Children in general are a constant source of amazement, but it’s always incredible to me how my own kids keep me on my toes (and not just with breaking up sibling battles). In the six or so short weeks since we uprooted our family from our well trodden (and cycled), much loved west Ottawa neighbourhood, I’ve been confounded in mostly good ways by things like:
– having children who want to pull over to the side of the road to properly enjoy a beautiful sunset or watch a flock of wild turkeys going about their business (I’ll never forget to smell a rose with these two around)
– discovering that my 12 year old was actually thrilled to be forced to take up a musical instrument at school; he now regularly brings home his trumpet, by choice, in order to get in ample practise time (the not so surprising downside: he likes to appear around corners and blast unsuspecting souls out of their peace and quiet)
– pondering why it is that this same child had to browbeaten and nearly forcibly restrained by myself and our (new) family doctor in order to receive a small, quick injection when (a) he had a week before received an inoculation at school (also a needle!) with no adult intervention required, indeed no fuss of any kind and (b) he has in the past watched with fascination when he has had to have blood taken
– related to the above point, how it is that this same child is absolutely fearless about taking the controls of a small aircraft himself (I know, fears are weird and intensely personal)
– remembering how quickly family upsets and arguments disappear when you are seven or 12 (and how important, as an adult, it is not to simmer over these things)
– being reminded of how a person can be a wonderful bundle of contradictions and wildly differing interests that somehow coheres because, that is simply who they are. Case in point: the same 12 year old who has read every book our library holds on WWII and loves movies with war themes and indeed any kind of explosion, was transfixed by the wonderful cooking movie/chick flick Julie&Julia and happily joined me in a post-film cooking binge this past weekend
– realizing that our seven year old, who finds the school day long and exhausting, usually has the best solution for unwinding at the end of each day and that this solution doesn’t require help or input from others, including Mum (and it usually involves playing alone for what seems like hours in the sandpit outside)
– noticing that the same seven year old can talk about what he misses about our old house or his old school without it being a big deal…I stiffened the first time he said “sometimes I wish we hadn’t moved” until I realized it was all just a part of a necessary process of disconnecting and remembering and that every other indicator shows just how happy and settled he is in our new community (and our temporary home)
– having the above reinforced when we were walking on our land recently and the same child looked up at our (nearly completed) house on the hill and said (something like, though not exactly – I didn’t have the tape recorder out) “I can really see what it will be like to live in our new house, and I really like it – it wasn’t quite real before, but it is now.”
– noticing that children actually enjoy good physical labour outside, as long as the parents work to keep it sufficently accessible and reasonably fun (okay, so buying a ride-on mower/tractor was one of the better choices we made this year, but the manual tools are surprisingly popular as well)…this one is huge is you want your children to come along with you in rebuilding a small farm or any other big family endeavour requiring work. Reminding ourselves of the long view and the bigger picture has been constantly required this year, but it feels like it’s been worth it and the short term sacrifices that we’ve made (ie like moving more quickly and getting more projects done on the land).
These observations and revelations are all the more heady for me as there were times in this past year when I really thought “what are we doing?” The whole process of disengaging from our old house was long and drawn out and everyone in the family was thoroughly fed up with the business of selling it by the time we did. Moving was and has been stressful, and we’re not done yet. Commuting (which we have to do temporarily until we’re in the new house) sucks and I can’t understand people who choose to do it (for those who have no choice, you have my profound sympathies). Figuring out all of the ins and outs of joining a new community is fairly exhausting. Making decisions about the new house and land have been all consuming. But we’re here and it’s feeling good.
For a while I felt like I was repeatedly checking to make sure that everyone still had their limbs and was breathing (myself included), but we’ve moved beyond that. We’re not even in our new house yet and we have already established some of those much needed routines and rituals. For all of that, I’m thankful.