I reach for my phone. I reply to one email before it dies. I open my laptop. Also dead. The kids ask to watch Peter Rabbit. I give them the iPad so I can do a tiny bit of work while they are occupied. They tell me there’s no battery. I plug it into charge. The charger is broken. I let out a laugh. “Of course”, I say out loud and my kids look at me with what I can only describe as worried apprehension, waiting to see how things will play out next.
The metaphor for my life is not lost on me in this moment — that not only is this season of my life an experience of running on empty to an extreme and all-consuming level, but that the things which recharge me are often inaccessible and inadequate. Sure, I can take a bath, but ten minutes later, I’m back up to 100, such is the nature of life with very small children.
I’m at the avocado section, perusing over just-right firmness, bouncing a baby on my hip who has to be physically attached to me at all times, and listening to the other two fight about who gets to hold the strawberries. It’s a scene I’ve been cast in millions of times. I focus on the avocados so I don’t lose my mind. A lady pulls her cart in next to me. Makes some comment about the avocados. Notices Georgie. Says something like, “Oh! Goodness me, what a sweetheart!” I immediately guess she has school-aged children, maybe seven or eight years old, and she’s using my kids to recollect a phase in her life now gone. “My youngest is five,” she says. I smile to myself, correct in my assumption. “God I miss them as babies,” she tells me. “You forget it all, don’t you?”
I tell her: Yes, you do, especially the hard bits. She laughs. I can tell she wants to stay awhile. We talk for ten minutes, trading horror story after horror story. “Oh, the fighting!” she says, when I mention the bickering. “One day when we were driving, my son had a fight with my daughter because she was looking out his window. DON’T LOOK OUT MY WINDOW, he said, and so I said IT’S NOT YOUR WINDOW, NOBODY OWNS ANY WINDOWS, WE ARE ALL FREE HERE TO POSITION OUR EYES IN ANY DIRECTION WE CARE TO.”
I laughed, loud and long. It was a conversation which completely reset my frame of mind that day, a reminder that solidarity goes a long way when digesting the intensity of parenthood.
Being maxed out and overwhelmed is nothing new in family life. Oh you’re tired? Yes! Hello! Nice to meet you! Over the years, I have whittled down two main tools in my survival kit: Solidarity and Self-Care, also known as – strangely – I’m Not Alone and Thank God I Am Alone.
Yes, our chargers might be broken. Lost. Stolen. They get us back up and running, only to be completely drained again the next day. God, the next ten minutes. But the level of pressure we’re under must be in proportion to the amount of time we spend being our own friends. This I know for sure. We must make ourselves the tea. Run ourselves the bath. Make it a priority to give ourselves reprieve. Pay for the help if we have to, if we can.
It’s been close to two months since I’ve written a blog here in this little sanctuary of mine. I miss it. And I’m choosing it today, above the loud and booming symphony of all the other things that need my time and attention, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned for sure from Motherhood’s Head Office, it’s that you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Some winter traditions today — a handful of photos of this small little life and this little family of mine I put so much work into, so that the poetry of my hard labour rises above the fact that it takes up nearly every last breath, and minute, I have.
Ice skating at King George Square.
We look forward to this each year. It’s never packed out with people and we delight in the wintery feel that is such a treat in our desperately hot city.
Please note the snowball Billy has in his hand which he threw at me two seconds after this picture was taken.
Perhaps one of my favourite winter rituals, and I use the term “winter” lightly here because as you can see, my children are wearing t-shirts and sun dresses.
Pie, pie, all the pies.
Not to be confused with previously mentioned favourite winter traditions. This will be the last year we build our beloved plastic-lid-eyed fake snowmen because I have personal limits, you guys, and I draw the line at Swarming Mass of Humanity Crammed Into Slippery Pile of Hell.
Georgie is all of us.
The whole event this year hit a new-time low and for an introvert like me, it was all kids of hideous. Still, I took pictures. We went. We survived.
The winter school holidays are perhaps my favourite, when we’re in hibernation mode, staying in our jammies until noon, choosing home, playing games and going slow.
From a flower workshop my girl took these school holidays.
I like to switch up our home at the best of times, but seasonal shifts particularly so. We recently went through all the baskets of toys and games we have, organising them and laying them out in our living room to invite play during the wintery, home-y days spent together. We are a big games family, and have listed our favourites, in case you were wanting to expand your collection. My children are aged 4 and 6 and easily understand and play all these games, if you were wanting an age reference.
Uno, Skip Bo, Memory, Sleeping Queens (this is an absolute favourite and something we play ALL THE TIME. It says age 8+ but I don’t agree – my two caught onto the rules and strategies very easily).
Favourites are Twister and Outfoxed (another favourite — also says Age 8+ but as long as I play with them, both my kids can happily follow along.)
MagnaTiles, Lego, a collection of puzzles, and simple building blocks I set out for Georgie.
And that brings me to the end of my Me Time. It’s short and sharp and one day there will be more, but for now:
Happy winter, friends.