2018, here you are. This year my primary resolution is to manage the time I spend on electronic devices. I find that people are half present these days because they always have at least one foot in cyberspace.
I worry I’m too preoccupied with my iPhone. The problem is that it has become my one stop shop for so many things – photos, to-lists, maps, encyclopaedia, conversations with friends etc. In my defence, at least I don’t yak on the phone for hours the way my parents’ generation did so maybe I shouldn’t feel so guilty.
I need my phone and other devices because they are my pipes to the outside world but I’ve decided that, in 2018, if I’m going to be on my phone or computer, it has to be worthwhile. I’m going to spend less time twirling around the internet and reading toxic, fear-mongering articles and news reports that give me a nervous twitch. This year, I’m going to spend more time with my new friends Judy, Gordon, Aaron and James. I bought myself a subscription to masterclass.com for Christmas and it is fantastic. I’m taking virtual cooking courses with Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck, writing classes with Judy Blume and James Patterson and I’m learning screenwriting with Aaron Sorkin, just for fun. Annie Leibovitz is also going to teach me how to take decent photos. The masterclasses are filmed as if these fabulous people are talking directly to me, as if I am their pal and we are having a chat at a coffee shop. Wonderful!
I always divide winter into two parts – there’s the bit before Christmas and the bit after Christmas. November and December are fun because there’s the festive build up to Christmas and the excitement of the first snowfall. January and February are intense. You just have to hunker down and focus ahead to spring. The problem is that I have weather dependent moods so if it is grey outside, I feel grey inside. The low lying cloud over the lake has reappeared and I hate the Wuthering Heights, mist-in-the-moors vibe. I find that the longest, most exhausting days are the ones when we stay at home and unfortunately we do this more often in winter. We also walk to and from school so we are at the mercy of all weather conditions. Try walking in horizontal rain with three kids. Fun.
One thing I struggle with in winter, particularly with little kids, is the heat. Yes, you heard me right. I said the heat. The Swiss heat their buildings to roughly the temperatures of the inside of a pottery kiln. Swiss buildings are hotter inside in winter than they are in summer.
Overheated buildings are challenging because as soon as the kids feel the slightest bit warm or uncomfortable, they strip. They are quick to fling their clothes off but slow to put them on. Often when we leave the house, Kate is bundled in my wrap and becoming hot and agitated while the others are still half naked and faffing about. Jessica thinks it’s fine to leave the house in ballet pumps and a leotard when it is zero degrees outside.
Sometimes I wish Megan and Jessica helped me a little more. They are only 5 and 3 years old, I know, but I’m not asking for them to make their own dinner or operate the washing machine. I would just like them to help me by putting on their shoes and a jacket when I ask. Maybe I expect too much.
This is Al’s busy period so he is working long hours. He’s warned me well in advance so when he phones and says, ‘I’m going to be late tonight’, then I can’t be passive aggressive and disappointed like I usually am when he is 15 minutes late (15 minutes feels like 150 minutes at dinner/bed/bath time).
Kate is chunkier and losing that newborn fragility. She still has no interest in her baby toys, possibly because she has enough stimulation from her two older sisters who are like two human, life-size rattles.
Kate usually sleeps non-stop from about 8pm to 4am, which I consider sleeping through the night. Whoo hoo! It baffles me why babies insist we stand while soothing them. Whenever I sit down and rock Kate in my arms, she objects until I stand up and do it. That’s why parents are so zonked – we can never sit down. It was the same with Megan and Jessica. Why do babies do that? It’s a mystery.
I find I sometimes struggle to go back to sleep from 4am onwards but any sleep deprivation is my fault, not Kate’s. I sit quietly breastfeeding in the dead of night and my body sees this as a moment for deep thinking – dissecting the past, planning for the future and analysing the present. My brain careers around like a runaway horse. I remember one of my favourite writers saying, ‘My mind is a scary neighbourhood to wander alone in at night.’
My newest challenge is the TV. That’s another reason why I hate winter – because we are indoors more and the TV or ipad are such temptations. It’s crack for kids. It is a mood-altering, trance-inducing sedative that turns Megan and Jessica weepy, sluggish and irritable after the initial high. It may give parents respite but the aftermath is annoying. Today I had enough of the tears and rage when I turned off the TV so I’ve banned it indefinitely … or until tomorrow.
Megan and Jessica adore their schools. I’m so happy they’re happy. They rarely recount what happened during their days but Megan jabbers in French and she plays by re-enacting her experiences in the classroom with Jessica as her pupil so I see what goes on indirectly.
To end off, I want to share a profound thought from Aaron Sorkin’s Masterclass course. He said that in life you will never be able to please everybody so you shouldn’t even try. He said, ‘Think of beef. There are so many ways to prepare beef. You can make boeuf bourguignon, filet mignon, beef wellington, you name it. But, if you want to cook beef in the way that the least number of people find objectionable, then you would make a McDonald’s hamburger. McDonald’s hamburgers are nice, but they’re just ok, nothing special, nothing memorable. If you were a chef, you wouldn’t aspire to make them.’ This a lovely lesson, especially for chronic people pleasers like me. Do I want to be the human equivalent of a Big Mac? Ew, no way. I love this image so much that I’ve now absorbed it into the daily Surycz family lingo. Be steak, be stew, be a roast. Be interesting, be different, be you.