Can you believe it is almost the end of 2017? Where has this year gone? It is important to us that Megan and Jessica understand the true meaning of the Christmas season. It is our responsibility as parents to talk to them about the nativity because they are unlikely to learn about it in any other way in this godless, secular country. Megan’s class has a Christmas theme throughout December and not once will they mention Jesus, I guarantee you. I’m pleased to see the Christmas story is sort of sinking in because Jessica explained that Mary had a baby in her tummy and then Jesus ‘came out of her bum’ in the stable.
Usually at this time of year, a layer of fog hangs over the lake. It’s like living under a wet grey blanket for weeks on end. The constant dreariness sets off a sour and persistent seasonal depression in even the most upbeat of people. So far this winter there’s been no sign of the clouds. Hooray! It’s not the cold of winter that bothers me most, but the weakness and scarcity of light. If there’s blue skies and sunshine, then I’m happy.
During the past two months, my life has become really busy. Not in a stressful or complicated way, but enough to make me topple into bed like a felled oak at about 20h30 every night. This busyness is a combination of the baby, Megan’s new school routine and the shorter winter days which mean there is less time in which to fit activities, chores and appointments.
Kate is 8 weeks old and growing exponentially. Sometimes I look at her in the morning and I notice she has changed overnight. I am up to my eyeballs in baby clothes. Kate has more clothes than me. Babies grow so fast so I have loads of little outfits in various sizes and it’s hard to keep order so I can make good use of the array of gifts, hand-me-downs and clothes I’ve bought myself. I detest clutter, excess and waste so this frustrates me. The funny thing is that the cupboard looks too overwhelming so I end up putting Kate in more or less the same clothes every day.
So far Kate sleeps like a champ at night. She wakes up once or twice for a short time. The day times are more of a challenge because she rarely naps beyond 45 minutes at a time and likes to be held or wrapped up on my chest in the baby carrier. It’s difficult for her to settle during the day because she’s constantly jigged about by her boisterous older sisters or we need to get going to fetch kids from school, head to an activity etc. It’s Murphy’s Law that as Kate settles into a deep, peaceful sleep, we must leave the house. ‘Righto! Up you get! Let’s get going!’ I’ve also told Megan and Jessica that when Kate has her eyes closed, they must stay away but I’m struggling to drum in this concept. Megan will say, ‘I didn’t wake her. She woke up herself.’ Yes, she woke up herself after you bounced on her or kissed her or after you breathed on her with your face 1cm from hers.
Megan and Jessica have no concept of how delicate a baby is. They treat Kate like their dolls that they love very much but also carry round the house by their feet. They are caring and maternal and want to be involved. I have to keep one eye on them because if, say, Jessica wipes Kate’s nose, she may pull it off or suffocate her.
The key to managing three children under five is to be organised and to let some things slide – my personal appearance is an example. It’s a challenge enough getting the kids dressed to leave the house when they don’t listen to my instructions or when they demand to be dressed by me and then they make themselves as floppy as a jellyfish or as stiff as a board. I have about thirty seconds to sort out myself, which is just about enough time to brush my teeth and that’s it. I don’t care! I just make sure to avoid mirrors and sometimes when I catch my reflection in a shop window, it makes me yelp. Our handyman remarked on how lovely my wedding photo is and then asked in shock and surprise, ‘Is that you?’ as he struggled to connect me with the person in the picture. I reckon I have plenty of time in the future to get rid of the soft, sponginess of my post-baby body and use make up, hairbrushes and colour coordinated clothing again.
I’m slowly getting into a groove and learning lessons along the way. For example, we need to eat dinner at 17h00 in order for the children (and sometimes me!) to be asleep by 19h30. I can’t cook from scratch in the evenings because of the distractions so I batch cook on the weekends or do it in the morning when the girls are at school. Al keeps wanting to invite people over for teas, dinners and braais and I reckon, no problem … in about 5 years.
Dinner time is my biggest juggle and weakest point of the day. Someone is always weeping/screaming during this time. A child (or all of them) demand to sit on my lap or be fed. They refuse to eat what I serve or they do so at snail pace. They want to watch TV. They refuse to clean up the lounge. Someone starts undressing. There’s rage and frustration because I poured their drink into the wrong cup or gave the wrong colour plate. Someone cries because someone else poked them with a fork. Someone knocks over a glass of water or a bowl of peas – we can’t go through dinner time without some sort of spillage. Kate tends not to cry and emits more of a squeak, like one of those plastic bath toys. So I’m wiping, stirring, chopping, serving, comforting and feeding while bouncing Kate who emits a non-stop, rolling squeaksqueaksqueaksqueaksqueaks. Often it gets a bit much and I daydream of walking outside, slamming the front door and sitting on the stoep by myself with a glass of wine and a cigarette (not that I’ve ever smoked before in my life).
I’m grateful for my full and busy but simple life. Since it is almost the end of 2017, here is a picture of our Happy Jar that I have been diligently filling every day for the past three years. I’m very proud of it. Every evening we reflect on our day and we write down what moment made us feel most happy (or least unhappy, if things are rough). A happy moment is something you create in a day. It is not a moment for which we are grateful because I believe gratitude and happiness are different and gratitude is no guarantee of joy.
I want my children to understand that happiness does not necessarily revolve around success, wealth, popularity and brilliance. You are likely to be more content if you notice the significance in the ordinary little things. Happiness is less of a luck-based feeling that you wait to fall on you like magic fairy dust, but is instead something you choose to make for yourself and seek out in every day. Suffering is inevitable, but joy is not. I’ve learned that enjoying life is more about appreciating the journey, rather than being completely focused on the destination. This makes life a lot like paper mache. You layer it on, one piece over the other, one experience over the next until you have something richly textured and vibrant at the end.
I once read somewhere that life is a series of battles and blessings. Battle, blessing, battle, blessing, good, bad, good, bad. I don’t think life is necessarily as linear as that. Sometimes the battles and blessings, the good and bad are mixed in together and you must learn to identify and pick out the blessings hidden inside the battles. I want this to become our family’s habit. The reality is that life naturally tilts towards the negative so we must push back against misery and relentlessly pursue the light. I think it is rather special that all five members of our family have the same blood type. Each of us is B+ (B positive). How’s that for a sign to BE POSITIVE! Here’s to many Happy Moments in 2018!