Today has been one of those days when I just feel satisfied with my life, pure contentment, happy.
Funny how some days you can just feel that way isn't it? It's not that anything in particular has happened, nor is it a special occasion of any sort, I'm just feeling blissfully satisfied with my lot.
This morning started with a lovely relaxed hour or so as we got ready to go on our weekly trek to Exeter. This is rather unusual - to be nice and relaxed before a trip out. Normally chaos ensues, I get agitated at things taking longer than they should, and there is always someone who forgets something like a coat or even their shoes. Not today. Today breakfast was unhurried and enjoyed, tidying was done, dishes were washed, and all were ready and able to leave by the planned time. I was surprised - even more so due to the fact that I had offered to open up the hut we use so needed to be there much earlier than usual. But I didn't feel rushed or stressed.
The drive went well, with roads clear, so we arrived at Exeter well on schedule to complete our appointed opening duties on time.
The group started off quietly but soon picked up in numbers and seemed to be quite a success from a socialisation viewpoint. I took a back step from Taisia a little, allowing her slightly more freedom than she usually has, not wanting to be constantly hovering over her all of the time whilst she explored. Obviously I kept a watchful mama eye on her, but from a distance. She seemed to get quite a lot out of it and practically ventured into all four corners of the park. I helped her climb on various bits of play equipment, but other than that I retreated to a distance allowing her space.
The result of this freedom?
A happy little girl.
A happy little wet girl.
A happy little wet girl with squelchy shoes.
Taisia found a puddle. A great big, almost 4 inches deep in parts, puddle.
She walked right through it. She jumped and splashed right in it. She danced and hopped and skipped within it over and over and over again. All with a great big grin on her face. I wasn't going to stop her, she was having so much fun (typical I didn't take the camera, I'd have got some brilliant shots). Her tights were absolutely soaking, her dress was a little on the wet side, whilst her shoes were filled with water and squelching with every step.
With half an hour of the group time remaining, I took her tights and shoes off. What did she do? She went straight back out to her puddle and danced some more - bare footed and fancy free.
I helped to tidy up the hut whilst other parents kept an eye on my (by now soaking wet) dancing princess (once checking with me that I was actually aware of just how wet she was).
Home time came and I went out to gather up all my children. I stood by watching Taisia being so happy in her own little puddle filled world, thinking about the joy that simple activity was bringing to her. Her beaming smile, her glistening eyes, her infectious giggle as she romped from end to end in her own private paddling pool.
But then what did she go and do?
She sat down. Right in the middle of that puddle. On purpose. And was very happy with herself for doing so.
Oh yes she was happy. Oh so very happy.
I'm so glad that I allowed her the freedom to explore, and that I didn't try to control her. I could have spent the afternoon re-directing her from that puddle. I could have told her no, that she wasn't allowed to splash as she didn't have her wellies on. I could have repeated that no, over and over and over again. I could have crushed her curiosity and steered her clear of that puddle (prominently sat right outside the hut), continuously throughout the afternoon.
What fun would that have been for either of us?
What would that have achieved? At best a child that felt controlled by the big person and not able to explore for herself. At worst a frustrated, angry and confused child, possibly with the situation escalating to her behaviour demonstrating just how frustrated, angry and confused she was with screaming, tears and lashing out limbs.
Was she going to hurt someone else whilst she was splashing? Not really. The pathway was wide enough to avoid the little splash she was creating. Was she going to hurt herself by splashing in the puddle? She may feel wet and cold, she may feel uncomfortable - but that would have been a natural consequence not one that I myself had inflicted. Of course I would dry her quickly and ease that consequence as best I could so it was of little concern. We had no plans to go anywhere afterwards that needed to see decently dressed children, nor were we parked too far away from the park. So just why couldn't she splash in the puddle?
I'm a firm believer that we have to choose when to say no and limit our children's freedom wisely. I think the saying is "pick our battles" but that makes out that parenting is a fight and I don't believe it is. I live by the rule to say yes as much as possible. The word no is used, but only when necessary, usually when there is risk of harm. Had Taisia wanted to firmly plant herself in the middle of a busy road to play and the answer would have been a definite no. That's not a good idea for anyone to do, and it would obviously risk harm. If a child doesn't want to put his or her coat on, why sweat it? What will happen? He or she may feel the cold and that will be the natural consequence for them to experience - I (as a forward-thinking mama) will have taken the coat on their behalf, and they will be able to wear it when (or if) they choose to. No biggie.
Lecture over, moving on.
We came home, I changed Taisia, and just sat down with a cuppa when Lee rang to ask to be picked up from work. Off out again we went.
Home again home again jiggety jig. Another cuppa was made, dinner was cooked and eaten, then off we went out again. This time we went to pick up a surprise for Joseph.
Joseph has been saving up for an electric guitar for a while now. He has been doing jobs around the home in order to earn money - not the everyday jobs such as dish washing, tea making, or bin emptying - those are just part of what we do as a family to help each other and ensure the smooth running of a household containing a large-ish number of people. Instead, the sort of jobs he has been been paid for include mowing the lawn and cleaning the car. Unfortunately the weather hasn't exactly assisted him with such tasks and he hasn't been able to earn as much as what he would have liked.
A few days ago I was searching the local listings on Ebay and there was an electric guitar set up for sale. The description stated that it had been an unwanted gift and only used a couple of times. I added it to my watch list and kept an eye on it as the price began to rise. Last night we became the proud owners of that same Guitar. Tonight we went and picked it up and brought it home - secretly - Joseph had no idea what was about to be revealed.
We called him out to the car, under the guise of needing help to carry stuff in. He came out and saw the amp and guitar stand. A smile appeared upon his face. I said that we were half way there and just need to have a guitar...or we could use... and I revealed the guitar case I had hidden on the other side of the car. Oh boy the smile got bigger! I don't think he could quite believe what he was seeing, and gladly helped us carry it all inside!
I opened the case to show him the guitar - it's blue and shiny, with mother of pearl effect detail. It really is as described, in tippety top condition. Joseph is very very very happy. He has said thank you over and over and over again.
I find such joy in being able to offer one of my children something that they really want, to be able to help them achieve their dream of owning something. None of my children expect it. None of them make demands, and it's actually very rare that they will ask for something. I'm really honest with my guys, we talk about everything that affects us in daily life. We talk about our finances, and they know that we struggle - some months more than others - and that we live from payday to payday. They are also aware that the bills take president and that we are sensible. They know that the rent, food, utility bills, and our debts are all paid each month without fail. They are secure in the knowledge that they will have a roof over their heads and food in the cupboards. To be able to treat them like I did Joe today fills my heart.
Speaking of Joseph, he and I had the most beautiful conversation this evening - totally instigated by him. He started talking about being appreciative. He talked about people being appreciative for what they have, how they should think themselves fortunate for having their basic needs covered - shelter, food, good health etc, and not keep on thinking that life would be better if they could just have the new car/exotic holiday/expensive handbag/etc. A quote from the young man himself...
"I know I take a lot of things for granted. But, I do appreciate the situation that I am in right now. I have a roof over my head, a fantastically fabulous family, food in plentiful supply, a little sister that makes me laugh every day, and no financial worries. I have everything I need, life is just great at the moment. "
~ Joseph Pollard ~ Aged 14, ♥