The Settle Season

Febuary. The most difficult month to spell and for me, the most awkward month to get my head around.

February sees kids trundling around with heavy school bags, which will diminish in weight as their schooling experience grows, as the memories of life’s little lessons kick back into gear along with their academic pathways. Those same pathways which have been on hold for week after sunny, hot week.
Bleached hair, tanned skin, tough soles on shoe-less feet, our kids charge through the school gate with all the youth and vigour on display you wish you could still muster.

They have summer stories. Tales to tell and yarns to spin. Embellishments, mis-recollections, already tinted with rose, memories consigned to the backdrop as new phases sweep in.
There have been beaches and baches (cribs for you southerners), trips to see grandparents and relatives arriving on the doorstep. Caravans or tents and barbecues and hot sand and rock pools and sizzling sausages wrapped in bread, adorned with nothing more than a squirt of Watties finest.
Laughter and late nights and sun drenched days.

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Sunburn. Splinters and thorns and prickles. Chaffing. Sand in places from which it may never escape.
Arguments over the best way to fold tents (roll, always roll). Bruises, scrapes, bumps and bangs. Long hot days in a car, sleepless nights tossing and turning in the sweltering sauna of a tent. That wave pushing the kayak onto the sand, trapping your ankle, the swelling nearly the defining moment of the vacation. (Dad has always said get out the seaward side!)
The visits from people you hardly ever see, the trips to see people you hardly know. Mum and Dad seem to know these people, seem to like them, sitting up long into the night, getting progressively louder as their bottles and cans carry decreasing volumes. Worst still when parents make friends with the family camped next door, the ones organised enough to get to the campground early, pitching on the flattest spot with the best view and the greater shade!

Now there is no more salt or chlorine coating the skin, it is time to think about school uniforms. That first advert you hear on the car radio, extolling the virtues of stocking up a terms worth of stationary while one special or another is on, comes as a shock.
Routine is on the doorstep, demanding attention and with it comes our return to normality.
It’s time to get back to what we know and do best. While the kids are back at school, hanging with their mates, telling and re-telling their summer stories, for Mum and Dad it all becomes a bit different.

“Isn’t this summer fantastic?!” suddenly becomes “Oh my God, this heat!”
The fact not a drop of rain fell while you tossed and turned your way through sticky nights in a tent has gone from being a blessing to a torment, Still not a drop of rain, none on the radar and everything is starting to feel frazzled.
Maybe it all adds up to going back to work being a bit of blessing. The same old same old giving you the comfort of what you know, the joy of having a bubble shielding you from that which is out if your control.
Slowly, that feeling as been creeping back in, since you abandoned your routinised comfort zone sometime around the end of December 2019. It all comes roaring back, now that the kids lunchboxes are no longer containers for bbq leftovers, now that the car trundles to and from school and not the beach, no longer smelling of damp towels and wet dogs.

I find the hardest month of the year to spell one of the hardest months of the year to get through.
There is the lingering hangover of summer fun and sun, of friendships rekindled and new ones formed. A time of screeches filled with delight, screams of fun. Long nights with the windows open, mosquitoes be damned.
Those nights still exist but during the day jandals have been exchanged for steel-capped boots or heels or those comfy, sensible favourites your feet don’t seem to complain about and fashion can take a back seat.
There is still a great deal to come. There will more trips to the beach, more ice-cream to dribble down hands and wrists, all the way to the elbow if you aren’t vigilant enough. But if you haven’t made the lifelong memories from summer 19/20 by now, you are seriously running out time.

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At this time of year I am always left with the feeling something has escaped me, like there was a vital moment, a certain event, I missed. Whether it escaped my attention, didn’t happen because I failed to make it happen, or just slipped by, I never can tell.
It is not something I can look out for, because it is not a thing I know how to identify. A feeling, a sense. Almost, of loss.
The hope is my loss is just as the saying goes. Someone else’s gain. In this case, Numbers One and Two, the E-Bomb and WeeMan.
As an added bonus there were cousins included, as equally involved in the backyard bbq’s, the camping trip to the beach. While the sun scorched our south Pacific islands, the kids hung with extended family, stayed up late to greet the crickets, nodded along to the polite greetings of people they considered little more than strangers and tolerated trips their parents seemed to be taking them on for no reason more than the sake of it.

