I am here right now to tell you how wonderful my girls are. A few things have happened over the last few weeks and I've noticed that there's a theme developing, and that theme is How Wonderful My Girls Are.
I guess you knew that, because you made them that way. I'm not saying that they can't be incredibly annoying at times (and I'm sure you know that as well; and how frustrated I can get as well) but they have such a capacity to delight me that I wanted to say thank you.
A few weeks ago they entered a swimming gala. They are both still learning to swim and they're in different classes on a Saturday morning but with the same teacher. Katy has her lesson from 9.30 until 10.00 and then Elizabeth from 10.30-11.00 which means (including getting changed and back again) nearly two hours in the swimming pool each week; a headache-inducing prospect and no mistake). They both love their lessons and they love going to the pool with me as well. Elizabeth has an athletic build and takes to any new physical challenge instantly and Katy is a tad less co-ordinated and is more cautious when it comes to sports, but they both love swimming. The swimming club annual gala has some races for the Learner groups and they were both encouraged to enter. To start with we thought that it was alright for Lizzie, who is a confident swimmer and loves competitions, but perhaps it wasn't right for Kate. Her teacher thought otherwise and it was with considerable reservations that we entered her. And then only for one race instead of two.
It was just lovely.
Elizabeth, fiercely competitive and remembering everything she'd been taught, won both her front-stroke and backstroke races and got better times than the winners of the older groups (and the boys, which went down pretty well). Katy came fourth in her front-stroke race and loved it so much that she threatened a meltdown if we didn't beseech the organiser to enter her belatedly into another race as well. We did, he did, and she (ahem) brought up the rear in her backstroke, but she reached the side with a broad grin and wanted to keep on going. The ladies doing the time-keeping commented on how smiley she was. She just enjoyed the swimming. Yes, she understood that she came last but she had the wonderful, enviable ability to enjoy just taking part. It was great to watch. Both of them will get medals for being part of the event, which is nice. I was so proud of them.
The other day we took the girls to a Garden of Light evening at a park in town; lots of fairy lights and a lantern parade, a miniature train-ride and a funfair and all the bits that go with it. Candy floss, light sabres with flashing colours, luminous this and that and then at the end of the evening, fireworks. The girls were so excited that for the preceding four hours they had been literally clock watching and by the time we arrived they were jumping around all over. We went on the little train, we watched the band lead the parade, we saw the fire-eaters and we ate candy floss. The best bit of the night was watching my lovely girls on a tiny train on the fairground ringing a bell as they passed us each time round. Ding ding. Big, big smiles. Also, we got to accompany them on the big, grown-up carousel which was very special as I got to cuddle Katy on my horse while Bryan held on tight to Elizabeth on his; just so they didn't fall off, you understand. Jolly music. Big, big smiles.
Just fun. Being up later than their bedtime, bright lights, sugar and rides. No worries about safety, finances, ill health or what anybody thinks. Just fun for fun's sake. And when we got home they went straight to sleep, which was a mammoth bonus.
I look at my children and things seem much more simple. I know that life is much simpler for them, and that we must all grow up, but I wonder how often we complicate things that don't need complicating. How often I do, at least. Some things are just simple. It's nice to see bright, pretty lights in the darkness. It's nice to hear a band playing a happy tune. It's nice to have a ride on a beautifully lit vintage-style carousel just to go up and down and round and round and laugh and cuddle up to your small daughters. It's nice to forget the tooth decay and eat candy floss once in a while.
It would be nice to take part in something without the worry of coming last. I wonder if Katy could possible explain to me how she does that. It would be great to be able to focus on the joy of the moment without wondering about possible implications; what people think. What conclusions might be drawn by my actions. To celebrate, enjoy, experience something without the complications.
I think I can learn a lot from my children. I should learn a lot from them. The things that come naturally to them are so alien to me these days. I am so self-conscious, so inhibited. Everything has strings attached for me.
I must think about this some more. But I wanted to say thank you, Lord. Thanks for the beauty of the park lit with coloured lights, the funfair, the music, the candy floss and the pure joy on my girls' faces on the rides. Thankyou that it mattered not a tiny bit to Katy that she was last in the swimming contest but she just loved being a part of it. Thankyou that Elizabeth tried her best and did so well at something that she loves and works hard at.
And most of all thank you that you've given these beautiful, complicated, straightforward little creatures to me to look after. I love them so much that I feel as if I might explode. Thankyou that raising children is the hardest, most frustrating, time consuming, challenging, annoying, most wonderful, heart-warming, rewarding, joyful job that anyone could have.
And I'm going to finish this now before I go ahead and try to get them in and out of the bath, in pyjamas and in bed without screeching at them in a little while.
I'm going to hold that thought.