The dishes can wait

I don’t think I’ve ever successfully kept a New Year’s resolution. However, it seems almost obligatory at this time of year to write some kind of reflective or predictive post. And, in our back garden this afternoon the soil was warming up, the hellebores and forsythia were flowering, there were catkins, and it was daylight (just) at four o’clock. There may still, literally and metaphorically, be dark days ahead before the spring but everything, at least for now, seemed full of hope and promise. So here are my hopes and promises for the coming year.

Benjamin, I will give you more attention. You are the quiet one, the uncomplaining one, the contented one, the “plonk him in the corner with a toy while I get on with something” one. I’ve been reading a couple of challenging books lately. The first is What Every Parent Needs to Know by Margot Sunderland. In it she describes how, when a child is separated from a loving carer, even when they appear perfectly content, emotional damage can occur. So, Benjy, I will give you more cuddles, more conversations, more often.

Jackie, I will explain things better. You’re not a baby any more. You understand when there’s a good reason not to do something and when Mummy’s just being lazy. You know when things aren’t right and you deserve to know why. The second book on my bedside table is Kate Strohm’s Being the Other One, about growing up as the sibling of a disabled child. I haven’t finished it yet – I’ve only read the chapters about problems, not those about solutions – but it seems that one thing most siblings would have wanted from an earlier age was to understand and to be involved. Jackie, I will take time to explain things and to let you help, no matter how long it takes.

My husband, I will stop expecting you to be a mind-reader. I will try to explain clearly what I’d like you to do and when I’d like you to do it, before getting upset that you haven’t done it or haven’t done it on time.

My parents, I will try to remember that, to you, I’m still your little girl and you only want to help. I will try to take your help and advice in the way it’s intended and not see it as a criticism of how I do things.

My gran, I will call you more often. You are my last living grandparent and my children’s last great-grandparent. When we returned from our Christmas break, you had left a message on the voicemail every day thanking us for the pathetic box of marzipan we bought you. I find it awkward to call you because you’re rather deaf and we don’t have much to talk about but, Nanny, I will do it more often.

My friends, I will stop making excuses. If you ask me out, I will make an effort to be there, no matter how much ironing is piling up at home.

Myself, I will take a little time to relax. When Ric bought me a selection of bubble baths for Christmas my first thought was How silly, he knows I only ever have time for a shower. Then I realised, he wasn’t giving me bubble bath, he was giving me a license to have a bath. An excuse to sit for ten minutes (maybe even half an hour!) without chasing the kids, cooking the dinner, doing the chores; without laptop or phone. Maybe listening to the radio, maybe gathering my thoughts, maybe just drifting. I will make use of that gift.

In sum, I have made only one resolution (and perhaps that’s for the best): to make time for people. Whether that’s shouting down the phone so my gran can hear or giving my kids an extra cuddle. I have been a sucker for “getting things done.” Let’s just wash the dishes, then we can do some drawing… If there’s time after the house is tidy then I’ll come out… I’ll explain things later… So my aspiration for 2015 is, wherever there’s a choice between doing a job or interacting with a person, to choose the person. The dishes can wait.

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Four generations

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