Too late to wish someone a happy new year. Too late for resolutions, most likely already beginning to fade and die even if they had been given the gift of breath.
Now, the year 2020 truly begins.

Holiday Hell

If you are starting to wonder whether allowing the kids to watch Deadpool is a good idea, read it as a sign the holiday period could welcomingly come to an end.

I think the plan for the next holidays is to produce and sell something. All that captive labour, already paid for. It isn’t cheap keeping children, so how about they earn a bit of that keep. They will be occupied, entertained and they might even learn something.

I say ‘keeping’ children for the purposes of this rant. If it wasn’t a rainy January, summer, day, then I might feel more inclined to say raise, nurture, grow and develop. As it stands, I am more than a little glad-and have been on several occasions throughout the holiday period- we live in a multi level house.

Upstairs is where three of them live. Where they are kept. I spend idle minutes wondering if there is a way I can keep them up there, I mean really up there, without a casual glance, from a neutral onlooker, revealing I have locked my kids in. I am, of course, aware of fire codes and regulation, thoughts of which must surely go through your wine addled holiday head, when you are busy contemplating  locking your kids in the upstairs rooms of an old wooden house.

I can still hear them. Loud and clear. There is a landing, at the top of the ricketiest spiral staircase I have ever encountered. Off said landing, the two bedrooms and a third room, which equates to little more than a glorified closet. Sound travels up there nearly as well as it travels down. I might sit down tonight, after a wine too many, grab the phone and load up Netflix, or whatever app/site/thingy it takes to track down an old school slasher movie. Tune in and wind up the volume. I’m thinking Friday the 13th. The first one. A classic. Nightmare On Elm Street even, one two Freddy’s after you. Wait…I know, Dawn of the Dead…introduce some Zombie flavour to proceedings.

Why this vindictive antagonism towards the kids you ask? No idea. Lies, I know.

I am not having a dig at them. Not apportioning any blame. Put simply, I am jealous.

I am jealous of their youth, the exuberance which comes with it. All that vigor, the wide-eyed adoration of a day which can be attacked, no thought given or spared on preparation, on planning. No concerns for consequences and no worries over how much it is going to cost. Whatever ‘it’ is.’Oh hang on…IT would be a good one!!

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The summer holidays are the days and weeks when memories are created. After all, you only ever recall the really good times and the really bad ones. So it is up to Mum and Dad to create them, those moments in the sun and surf never to be forgotten. The times when, in moments of reflection, years after your youth has passed you can sit back and go yep, that was a good day.

Rose tinted, isn’t that the way you want your kids to see their lives? Enough of the good memories, the great ones, a majority of good and great times, so predominant it clouds their vision, their minds eye. Helps them to forget anything which might have gone drastically wrong.

Of course, it is the job of Mums and Dads the world over to shield and deflect as many of the bad times as possible. Don’t we all want out children growing and being able to say their childhood was full of fun and laughter and no, I can’t really recall any dramas.

There will be. Drama and stress and accidents and major events far from favourable, all reflecting on those closed eye moments when your kids are adults and are taking a quiet moment for reflection. It can be tough not to dwell on the things making our adult lives hard going; the cost of groceries, the cost of rent/housing, the cost of fuel, the broken dryer, the dodgy ticking sound in the motor, that mole changing shape, hair loss, hair gain (think head and back).

All that and you haven’t stopped yet to consider all the things directly affecting how your kids are getting on. Results in the classroom, the dynamics of the playground, their social lives, developmental challenges, their inter-relations with you, with each other, with the wider family and community, their future education, their current one.  Their lives.

