What we do with our days, is of course, how we spend our lives. Annie Dillard.
So we sat down on the floor in her living room, surrounded by change bags, babygyms and rattles and we talked. The playdate was long overdue and there was much easy chat about parenting, coping with tiredness, accepting the mess and being late. We chatted about plans for the summer and returning to work issues, good coffee machines, the trials of sibling rivalry and how on earth we make time for ourselves.
And it was so enjoyable. I think the joy was simply, but really significantly, in the conversation. Because a lot of the time we tend to catch up with a text message or a few lines in an email or on Facebook. And there is value and good in that connection. At times I am so grateful for it. But being face to face with these women meant I couldn’t multitask, I couldn’t click ‘like’ and move on, I couldn’t save the link for later. We were there to engage with each other, choosing to look each other in the eye, ask questions and stop long enough to wait for the response. And I literally felt life being breathed into my soul – something I rarely feel with social media. In that living room, I felt welcome and known and loved, with friends who were showing me what grace looks like in their world and inspiring me to show it in mine.
And so it’s a playdate at a mate’s house.
But it’s actually so much more than that.
It was nothing major. No plates had been thrown or words spat out in a rage. But we had sort of just……drifted. Lost in our own thoughts and busyness my husband and I had stopped communicating. It’s easy to do that with three little kids, friends and family, schedules, acquaintances, work and to-do lists all making crazy demands of us and consuming every fibre of our being. There isn’t a whole lot of time left for each other.
But there is some.
And we weren’t choosing to talk. We were choosing the other thing – a bath, Masterchef, Twitter, sleep, folding laundry, Modern Family, browsing Gumtree, Amazon, sleep! And so for us, that particular Saturday night, love just looked like having a real conversation together. It was taking half an hour, sitting down and asking the questions that required an intentional, considered response. A little bit more than, ‘Can you buy some more nappies?’ and ‘Where is the key for the garage?’.
For a while, a period of time, my husband and I can definitely go without much conversation. We both have a dominant introverted side to our personalities, veering towards reflective. Which is fine, except sometimes we forget that real life is happening just a few feet away. I often get sucked into being really productive and independent with a tendency to think -who the heck needs to be known anyway?
I suspect a marriage void of conversation will flounder. And I really want mine to flourish. So it’s about cultivating that space for conversation and paying attention. It’s about not becoming so familiar that we forget the hard work of moving towards each other and listening.
And so it’s a married couple chatting on the sofa at the weekend.
But it is actually so much more than that.
It was Friday and we were at Mcdonalds for an end of term treat (?!) and it was totally packed. So I joined the queue and waited, as Noah bashed me over the head with his free balloon. We then had that slightly embarrassing situation of a full tray of food, two hungry over excited kids, but no empty tables. Not one. We did a couple of loops and then I made a desperate executive decision – ‘Come on guys, let’s just go outside and have our lunch okay?’.
So it’s March and it’s overcast and I lift them both up onto these oddly placed stools, squeezing out ketchup and opening Fruit Shoot bottles, thinking to myself – holy smokes, it’s baltic out here.
But these two wee legends just get stuck in, they just accept that we’re all round the table and it’s fun to be outside and let’s just have a laugh mummy. I love that! I need more of that! We chat about our favourite Easter eggs and how long five minutes actually is. We makes plans for Noah’s imminent 3rd birthday party and consider the size of his promised ‘Thomas’ birthday cake. We debate the size and shape and colour of each and every car that passes us at the drive-thru.
It was indeed cold, we were the only people brave (aka mad) enough to eat outside and my stool was most definitely wet – but this little half hour spent eating fries with my kids, just talking and loving life, was awesome!
And so it looks like a few crazies stuffing their faces beside a drive-thru.
But it is actually so much more than that.
Just now, for me, there are these moments that seem really small and insignificant. But in truth, they are the stuff. They make my heart beat a little bit faster. They are golden. Because whilst an incredible piece of technology in my hand brings me the world it also distracts me from what is right under my nose, it causes me to ignore the people sat round my table, the children on my sofa, the friends in my kitchen, the husband beside me, driving our car.
I don’t choose conversations and the face to face encounters as often as I used to. In fact, I am finding my inattention to the present is becoming a problem. I’m finding it easier to disconnect, to disengage, to tune out. I’m constantly wrestling with how to pay attention in an age of incessant distractions, stealing my focus and my time when I let them.
And so sometimes, the intentional offerings of love actually feel like a gift, like they should be recognised and embraced. And like all good gifts, they should be received with so much gratitude.