It sometimes seems to me an enormous act of hubris, the planning we do for the coming year in those short December days after Christmas. But plan we do. Sitting on either end of the sofa, sipping coffee. Alone with a notebook. We talk of holidays and milestones; dreams and desires; the simple things that we would like more or less of in the months to come. They’re not usually grand plans. Some new meals in the rotation; early nights in January; a plan to spend more evenings reading or playing the guitar. Yet, still, I wonder if the Gods are watching. The small but persistant thought: just let us all still be here this time next year. That is the baseline, the everything, the true extent of my ambition.
This year, we did make bigger plans. Shifts in the balance of our days; a move towards a more equal share in the work of home and the work of the world. And then we backed away from those plans, postponing but not abandoning, in favour of a big trip in the summer, a steady-state solution to the question of earning and caring.
But now, life has once again slipped free of our plans. Things have changed, and B is, for at least the next few months, free from commuting, free from work. And I, in turn, am free from being the only parent at home between a little after 6 in the morning and a little before 8 at night.
It’s reassuring to see how the little ones just take it all in their stride. Okay, daddy’s in charge this morning. No real questions asked. T, now 10, can remember a time when her days were shared between us, but neither of the boys can. For them it’s amusing to find out that someone doesn’t know exactly what we take with us to swimming, or the route to band, or who has what in their lunchtime wraps (this the most complicated by a mile!).
For us, there’s a strange exhaustion, like we’ve been climbing higher and higher up some invisible mountain and can only now see how just how far from the ground we are. We don’t live near family, and so even the relief of knowing that if I’m ill there’s someone else here is huge. Late night pick-ups don’t require me to drag the boys along. I can leave the house alone, or stay in it without thinking of school pick-up. Heady stuff.
This morning it was raining too much to run so I went to the pool at the end of our road and swam lengths for twenty minutes, returning home before 8 to the sight of breakfast already being eaten. So simply, but a freedom beyond imagining a couple of weeks ago.
Last week, for half term, we took our new found freedom and our pre-kids tiny tent on the road to the green hills of Gloucestershire. Our pitch was in an elderflower orchard, the scent of the blossom deep and spicy. At night we cooked on a fire, then as the light faded (10 — so late!) we lay down, head to toe, and waited for the giggles to subside, and for whoever was complaining of their neighbour’s elbow or knee in their back to get over it, & let sleep take us until we were woken by an owl or the dawn. (This was our campsite — highly recommended.)
During the days, we visited Newark House and Chedworth Roman Villa, Stroud and Cirencester. On our last day we drove to my mum’s, stopping at Hidcote to picnic in the light rain. And now there are seven weeks until the end of term. Seven last weeks of pre-school. Concerts & sports days. Residential trips & ballet shows. All with the advantage of two parents to share the watching & the waiting; the joys & the tears.
This is from Tuesday. Since then, many election/life related sleepless nights. Maybe we should have stayed in our blissful orchard.