Happiness on a background of sad

It’s the end of half term. And it’s another day of awful news.

I have loved this half term; but the backdrop has been heartbreaking.

We’ve played under (mainly) blue skies and eaten too many ice-creams. We’ve walked miles, had running races, and scrambled up trees. We’ve ridden on trains and buses, and almost reached the riding-bikes-without-stabilisers milestone (or two out of three have, at any rate). We’ve had mini-adventures and some big adventures too. Of course there have been all the usual challenges, and plenty of them…… getting out of the house is still probably up there as the biggest challenge of them all. But overall, I have loved this half term.

It’s a strange feeling, though, creating happy memories against a backdrop of tragic news. It’s a strange thing watching your children joyfully race each other down a hill when your mind can’t stop going over recent events……. Manchester. Kabul. London. Sharing laughs and giving cuddles when you are struggling to comprehend what and why and how. When hearing that a van has driven into pedestrians triggers ‘attack‘ rather than ‘accident‘ in your mind – these are the times we are living in. And yet you, my beautifully innocent little boys, you know nothing about these troubled times. You have no idea what could make anyone angry enough to hurt so many other people. And so we carry on as normal – singing songs, laughing at jokes, eating Cheerios, watching Paw Patrol, squabbling over toy trains.

And yes, I know that for some people, for some families, this is their everyday. Trying to maintain normal for their children against a backdrop of horror…..often outside their own front door. Trying to explain to tiny children that the time has come for them to leave their home and all their belongings behind because it just isn’t safe to stay where they are any longer. Trying to keep some sort of routine, some semblance of normality for the sake of little people who have already seen and heard too much. I don’t know how they do it, these people.

In between all the bad news stories, political parties are canvassing for our votes. Telling us they’ll bring us together again, make sense of it all; put money here and save money there. They’ll make us safer. And as they canvas for votes, we wonder what sort of world you little ones are going to inherit. We read stories about underfunded schools and underpaid nurses. We wonder why the very things we value, the things which hold our society together, don’t appear to be worth investing in.  We want the world to be safe for you, and we are desperately sorry that right now, it doesn’t feel like it is.

And yet still, we laugh as you race down hills and whizz down slides – because that is all we can do. We can’t control everything that is happening out there; but, in these uncertain times, we can do our best to give you a haven, and to give you happy half term memories to hold on to. I hope that’s what we’ve done this week….I’m just so sorry it’s been against a backdrop of sad.

boys on bikes

Sleeping children

Everyone loves checking in on their sleeping children, don’t they? It’s when you can properly enjoy being a parent. I know very well that I should try and enjoy my children when they’re actually awake, not just while they’re sleeping. But I also know that, although people regularly tell me to ‘enjoy every moment’; during the day that isn’t always possible. There’s always a spilt drink to mop up, or a child about to launch himself head-first down the stairs, or a grazed knee to attend to.

The daytime is usually about keeping your head above water, it’s not about standing back and reflecting.

But when they’re asleep – that’s when you can take stock with no distractions. You can look at your children all peaceful and snuggled up and take a bit of time to think about how magnificent they are – this is so much easier to do when they’re not whacking each other over the head with trains. You can stroke their beautiful skin and realise how lucky you are to be bringing up these little people. You can look at them and remember the funny things they said or did that day, because you’re not also trying to rush everyone out of the front door in time for school and convince a 3 year old to put some trousers on.

And after a bad day or a fraught bedtime, I find a sleeping child check reassuring. Because there may have been tears earlier, but look at them now – perfectly content and snoring their little heads off. When I feel like I’m doing a rubbish job, seeing my sleeping boys reassures me that we are all absolutely fine. It gives me the chance to take stock, think about what I might have done differently, and promise myself that tomorrow will be better (I do this quite a lot – thank goodness for tomorrow).

Vicky the bat

Vicky the bat

But mainly, I love checking on my children and seeing that they’re tucked up, they’re warm, and that they’ve got everything they need – for my 5 year old, that is a life-sized hare, and Vicky the bat (obviously). I’m not sure they would be my ideal night-time buddies but each to their own.

And every night, I think what lucky boys they are; then I think how sad it is that being warm and having a bed to sleep in should make them lucky. But they are lucky, because there are horrible things happening in the world aren’t there? Horrible things which I don’t want them ever to be aware of, because their heads are full of lovely, innocent things at the moment like arctic animals and trains and pick up trucks. Their entire world exists around our little home and their routines, and the thought of them finding out about all the bigger things happening out there terrifies me.

But right now they’re tucked up, fast asleep and dreaming about buses. And that is exactly where I want them to be.

sleeping boy