Since September 2014 my morning routine has been shaped by school timetables and the need to support the offspring to be somewhere at a certain time. Over the past few years, the mornings have been marked by a family walk at a specific time as we shared some of the morning dog walk/run route with the teens walking to their bus. It has been the perfect shape for my morning; plenty of time for coffee, writing blogs, preparing for work, then a specific time to get outside for exercise.
I am good at planning, I am very aware of what is working well for me and what I would like to achieve in my mornings. Nevertheless, it feels a bit difficult this morning. That’s it, no more school in the family. Work will start in September, but that is 11 weeks away and I cannot even begin to guess what that routine will look like, so I am focussing on this chapter.
So far it feels a bit the same as usual I have to say. Except there is no teenager to drag out of bed – those with a knowledge of teens will know their sleep is heavy and it can take a while to rouse them and check they did get out of bed. So that is an extra 5 minutes of morning gained so far.
I am determined to keep to the usual time of blog writing, but the moment it’s over, I have to face the lack of routine, so I am extending it by fetching another coffee, following an email link down a rabbit hole. I have discovered the husband tidying up the “Tupperware” cupboard – that is obviously what has filled the lunch-making void for him.
I am suspecting a joint reluctance to make ourselves go out for a run. The family walk made us leave the house, now we need to make ourselves. And we need to relish this new chapter with all its opportunities and its space to be filled with new ventures.
I know I write about this a lot, but living in Birmingham is a real joy for us as a family. There is of course a lot of bad about the city, if I may be political (I don’t need your permission actually dear reader), a policy of austerity shows its effects on a population of a million fairly dramatically. There is a lot of good though. Green spaces, cultural events, community organisations.
All of that came together yesterday in a lovely, if under-publicised, Song Festival, held at the Birmingham University Green Heart – an outdoor amphitheatre which has just been created. Choirs from all over the Midlands were invited to come along and sing with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Simon Halsey and the mesmerising Music Director of the CBSO, MirgaGražinytė-Tyla. To be conducted by world-renowned conductors and accompanied by an internationally acclaimed orchestra is one of those opportunities that living in a city offers.
We were able to cycle to the venue, off road pretty much all the way, surrounded by green and birdsong. The rain stopped long enough that it was a pleasant, although chilly, evening. Sitting outside surrounded by modern and Victorian architecture and listening to beautiful varied music and witnessing the joy of hundreds of people singing for pleasure together was a beautiful way to end a Sunday.
One of the most fascinating aspects of parenthood is seeing the loves and passions that your offspring develop. In my very limited experience of only two offspring, they’re not the things that energise me. And of course, they change all the time, at a sometimes alarming rate.
Sadly academic study has not always been one of those passions which fire up the offspring here. I say sadly only because they spend a fair amount of the year in academic study. But some of that study does interest them, and I try and get them to see that in amongst the general complaints about having to attend school. I guess many of us do jobs which don’t make us passionate.
One of the tricks of life for us all at any age is to indulge in the stuff that makes us feel awake and energetic. Sometimes that can be the video games or the latest box set – however much I try and deny that in my parenting, there are phases when the newness of a game and the fact that all your friends are discussing it, is genuinely exciting.
That said, the inspiration for this blog is much more active. One of the offspring gets hugely energised by skiing and we indulged that yesterday as a last-day-of-holidays treat. The burst of energy he gets from the sport has definitely got him through the last day blues and even out of bed a couple of hours earlier than has been usual over the last couple of months.
It’s one of the most delightful things to see as a parent too – offspring totally focussed and refreshed and enthusiastic. If only this particular passion were not quite so expensive. And slightly more convenient in terms of geographic location. This could be yet another reason to consider that migration to Canada.
Disappointment is when there is a gap between what I expect and the actual reality of a situation. Life is filled with all levels of disappointments. There are some major ones in my life which I interestingly, do not focus on at all. Too big and too painful togo there. The minor ones I work on dismissing all the time. It seems to be the medium disappointments that take me down.
In this case a holiday that did not go to plan. A conversation yesterday made me realise that I cannot let this one go. This summer an idyllic week of relaxing and exploring with dear friends and spending a precious week catching up together turned into a tearful and stressful reaction to the sheer awfulness of Ryanair’s customer service. Ryanair cancelling flights in what feels like an arbitrary manner and then offering no support or replacement flights to their customers meant we were left with a mere three days together.
