Centerparcs

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!

Anniversary

I met my husband 13 years ago today, in a tiny, dark nightclub in the West End of London.

I was on my own, having left my friends in another club in Chelsea (awful music), in search of tunes I could enjoying dancing to.  DH was with his friend, A.  Because I was on my own, I looked to join a sane-looking group on the dance floor to avoid attention from sleazy men, and so husband-to-be, A and I spent several happy hours jumping up and down together to Pulp, Shed 7, James and the Levellers.

Afterwards I suggested that the three of us go for a coffee and it was there, at 3am in a late-night cafe on the Charing Cross Road, that I first glimpsed the brilliance and humour that caused me to fall in love with my future husband.  (It was his kindness, which I saw later, that sealed the deal, but that’s another story.)

Later, as we shivered on Oxford Street waiting for night buses back to our respective homes, we discovered that we were both moving house the next day (closer into London – me to Little Venice, DH to Wimbledon).  That we had each chosen to dance til the early hours on the day before moving was not only an auspicious synchronicity but also, in retrospect, a promising sign of shared values.  Thirteen years on we have a few more responsibilities, but making time for what we enjoy remains high up on the list of what’s important to us not only as a couple, but now, as a family.

“How Do You Spend All Day Them?”

Over the last few days, since I started home educating both my children (having had my son at home for nine months already) I’ve been asked several times variations on the questions “How can you spend all day with your children?” and “What about time for you?”  Which I appreciate, as they have helped me find the following answers for myself:

(1) Many women work full or part time outside the home, because they want to, or for financial reasons. They may have the “time away from the children” part of the equation (sometimes more than they would like), but combined with running a home, most probably don’t have a great deal of that “you time” people have been so concerned about on my account.  I’m not saying I’d turn down the chance of an occasional hour with a book in Starbucks or an afternoon browsing the shops on my own, but on balance I consider myself incredibly priviledged to be able to spend so much of my time with the people I love most. (And there are always weekends!)

(2) Spending “all day” with both my children is so much easier than spending the stressed, grumpy time around the edges of school with them.  Despite a wonderfully full schedule (which today included, for example, driving 40 minutes to a group guitar lesson, a trip to an adventure playground, and swimming lessons) we are all so much less tired and grumpy than we were when C was at school.  I can’t really explain why yet, but it’s definitely true.  Perhaps it’s that C and J are getting on so much better (like they used to at the end of the school holidays compared with at the start) or because, without the pressures of school, C is so much less stressed, or some other reason, but the answer to “how can you spend all day with them?” is easy – for most of the day I’m  in “flow“, and when I’m in flow, there’s nowhere I’d rather be, nothing else I’d rather be doing, and no-one I’d rather be doing it with.

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"

Is Homeschooling Sexist?

I believe that every problem carries with it an equal solution, and that if we have a solution-oriented mindset, problems can be embraced in anticipation of the satisfaction of the solution, which either appears simultaneously with, or follows, our awareness of the problem (depending on how aligned we are to our well-being).

So I particularly enjoyed reading Laurae Lyster Mensh’s thought-provoking article “Is Homeschooling Sexist?”  on the Home Education Magazine website, because it gave me clarity on an issue I have been pondering in the background of my mind for some time.  In her article (which was originally published in the magazine in 2000, but is no less pertinent eleven years on), Lyster Mensh invites us to reflect on the question (relevant to the vast majority of home educating families):

“With mom almost always at home and dad at work, what kind of message does it send to our daughters? To our sons?”

I have asked myself a similar question often throughout my years as a full-time home-maker and now home-educator.  Having been  delighted to have an excuse to leave a stressful and unfulfilling career as a lawyer when I had my first child, I was thrilled to discover, shortly after the birth of my youngest, a way of earning money that is a perfect match for my values and skills – I trained and began working part time as a cognitive hypnotherapist. Although I don’t currently see many clients, those I do manage to fit in leave me with a feeling of energy and upliftment that comes from doing something that is a true calling. I also feel satisfied knowing that as the years go on and my children become more independent and ultimately leave home, I will be able to expand my therapy practice and develop my skills and experience.  My husband, meanwhile, commutes from Monday to Friday to a  full-time job which keeps us in an extremely comfortable  lifestyle but which deprives him of any meaningful interaction with our children for five days a week.  This is certainly not something I would wish for my either of my children when they become parents.  So what is the alternative?

I think the answer lies in the kind of people we are encouraging our children to be: free-minded, creative life-long learners,  with all the the skills they need to support themselves and their families doing work they love, on terms set by them.  One way this might look would be for my grown-up children to share with their respective partners both the privilege and responsibility of raising and educating their children, and the opportunity to engage in fulfilling income-generating activities.  There are a great many possible permutations of such an arrangement, and it is my sincere hope and belief that by virtue of who they are and the kind of education they are experiencing, they will each find a way to not only precariously balance their desires to spend time with their children and to do meaningful and lucrative work, but to thrive on the arrangement.

My Library Thing

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