Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Becoming childlike


There is nothing more relaxing than resting in my daughter’s bed. While she’s at school, I often slip into her room and have a little lie down. From where I am nestled into the bedclothes, the ceiling looks far off. I feel safe and small, and my worries drift away. For a few precious minutes I am no longer the adult, with all the responsibilities it entails; instead I am a little girl with nothing on her mind. I watch the shadows dance on the wall; I listen to the wind; I may even have a nap. Fifteen minutes later I rise, refreshed, and get back to work.

There’s something about her bed that aids this. My own bed is an adult bed, and I share it with my husband. Our three children were all conceived in the bed, and the work of childbirth began there every time. At night, we lie there and talk about our hopes, our frustrations, our fears. In sad times, we’ve sobbed there and held each other tight; in hard times, we’ve lain there wondering who we have married, and why; and often, of course, we make love. There’s nothing wrong with our bed, but it’s full of adult memories.

On the other hand, my daughter’s bed is a child’s bed. It smells of sleep, and reminds me of flannelette pyjamas and stories, cuddles and night time songs. Nothing much to think about, nothing much to worry about, just gentleness and love. Through the physical act of lying there, I feel myself becoming receptive, trusting, hopeful, content.

Jesus said that to enter the mystery you must become childlike once again. Lying in my daughter’s bed, for those few precious minutes, I feel like I can almost let go.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The serious rider


The Tour de France is over, once again, and my husband, my father and even my hairdresser are no longer sitting up late each night watching the stage until they fall asleep. Throughout the Tour I was given little morsels about tacks on the road, breathtaking challenges, mind games that were being played out as serious riders charged straight up mountains and hurled themselves down the other side. Apparently, it was riveting stuff.

I had a haircut, and while my hairdresser snipped away we had a long conversation about the Tour and bikes. Bless his soul, he wears Lycra as he rides his ten thousand dollar training machine up hill and down dale four days a week. He has two other bikes, one for racing and one for fun. Is he a serious rider? You bet.

Me, I ride to school and tootle around our suburb on a sturdy grey thing, and that’s about it. Every morning my three year old asks, ‘how are we travelling mama?’; and when I say ‘bike’ she runs to get her pink helmet then climbs into the trailer.

Sometimes she takes a book or toy; on cold days she grabs a rug. She’s unsuccessfully campaigned to bring my laptop so she can look at photos while we’re riding along, and she provides a running commentary on the state of the road and which potholes to avoid. She has strong opinions about which route I should take and is not afraid to voice them.

Her voice fills the air as I pedal and think to myself that pink helmets are not much defence against a collision and the trailer’s orange flag could be easily missed. I am always aware that something small and oh! so precious is tagging along behind me.

Meanwhile, my six and eight year old daughters are alongside and I never stop calculating. As we ride I call instructions: stop, that’s great, move to the left, give them a wide berth, turn right here, wait! Good job.

I block a dangerous corner and they ride past, then I race ahead to check the next crossing. We go the quiet route, but even so cars shoot out of driveways, turn without indicating and overtake in alarming ways. Riding with kids is work, very enjoyable when all goes well but not really a game.

I’m not remotely fanatical. We catch the tram on rainy days and we never go far. There are no hill climbs on our route, no breakaways, no peloton; we have no Lycra or ten thousand dollar bikes. You see people like me in every suburb on a school morning: a constantly vigilant parent drilling children in the patterns of traffic, the exceptions to watch out for, and the ways to ride well. We may cycle for hours every week but there will never be a television show, or even a bike shop, devoted to us. We’re low profile; yet as you drive past you can’t ignore the cavalcade as we shepherd it safely to school.

Listening to talk about the Tour de France I smile and nod my head sagely; but to myself I wonder who, exactly, is the serious rider?

Room on the Broom

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why every marriage proposal should be vetted by an 8 year old

I was sitting in a classroom reading with a kid. He's not a terrible reader, but he's much more interested in motorbikes and planes. As we tried to focus on a boring book about dogs, I happened to glance up and saw a skywriter working above us. I showed the kid, and we stopped and watched as the plane looped and turned.



What could he be writing, we wondered. Made? Match? Ma....








Marry Me!

We wondered who.



Could it be the teacher, Ellie???? The kid was very excited for a minute.






Marry Me Elaine

What sort of name is that? asked the kid.

I dunno, I said. But maybe a woman named Elaine is sitting in a fancy restaurant and some man is telling her to look out the window.


It keeps going!



I *heart* you!!!


Should she marry him?, I asked the kid. I reckon the skywriting cost as much as a second hand car.

Hmmm, he said as he rubbed his chin. That man's a show off. Maybe it would be better if she didn't marry him.

Then he shrugged, turned away from the window, and drew the plane.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Practicing Gratitude


The following piece appeared in The Sunday Age faith column yesterday.


My six year old recently fractured her wrist. It could have felt like a disaster, but to my surprise the day was a study in gratitude.

My daughter is a monkey, forever up a tree or perched atop a netball pole, and a fall and break were practically inevitable. Luckily, she sustained only a minor fracture, needing no more than a slab cast strapped to her wrist, and for that I was grateful. We spent the day together, a rare treat now she's at school, and she nestled quietly into my lap in each waiting room. I brought along her favourite book and we cuddled, chatted, and read folktales while we waited. What a privilege, I thought, and said a prayer of thanks.

Meanwhile, her younger sister was collected from kinder by a woman who, I realised that day, is beginning to be a friend; and this realisation dawned on me with the gentle caress of a blessing.

How we experience life is so dependent on our attitude: do we regard life as a gift, or a curse? I certainly used to experience most things as a curse, and life was a painful burden; but over the last ten years, I've been practicing gratitude.

I started small, looking for a tiny flower in the crack of a grim stretch of pavement, a smile from a stranger's baby, a word of kindness between two women on a train, and tried to feel grateful for those little things. I discovered that the more I looked and the more I practiced, the more grateful I became. Even better, as I sought to find blessings in small things, I learned to recognise blessings at times where once I would have struggled – when my daughter broke her arm, for example.

Between one thing and another, I spend a lot of time with young children, and I am often reminded that the skills which most of us take for granted – walking, talking, writing, reading, counting – are learned only very slowly. Babies cruise the furniture for months before walking; toddlers need countless interactions with parents and neighbours and ladies at the post office before they begin to chat. It takes months, even years, of solid hard work as children try, try and try again to master these basic skills.

As adults we often forget this, and forget our own capacity to learn. But just imagine what we could accomplish if we really put our minds to it! Patience, kindness, self-control, peacefulness, gentleness and, of course, gratitude could all be ours, if only we are prepared to take small steps and put in the hours of practice.

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