And in case you were wondering, three days are not enough to recover from the stresses of daily life (which is the point of a holiday after all) let alone a hideous four days of trying to communicate with uncooperative customer services and trying to get a family to a holiday destination in order to make the best of a really bad job.
I know, first world problems and all that. But Ryanair makes a huge amount of money from people having the first world desires to fly somewhere hot for a holiday. It’s not ok to be so horrible in your business dealings.
Maybe that is why I cannot let this one go. Being a horrible company when you are financially successful and have a captive market is unjust. There are many issues with our capitalist society, treating your customers or your employees badly feels like the pits.
Somehow though, I need to stop being angry and work out how to carve out some more time with those lovely friends who bore the true brunt of the disappointment. Because I suspect my disappointment is not going to change the behaviour of Ryanair, it just makes me feel grumpy.
It’s the penultimate day of the holidays for the remaining home-dwelling offspring. So the summer feels like it ends tomorrow and I am moving away from those halcyon days.
But I am determined not to waste any of the time that is left. A colleague pointed out today that an unexpected snow day feels delicious and you cram loads in and relish every moment. The last day of the holidays should not feel any different.
So it shall not. I am a bit of a sleep bully at this time of the year, I know it’s hard to get back into the swing of sleeping early, but at the same time it’s the only way to make sure we have the energy to get us through the change in routine with its early mornings and full evenings. So, I am plotting waffles for breakfast to make sure the morning feels special and to offset some of the complaints about having to get up earlier than a normal holiday morning. I will need to work, so there will be time for indulging in the latest Netflix craze, the YouTube fix or the driving cars very fast around a virtual track, or whatever screen-based itch will need to be scratched.
Then, in a rather crazy end of summer splurge (and as it happens, related to the analogy of the snow day), we are going skiing at the local indoor ski place. I say ‘we’ – husband and offspring are ending summer in cold fake snow. I am heading to the spa to rest and while away a few hours, remembering that making mini holidays in amongst it all may be the best way to get through the change in seasons.
Obviously there are no real problems with summer. Summer is a beautiful, gorgeous, energising time of the year.
I adore the long summer holidays for the break from the routine that can start to feel oppressive. Now that the offspring are older, the summer really gives a sense of ease. Only me to get up and get out in the morning. A feeling of fun in the evening as we hang out and do things as a family instead of execute a finely tuned evening of activities, transport and eating which are seemingly designed to test our life skills in every way.
The summer holiday mornings are especially precious, with a delicious combination of more sleep and more time spent with the husband. They are more tired though, as early nights seem to disappear in the change to the summer routine. But that just means more coffee and chat.
All in all, it is a good time where time seems to stretch a bit further. And so less gets done. There’s the rub. That feeling that I have loads more time as the deadlines are softer means I don’t gets things done. The running has fallen by the wayside. The blogging has been non-existent. This morning it occurs to me that I have not really looked at my diary or the to do list all week. There are advantages to the morning rush of the school term.
But for now, let’s enjoy these last few precious days of the relaxed routine.
It’s one of those days where my parenting skills are challenged. Both the offspring are off on adventures, both have done all the prep for these adventures themselves. Bags are packed, travel plans are made and everyone is being independent. This is good. Both my offspring are teenagers, one is an adult legally. Them learning how to prepare and then leave me to go on adventures is the sign that the parenting has gone well so far.
The challenge is that I am finding it quite hard to not be involved. I have not been able to resist checking on water and suncream, my excuse is that it is unusually hot, but I have stopped myself from checking anything else. One is off to London. We live in the second city, so he has some knowledge of how to get around a city and a few tube rides in the wrong direction hurt no one.
The other offspring is off on his Duke of Edinburgh Bronze expedition. Again, apart from the obvious safety point of making sure he has liquid and sun protection in what promises to be two hot sunny days, he has packed and organised all his own stuff. As he should – the point of the award is independence, organisation and planning.
All of this sense is my head though, my heart is struggling. It is what it is, a phase of pushing them on to discover themselves. All the while feeling out of sorts as it is the opposite of what the instincts tell me to do. But I know in my heart that stopping them from making mistakes will only do them huge damage later. This is their life, I have the honour of watching them unfold, but not living them for them. Here’s to independence.