extraordinary from ordinary becomes a way of life. A really enjoyable way of life. I don’t think in ten years time we’ll be asking ourselves “Now how do I make this special?”, I’m certain it will just come naturally because for so long we have practiced finding ways to create memorable moments.
Since I started this parenting gig, we’ve created our own list of simple things that turn monotonous days into something more.
Like candlelit dinners…just because.
Like trips to the library.
Where we can practice being astronauts.
She’s under serious orders from the high chief astronaut commander and she takes her job very seriously.
Like backyard sunset picnics.
Like picking flowers for the kitchen bench.
Like bubbles. Everyday there are bubbles.
Whether she opens my heart to want more from this life, or whether it opens because I want her to have more out of life, we are gettin’ amongst it. We are grabbing hold. We are picking up our megaphones and shouting Here We Are.