Island Blog – Fish, Kites and Happiness

I had forgotten how crazy a life can be in a young family. Although at Tapselteerie I knew it well, inhabited the chaos and the strive for order and changed my clothing accordingly, I no longer have that huge wardrobe selection. I hear the elevations and the sudden cries of despair, the raised parental voices, the velvet sound of a loving moment, and I wonder where all my energy has gone. I can find some, for sure, but in spurts only. Then I need to take myself off to my room so that my mind and body can recover. Such is life for this sexagenarian.

Everything and everyone moves like lightening. Even the dishwasher is on repeat. School clothes on, snack boxes filled, breakfast down the hatch and all completed in less time than it takes for me to brush my teeth. Even the cat is fed. Words spin by my ears in a tumble of letters and inflections, orders given and, with a tiny reluctance, obeyed. Encouragements and affirmations met with a warm, eye lighting smile. Then Daddy is gone, after hugs and kisses and now, Mummy too, grabbing the hair-brushed girls and affixing them firmly into their car seats. I am alone here inside the silence, one that feels like a vacuum and the only sound is the bathroom fan and the distant blaa of the cows up there on the hill. I watch a lone goose being chased enthusiastically by a calf. It makes me smile. The goose had wandered a bit too close to its mother.

With hindsight I remember my time as a young and frazzled mum, dazed most of the time, puzzled too, certain occasionally. There is no rule book after all. Letting go and holding on fought with each other all of the time. See-sawing from one to the other, exhausting. And, yet, the days keep coming and there is no choice but to jump on board. Notwithstanding the changes in culture or the distance between wealth and poverty, all parents want the best for their children, want their children to be the best they can be, want happiness for all. Just as we did so long ago. Did we achieve it for them, for ourselves? I think so. A healthy balance between discipline and loving respectful encouragement is the key. One minute this child is caught like a fish and reeled in for instruction and correction, the next let go like a kite to fly higher than I will ever fly. Okay, I’m still holding the string, but it isn’t me up there whoo-hooing to the migrating geese, but my child, one I do not plan to let go of, not yet. That day will come but it isn’t this day, and letting go completely is a big ask of any loving parent, even if it must be done for their own well-being.

I hear the teachings of these young parents and I remember teaching my children the same. I remember hearing the same from my own parents. The basics of what is right and what is not, of when to speak and when to stay quiet, of kindness, compassion, of sharing even when there isn’t much left to share; of being sensitive and polite and of speaking out against injustice and cruelty. It isn’t all about not running in corridors which, if I am honest, is exactly what I want to do whenever I find myself in one, but about the deep core values of being human and of individual importance to the whole race. We fear poor connections between our child and that child. We worry about a bad influence, fear a slow poisoning of all we are teaching the only one we can teach. I remember that, too. However I discovered that the very child I never wanted around my own was their absolute favourite mate. Such irony, and such a chance to let go, because everything good happens all by itself, exponentially, as long as my worries are kept under raps. As it did. Every single time.

Happiness is something we feel in moments. When asked that ridiculous question “Are you happy?’ I have never met a single soul who answered yes without a bit of oom and aah unless they had just fallen in love, got a first class honours degree or found a lost treasure down the side of the sofa. These are all just moments. The time is takes to answer ‘yes, I am happy’ is the time it takes to take a mental scoot back across the planes of a life lived, and to stand the good against the bad to see who’s tallest. However, it isn’t just logic nor a positive decision that brings an answer. How I feel about that comparison brings the balanced response. In the end, it doesn’t matter which is tallest because that will change every time we measure. It will depend on our mood that day, within that moment. if someone asks me Am I Happy when I have just dropped a whole cup of cold coffee on the dog, when the rain came in last night because I didn’t close the window or when the Aga has gone out because I forgot to order oil, chances are I will not respond in the affirmative. On other days, in other moments when the lapwings delight and the sun sparkles the water diamonds and my coffee is hot and the dog quite safely curled up on my knee, I will beam and say Yes Absolutely. See how fickle we are? or is it simply that as soft, loving, vulnerable humans our feelings about who, how, why and what mean so much more than we realise?

I leave you with this:-

Piglet: How do you spell Happiness, Pooh?

Pooh: You don’t spell it. You feel it.

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