My mother asked me a few days ago whether, knowing what I know now about how hard parenting is, I’d choose to do it again. I chose to do it in part because it was hard work, and if I travelled back in time to have a serious chat with 27 year old Mary, “but it’s really really hard” would only be a sales pitch.
Right now though, the parts I like least are more the tedious parts than the hard parts. Every single time we leave the house, I need to remind both children to find their shoes and put them on. Every single evening, one of us needs to tell them to have a bath and brush their teeth. Every single time they get interested in an object, we need to remind them to put it whether it belongs, not carry it around the house enthralled so that we have a devastating moment a day later because we can’t find the fascinating whatsit that roamed around with them until they forgot about it ten minutes later.
And I don’t necessarily believe that pleasure is enhanced by being rare; but since a certain type of it is rare, it is at least memorable. That type of pleasure is the “fun for the whole family” outing, one where everyone was happy they went, no one was tired or overly grumpy, no one lost something momentarily precious to them, no one was unbearably rude to anyone else.
It’s hard for us to have these days often for lack of time together: for five days of the week we’re apart and on the sixth day we roll between soccer/cricket, dance, and swimming lessons. If we’re lucky, the seventh day is available. And we are most often together in summer, which is not often conducive to perfect days because it involves everyone being hot and cranky and having different opinions about whether spending the day outside when it is 38°C is awesome or terrible.
But this summer there have been stretches of cooler days as well, and sometimes there is what I’m informed is known as a “breeze”, and so there have been a few days when we did something that at least one person in the family harboured substantial reservations about and it came out just beautifully.
The first was seeing the Sydney Thunder women’s cricket team play the Brisbane Heat at North Sydney in early December. Blue sky; long shadows; lots of shade; not overly crowded; gentle breeze blowing; the excitement of holding up numbers that she can read for A; the excitement of holding up the wrong numbers for V (he waved a 4 placard around whenever they scored a 6; me: “buddy, are you negging the team?”) plus seeing his team win in the end; unexpectedly meeting another member of V’s own cricket team there so that the kids were more alive than they would be with only adult company.
The second was kayaking up Currambene Creek from Huskisson on big flat tourist kayaks this last Tuesday, V and Andrew on one double both paddling it (at least notionally), me boating A around on another. It had threatened serious rain all morning but instead it was cool and overcast with just enough little spits of rain to keep things interesting. The water was clear and since it was high tide, we were able to drift among the mangroves. “I’m tired” and “I want to go home” only burst out when we were within sight of the wharf on the return.
The only problem with such days is that I tend to react by wanting to buy tickets to every remaining cricket game, or take up kayaking seriously, in response, rather than letting them be what they are, a confection of weather and moods and people who ate enough for happiness that morning. The trick to perfection is being ready for it, and also letting it go.