I spent this week at Centerparcs, Longleat Forest, with C, J, my mum and my nephew S (3).  In retrospect I realise I didn’t go into  it with high expectations of my own enjoyment, seeing it more as a holiday for the children and an opportunity for our extended family to spend some time together.  But I am delighted to report that I can have fun outdoors in England in February!

Biking around the forest was surprisingly enjoyable, C and J relishing the independence the car-free environment gave them.  I smiled as I witnessed their pleasure at being responsible for their own bicylces, finding “parking spaces” and securing them with their own mini combination locks.

We spent a large part of each day at the “Sub Tropical Swimming Paradise”, where we hurled ourselves down the Wild Water Rapids in various poses (C commented, “I wonder why they even bother putting up those ‘feet first’ signs?”), saved the planet as underwater superheroes in the lazy river, and launched ourselves at speed down waterslides.

C and I enjoyed spectacular views of the forest as we challenged ourselves on an “aerial adventure” assault course through the tree tops, our adrenalin levels peaking at the “vertical drop” finish, where we jumped off a platform some 30 ft in the air.  Luckily a clever mechanism of ropes attached to our harnesses gently broke our fall at ground level, allowing our wobbly legs to carry us to nearby Starbucks for well-earned hot chocolates.  (J is willing himself to grow 4cm in time for our next visit so that he too can swing from ropes among the pines.)

Another mother-daughter highlight was the evening C and I went to the pool on our own.  The rapids at night are something else – the gushing water illuminated by a dazzling array of lights, twinkling through the clouds of steam as warm water meets cold night air.  Add in the fact that as you enjoy the view your body is sliding and spinning at speed through a series of whirlpools and slides, and it’s a pretty stimulating sensory experience!

I left Longleat with the same combination of pleasantly aching muscles and high spirits as after a skiing holiday, and spent the two hour drive home reflecting on what had contributed most to my enjoyment.  During our days in the forest the children and I were mostly engaged in the same activities (usually me playing alongside them).  I spent more time outside than usual, and I was much more physically active than at home.  Also, although we mostly cooked and ate in our villa, I wasn’t spending large amounts of time organising “stuff” as I do at home as part of running a household.

It’s now a day since we got back, and I’ve identified the birth in me of a new desire (unrelated to my delicious dream last night about Jack Davenport): I want to bring more of the elements I enjoyed at Centerparcs into my everyday life.  At the moment I’m in the “knowing what I don’t want” phase – the “asking” referred to in the Hicks’ “Ask And It Is Given“;  I know I don’t want to be surrounded by so much “stuff”, that I want to have more fun with my children, and I want to spend more time in nature.

I know from experience that having identified my desire, my role in its creation is now over.  My only work now is to be in wellbeing; in wellbeing lies everything I desire, in wellbeing I feel no lack, and in wellbeing anything is possible.  Watch this space!

A Good Attitude

I was struck by some words I recently read in “Guerilla Learning” by Grace Llewelyn and Amy Silver.  Talking about the importance of recognising our children’s interests, the authors tell us:

Recognise your kids.  Pay attention to them.  Acknowledge them.  Know them better than they know themselves.  It feels deep-down good to be really seen by people we love and who love us…

“Sometimes when we pay attention to our older children, they seem to want to shut us out at times.  But more often than not their defensive gestures are a sham, a test: Do you really love me enough to stay interested in me, even when I’m a snotty brat? Is your love unconditional? Older kids very much want to be known.  That desire may co-exist (and seem to conflict) with their being embarrassed by you in the presence of their peers, with anger, with their desire for autonomy.  But it’s pervasive and strong  – and you recognise that in your own life, right? You want your own parents to know you deeply and to accept and love you for exactly who you are even now, as an adult.”

When I first read this, the words registered most in the context of my relationship with my own mother, but today at C’s football practice they came to mind afresh.  As she left the pitch I put an arm round her shoulders and asked if she’d enjoyed the game, only to have the arm shaken off and find myself warned by a growling C, “Don’t embarrass me!”  Llewellyn and Silver’s words in my ears, I made a gracious retreat and followed C at a respectful distance to the end-of-session presentations -where C was the smiling recipient of the “Player Of The Week” trophy, awarded, according to the coaches, to the player demonstrating “the kind of attitude we want to see among our players”.

As we drove home and C’s blood sugar level began to return to normal thanks to the jam sandwiches I’d thrust in her hands, I silently awarded myself the “player’s mum of the week” award.

Art For Sale

C, a prolific creator of every kind of art, decided yesterday that she was going to “make a picture to sell”.  I don’t think her motivation was financial (she tends to forget to spend birthday and pocket money, which accumulates in piggy banks and purses around her bedroom) but I’m not sure exactly it was, perhaps curiosity – to test the market?  Her father and I exchanged furtive anxious glances and then fixed encouraging smiles on our faces.  “Who would you like to invite to buy it?”, I asked.  C looked around, scanning her environment for purchasers. “The neighbours?” she suggested.  At this even I, committed to letting our children explore and experience the world without imposing the restrictions of my own limiting beliefs and “socialisation”, felt a bit panicky.  And that is how my daughter’s “Beautiful Flower” picture was put up for auction on  eBay.

C's first eBay auction

"Beautiful Flower"

My Library Thing

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