Today, we woke to the sound of slaps and screeches as my kids started to beat each other at 7am.
Noah ‘washed his windows’ with teeny tiny stringy bits of sopping wet toilet roll.
I straightned my hair and found clumps of raspberry jam in it.
I spent a wee while scraping bits of yellow playdoh in or out (I’m still not sure which) of the light brown carpet in the kid’s bedroom.
I answered this. ‘Mummy, what’s a b*tch?’
And this. ‘What’s puberty anyway?’
I felt the madness that is two kids kicking off at the same time in my face.
I lit four nice smelly candles all around our house. And it still smells gross.
I brushed the floor on three separate occasions. And I’m still finding bits of flaky pastry from our sausage roll extravaganza.
Only once did I go to the loo, by myself.
I changed my top three times because Poppy has a cold which means my shoulder has a contant stream of snot all over it.
I reached for my toothbrush and found it completely covered in bright blue, bubblegum flavoured ‘Thomas the Tank’ toothpaste.
At bedtime my husband glanced at me and said – ‘What’s up? ‘
And I wanted to give him the worst Chinese burn imaginable.
All that to say I’ve been thinking about a holiday. I’ve been thinking how to make it a really good one- and by good I actually mean big and expensive. My kids have never asked for this – they think Barry’s in Portrush is ‘so cool’. But there’s a part of me slightly concerned about the memories and the things they’ll talk about in ten years time.
Surely it’s got to be big if it’s going to stick at all, right?
Like, it’s got to be epic?
It doesn’t help that everywhere I look consumer culture is telling me that in order to make those great memories I must spend an obscene amount of money. The best holiday is the biggest. The best is the furthest, the wildest, the hottest!
And then I hear the kids next door are going to Boston for three weeks and I feel a little bit deflated. Because they’re off to make themselves some cracker memories, while we stay at home listening to Barra Best telling us there’s more rain on the way…
In contrast to all of this, in the evenings I am sloooowly making my way through this book called Organized Simplicity. The author Tsh Oxenreider talks a lot about the small stuff. She says we tend to miss the value of the small in all of the craziness. In fact, the craziness is so all-consuming that we book two weeks off in the summer and cram in all the best big stuff we can. We overspend, we squeeze in the quality time, we get away from the madness in a bid to slow down for a fortnight in the south of France.
And she suggests the actual things our kids will cherish and take to their hearts are the everyday little things –
What we all want and need – children and adults alike – is a full life, one dripping with meaning and richness. That richness comes from savouring the everyday, from having enough time and sanity to notice the meaningful moments when they appear and enjoy them as they linger.
And I think she is onto something.
Because I don’t really remember anything particularly extravagant growing up, do you? When I think about my childhood what comes to mind is my mum and dad and well, just us being together! Watching videos and having dinner, playing board games, enjoying trips to Portrush, baking and learning to knit!
So, nothing remotely wild, adventurous or expensive! But I had a perfectly lovely childhood with plenty of great memories to cherish.
Perhaps I just need to chill out about the epic proportions of our holiday. I mean, I salute the big, of course I do. Big can be great and if we ever make it to Disney some decent memories will definitely be made!
But it seems the real value is not really held in the cost or size of what we do. The real value is actually just found in the togetherness, the time spent being present wherever we are and cherishing that as a gift.
Because my kids really love the garden, they love to play games, read stories, go for ice cream, get the paddling pool out, hunt for bugs, make hot chocolates and pink milk. They enjoy blowing bubbles and making dens and putting up tents inside the house! They go nuts for hide and seek or duck duck goose. They love the swimmers. They love the snow. They love to dance and bake and paint.
None of it is hugely exciting or money guzzling. Most of it is pretty small and simple. All of it is glorious and beautiful.
But my tendency is to frantically rush through these glorious days with a two week window set aside for the ‘memory making’. There’s a very real possibility, that in a bid to do more, I may actually miss the very essence of life that is a gift to me and those I share it with.
I want to listen and notice. I long to relish the small and pursue a different rhythm to that of the culture I am part of. But time is a big issue and life is often lived with such exhausting urgency that this stuff feels out of reach.
And it’s probably easier to be passive and just pretend I am helpless, stuck in a culture that speeds right on past the small. Stuck in a culture that says do more, buy more and figure it all out some other time. A culture that doesn’t allow any time to honour or savour the small.
It’s probably easier to just do nothing. Because looking closer and addressing boundaries and my priorities is likely to bring change. And change can be hard work. Thinking can be hard work!
But I’m made for much more than busyness and stuff. God has called me to a life of wholeness, meaning and love with Him and with others. Figuring out how to replace the lies of my culture with the truth of my Father is worth all the time I’ve got. Pursuing a lifestyle that cultivates room to breathe, to be still and to savour takes hard work and courage. But I think it is a wise investment.
And as I continually learn how to navigate this life of faith I choose to set my heart on Him, ask for His help, rely on His grace and pray…
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. (Serenity Prayer)