Life moves fast and it is short. That is not a cliche – it really is short when you think about how long a human life lingers on this very old planet. One of the shortest bits of life is our childhood. Yet as a child, and in particular a teenager, it seems like the longest time of your life. You wish to be grown up, to have the seemingly free life of an adult.
I remember being 14 years old and dying to be grown up enough to make all of my own decisions, freedom was just out of my reach. When you finally get there, you realise that there can be even more rules and shackles to being an adult, and if you let them, they can strangle you. As a parent you experience your children’s lives as an exquisite mix of joy and heartbreak. Your babies lives seem to pass by you in a flash, while your hairs turn to grey and your chances or opportunities, or time, to have more babies, fades rapidly into the distance along with a whole pile of other opportunities. One minute you are dreaming and planning for the nursery, changing millions of nappies, smelling the deliciousness of their soft baby necks, breastfeeding while they stare into your eyes, and wondering why you decided to have children in the middle of a dark cold winter evening, as you walk the halls, desperate for them to sleep, for you to sleep, for sleep…..the next you are helping them move out to live with their partner, your heart torn between the joy of having grown a beautiful human and the loss of saying goodbye to one hell of an important time in your life and the certainty of them sleeping nearby you every night. On the flipside, as you age you become somehow wiser, richer, not in a monetary sense, but in your appreciation and understanding of life and its precious moments. I am finding as I head towards the final year of my 40’s, that in fact I am happier and more at peace than any other time in my life, despite days of worry, sadness or uncertainty.
Sometimes when you smell a certain smell, or see a certain tree, or feel a soft breeze on your skin, you are flicked back to that time you took all 3 of your children on a road trip. How you packed everyone into the car, full to the brim, and played car games as you drove long black roads, laughing at the joy of all being together in that little temporary house, and the feeling of security that you held all of them in your arms at once. But this does not last, and the time you spend as a child is so tiny compared to the rest of your life.
Why spend that time saying no? Trying to make your children fit into some kind of expectation or rule that has no real purpose? Why do we try to squeeze them into one mould, or teach their individuality out of them? Encouraging children to be themselves, totally themselves, and to think about being different, is far better. Making them experience the thrill of something a little bit naughty, or dangerous even – like ice cream for breakfast – instills a sense of possibility in them, that there are times when you can break the rules. Being the mum of children who dare to challenge the norm, who delight in their ideas and their sense of freedom in life, gives me great pleasure in my own life. It allows me to see that despite the challenges they may face in a world full of bullies and cowards, when they are confident in their sense of who they are – in their being them – they will have a happy life no matter what.
I get that we need to teach children rules. They need to understand how to navigate the world, how to lose, how to win, how to be kind, how to make a difference. They need to learn how to consider others while striving for their dreams, to love and be loved. They must understand how to share, to have courage and how to say goodbye. All the things we teach them are important, but I think it is also important to teach them that they do not have to be conventional. That there is no mould they have to fit into. That sometimes, if you feel like ice cream for breakfast, you should totally have it. That odd socks or inside out clothes (yes my Maxwell likes to dress this way) are cool if that is what you want to wear. That you can think differently, and considering what other people think of you is not the best stance to come from all the time (wishing I learnt that earlier), that being clever is wonderful, that feeling things deeply is beautiful, that pleasing someone else all the time is not the answer to your life – but that pleasing yourself all the time is also not the answer.
Balance in life is the key to happiness and sometimes you need to eat in front of the television, spend too much time binge watching netflix, or get lost in a book for the entire weekend. Sometimes, you need to eat ice cream for breakfast.