It was a Sunday morning. Drizzle resting on still leaves, newspapers rescued from the garden. That precious light when I gaze lovingly at this beautiful man who has just dragged a rag doll of me out of bed. Too early. And put tea in my hands. Urgently.
Sunflowers wave at me from behind the boundary wall. Birds shake off rain.
Any minute now the children will come down the stairs and want to dip Marie biscuits in this romantic moment. This threat of assault adds a thrill. I hold my cup tighter, gripping it with both hands. I need a clever plan to make him put down the newspaper.
The parent trap : The most important work we will ever do is at home. Photo by Thinkstock.
My phone beeps a notification. It’s usually the bank or the Sauna Slim Belt people at this early hour. Still, I check.
It is the editor of Lounge.
Can you start a parenting column this week? Send first piece by Tuesday.
Oh sure, I type back. Fabulous.
I put down my phone.
Then I start to cry. Loudly. What have I done? Oh my God.
It works. He puts down the newspaper slowly.
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Panic. Parenting column. I have said yes. That means I will have to be a good parent. How can I write good things without doing them first?
I will have to be a good person. Live my life more fully. It is so much easier to be an okay-okay person. I will have to play more, talk more, travel more, laugh more. Be more present than absent. Go to children’s parks. I might enjoy it eventually, but living life more fully seems like harder work than not.
“Finish your tea. Calm down,” he says, folding the newspaper. I like being told to calm down. It calms me down.
By now, I have also run out of reasons to panic. Now the pluses start trooping in. And so do our children, eager to make a Sunday out of the day.
I will set myself up for criticism, I think, adjusting an eight-year-old in my lap. I’m not sure why this is a good thing but it feels like it is. Criticism is for important people. Criticism is childhood. It can bring out the brave in you. It can help you clear the clutter and defend your choices.
“Listen to the kids. They know,” I will write. I will have to listen to my children first. I wrap my free arm around our six-year-old, my head nestling against her. She peers into the teacup in my other hand. Pink nightgowns. Droopy ponytails from yesterday’s adventures.
I will tell stories from the moments. The moments will become stories. Now baby is here. She scrunches her face and makes a noise. “Get out of here, you two, this is MY mamma.”
“Okay, okay,” the elder sisters go to their father. His lap is bigger. Baby clambers on to me. Give me milk, she says. And all your attention. You are mine. For now.
I will need more alone time to get any decent writing done. Maybe I can cheat and get more alone time for myself than one column needs. This is getting more win-win by the minute.
By now, our teatime is over and the children are fully charged.
“What are we going to do today?” asks Sahar.
“We are going to celebrate today,” I say.
“Oh,” she says. “What are we going to celebrate?”
“We are going to celebrate what a wonderful family we are,” I say to her. I am a bit corny sometimes, but I like to keep it simple.
“Oh,” she says.
Tell me if this makes sense to you. The most important work any of us will ever do is at home, within the oasis of our family and relationships. This is not even work, is it? It is everyday life. Yet this is where our children will get their sense of belonging, security and tolerance. This is where our children will learn how to stand up to injustice and negotiate with differences. This is where we heal our own wounds.
A holiday morning is as good a time as any to make the children feel important. A good time to let one’s own inner child run free. There will be conflict and mayhem. There may be joy and peace.
I’ll take my chances.
Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and mother of three.
Write to Natasha at email@example.com