I was recently struck by a personal memory my Minister shared. She reminisced about family holidays which involved a long car ride to their destination. ‘For my parents, it was all about the destination, not the journey’, she said. They only ever stopped to go to the loo, and occasionally for an ice cream. Her parents’ focus was the end result – reaching their holiday spot.
This focus on the destination is how I tend to live my life. I am not a live-in-the-moment person by nature. I tend to live in the future, my mental to-do list is never far away and I often find myself playing half-heartedly with my tots while part of my brain is thinking ‘I must get on with the washing’. I have a rich inner life, which easily escapes the everyday. Even before kids, I knew this ‘future-thinking’ was a trait of mine, and I confess to bouts of trying mindfulness and mediation which never last long.
My children are the greatest teachers that I’ve ever had. Since their arrival my patience muscle is flexed on a daily basis – sometimes it is greatly strained – and I, like them, have taken wobbly baby steps towards learning to live in the present. For toddlers, life is all about the journey.
My son Chip keeps a running commentary of all the trucks, tractors and other assorted machinery he sees when we’re out and about. My daughter Sausage flits from flower to flower like a over-sized, curly haired hummingbird, and can often be seen gasping in delight over bits of rubbish, spiders, and odd-shaped rocks that she spies on walks. Sausage especially is not a child who can be hurried. She has a random, buoyant nature, and being told to hurry along only makes her dig her heels in (I cannot imagine where she gets this from…).
I used to be a super-organised person with an unbearable feeling around being late. But no more. Besides work and the odd appointment, there is rarely anywhere that I HAVE to be. Now when we are running late, more often that not I say ‘so friggin’ what? Relax Angela, relax.’ Because it almost never matters if we are late. When you have kids, people understand that getting them out the door on time is akin to a military operation rivalling D-Day. They understand that just as you turned the key in the door, one of your kids decided it was time for poomageddon or to be struck down by a vomiting bug. The ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ now take up less space in my head. And I realise that they are almost always self-imposed weapons of flagellation which can quite frankly, go and get stuffed.
Today I only had vague ideas about what to do with Chip. We dropped his sister off at her beloved kindy. ‘Go to lake?’ asked Chip. ‘Sure buddy’, I replied, feeling magnanimous. D and I had recently taken our tots for a walk/ride around Virginia Lake, which had been an exercise in frustration as we practically had to drag them around, and D and I spent more time carrying their bikes than they spent on them. This was fresh in my mind.
Today I’m going to focus on the journey, I thought. It’s not about walking around the lake. If we don’t get all the way, it doesn’t matter one iota. (Also, hands up if you love the word iota? I need to use it more.)
Because there was nowhere we needed to be, Chip and I ending up spending four hours at the lake.
We went to the lake playground. We went to the bird aviary and said hello to the cockatoos. We went to the cafe. Chip played hard at the cafe playground.
After a pit stop at the Winter Gardens, we slowly, slowly, slowly went around the lake, saying hi to the ducks and geese.
I chatted with the man cutting grass on the bank, while Chip looked enviously at his cool leaf-blower. We examined flowers and trees.
We sat on the little pier, and Chip fed me grapes.
I like toddler life.