Monday, 20 May 2013

What Nostalgia Taught Me

A couple of weeks ago as I was about to make my journey from one end of Westfield shopping centre to the other as part of my regular journey in to the office, I stumbled across something that got me thinking. A large group of French students were gathered at the entrance to the shopping centre and rather than immediately grumble at the prospect of having to fight my way through a group of kids whilst running late for work again, I took a moment to watch them. They were joking and laughing with each other, as kids do, appearing decidedly excited to be just metres away from where the magic of the Olympics happened, albeit they were almost a year late, and amidst the flurry of 'Bonjour's and 'Haw Hee Haw's, I was immediately transported back to my own French exchange days and specifically, my school days.

I remember these days very fondly. In fact, I remember all of my childhood very fondly, particularly the secondary school years, and whilst those particular years were, in the whole course of life, comparatively fleeting - just 5 years long - my school years remain one of the happiest times of my life. I loved many things about being at school. I loved to learn new things. I loved the opportunity to participate in so many sporting activities. I loved the chance to visit lots of interesting places. I loved learning to play new instruments or learning to dance in new styles. I loved learning to back flip and somersault on the trampoline. I loved the relative simplicity of life being mapped out for you for the next few years and just having to keep turning up. I loved the excitement of knowing I had my whole future ahead of me and had the ability to shape it any which way I wanted. Hell, I even loved exams. I loved most things about school and as I cast my mind back to various events - the evening I was desperate to achieve the 5 star award in PE and one of the teachers stayed for hours after school with me as I repeatedly hurled the shot putt, getting increasingly more exhausted but with her unwavering encouragement I finally managed those extra few centimetres that I needed to push me over the threshold; the day one of the most notoriously grumpy teachers stopped me in the corridor and told me that when I smiled, it lit up the room and made the world smile with me (which made me feel warm and bubbly inside - no one had ever told me that before); the day one of the other teachers told me he had seen better legs on a table (which made me feel really chubby and a little angry for a while - no one had ever told me that before either - but it turned out he was only joking); the day I made my Dad proud as he watched from the sidelines performing the role of unofficial netball team coach and we won, against the odds. And anyway, as I thought about all of these things, an overwhelming feeling of sadness crept over me. I really did enjoy those times but I didn't cherish them as though they might be some of the best years of my life. They just kind of happened and I considered for a few moments what a shame it is that often in life, you don't realise how good something is, until it has swiftly passed you by.

I think we have all wished we could relive our childhoods with the knowledge we have now at one point or another and really cherish the relative ease of life and lack of responsibility and just enjoy the uniqueness of having so many choices in front of us with very few factors forcing us to make them one way or another.

I often see school children and have to suppress the urge to tell them how lucky they are and to make sure they enjoy every moment of their childhood as though these days are the best days of their lives and it makes me sad that it has taken becoming a grown up to realise how easy life was when I was young and how much fun it was.

It left a bittersweet taste in my mouth that I hadn't taken a moment to stand back and cherish being a child as though they were the best years of my life.

Satisfied I had turned my happy memories in to grumpy enough thoughts for the day, I continued on my journey in to work and as I hopped on to the tube, as I always do, I scrolled through the gazillion photos and movies I have of Dalton on my phone and realised at some point or another, my face was hurting again. That's right, I was smiling. It happens to me more and more these days when thinking about my little man and I don't even realise I'm doing it, I'm just overcome by a slight twinge in my cheeks (because natural Wood face posture is grumpy face so my cheek muscles don't naturally cope well with the extra exercise) and I have to promptly check myself and ensure no one who knows me spotted it - it would shatter the Victor Meldrew illusion.

It was then that it hit me.  That perhaps the events of that morning - the stumbling across the group of French children blocking my entrance - had been strategically placed to give me a valuable reminder. To serve me a lesson. This time, during a phase relating not to my childhood but to my own son's childhood or more specifically I guess, my journey in Motherhood.

The lesson of living and cherishing each day with him as though they are the best they will ever be, just in case they are.

There is no doubt that motherhood will always be filled with enormous challenges and I am no longer naively waiting for the "bit when things get really easy"! I realise now that yes, many things do get easier, particularly from a sleep deprivation point of view and a boobies not feeling like they are being stabbed with needles point of view, but of course, with every new age comes a new set of challenges and it really hit home at this moment that this glorious phase of motherhood - the bit where I know exactly where my son is 24 hours a day, the bit where I get to see him learn to do something for the first time every single day and enjoy the smile on his face when he does it, the bit where I get to see him take his first steps, speak his first words, the bit where I get to not worry about him being bullied at school, bullying anyone else at school, going off the rails, drinking recklessly, driving recklessly, having his heart broken for the first time...

I realised that for all the tantrums in the world, this glorious phase which truly makes my heart melt every day might be the best time of our lives together and I don't want to miss a second of it.

So, that is my promise to myself and to my boy. Every day I spend with my beautiful ball of squidgy scrumminess, I promise to live it and enjoy it as though it is the best it will ever be - just in case it is. So that I don't look back in 20 years, passing other Mummies of little people on the street, nostalgically happy but with a sense of sadness, wishing I had taken the time to stand back and really enjoy these days for what they are.

I will love watching him take his first steps ...

I will love the moments we spend together as a family playing in the garden ...

I will even love the tantrums that follow as we prepare for naked dinner time after getting covered from head to foot in compost and water ...

And I will love that smile to the moon and back and it will forever melt my heart ...

I know what you're thinking. Won't this level of positive thinking cause me to spontaneously combust?  Well, yes, it quite possibly could. I have given this some thought too and as I always like to have a certain amount of grump in my life - keep the yin and yang balance all Feng Shui'd and such - I will counteract all the positive feelings I am having about being very lucky to be anyone's Mummy, especially this little boy's, with an ongoing outrageous negativity in the work place. I will continue to live and hate each day with my sugary, doughy colleagues as though this particular phase of my working life is the worst it will ever be - just in hope that it is!

Et voila. Happy / grump balance maintained.

Disclaimer: Contrary to the constant abuse I give my work colleagues on a daily basis on a well known social networking site, I actually and genuinely love working. Some of my work colleagues are actually fairly decent people that I am actually quite fond of (although I would never tell them that to their face) and although an overwhelming majority of them are donuts, I wouldn't trade in working with not working for all the hundreds and thousands in the world - I simply dream of a time when I am working with slightly less stupid people.

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