 After all, it is all about their lives, isn’t it? Just a question of how we as adults and parents, fit into all of that, being the biggest influence they will encounter while trying not to influence them too much.

So much easier to lock them in their rooms.

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Festive Greetings

So here it is, the silly season. How are you coping?

I will admit, I am not the most festive of people. If it wasn’t for the fact I have kids, I would probably have no part of the whole Christmas vibe.

Okay, that said, I am a fan of all the excessive eating and drinking. And it is nice to see communities and workplaces and neighbours and families and everyone, getting together with a smile on their face and enjoying some sun and fun. Our little town did their mini version of Christmas in the park, with a quite spectacular fireworks display, the hospital put on a big feast for staff and family and Wee-Man and the E-Bomb had their Do, complete with petting zoo, on a day that cooled suitably.

Faerie lights are flashing around the neighbourhood, tinsel is slung from windowsills and  trees are up. Ours is ridiculously tall, as we have the ceiling space to get away with it and was decorated lovingly by the whole family. Old men impersonating Santa have already been sighted and I will do a similar, though more clandestine impersonation, when the kids finally go to sleep on Christmas Eve.

That’s right, I’ll be dragging the presents out of their various hiding places and placing them under the tree. I hope there is cookies, or Xmas cake and ideally, a single-malt.

So, when do you stop believing? When, if you can even recall, did the myth of Santa and all his helpful little elves, tucked away in the North Pole studiously making toys all year round, finally get exploded for you?

The E-Bomb is only just starting to get the whole Santa thing. The mystique and the fantasy is only, this summer, starting to dawn on her, yet she still is not fully invested. Maybe she has an inherent mistrust, like it all sounds just a touch too good to be true. A natural suspicion, instinctively telling her as fun as it all seems, surely a jolly laughing man sharing treats and presents with everyone from the back of a sled pulled by flying reindeer, is a bit much to comprehend.

Her little brother, the Wee-Man, has no idea but likes the baubles and decorations and candy canes and flickering lights, as much as anyone. Leap to the other end of the scale and there is Number One, old enough now to be starting to really understand what Christmas is actually all about, or at least a major part of it; family, all together at the one place and time.

It is Number Two I feel a bit sorry for. She is nine. Old enough to know Santa is not real, or at least she is pretty certain he isn’t. Young enough to still want to believe. She loves the fantasy, the feel good factor of it. I might not be the most festive of people, but I hope it is a feeling, a sentiment, that Number Two can hold on to for all of her life, indeed, pass on to her own offspring.

There is so much in the life of a child that is bright and shiny and new. We all know as adults, how quickly that outlook can be dulled. Surely it is a good thing to be able to hang to that starry eyed wonderment for as long as possible.

Innocence. I guess that is what I am referring to, even if the majority of what is so fun and wondrous and lively and entertaining and open and dreamy, is such a construct. Fantasies and fancies we, as a culture and society, have for whatever reason, chosen to latch on to. Putting all the religious connotations and overtures aside, for the majority Christmas has become about a celebration of family, all wrapped up the trappings of marketing and sales.

Yes, that is very cynical of me, you are right. But each year, the decorations in the shops seem to go up earlier and earlier, the background music pumps out the carols for longer periods, no matter how much it depresses the retail staff, and the adverts hit the TV screens before you have really gotten used to the idea your kids are going to be home for six weeks.

SIX WHOLE WEEKS!!

The reality is these days, there is not Christmas without shopping and boxing and wrapping and all the baking and cooking and therefore, the pressure and the stresses. Not a cheap time. That is why the kids are donating gifts under the big Nga puhi tree in Kaikohe this year. They don’t need for much, if anything, in terms of cheap, plastic, throw-away pressies. That ought to help them get an idea of what Christmas is really about and they can soak up a bit of the charitable feel good factor while they are at it.

All the trappings are great. I am not going to sit here bagging any it. If it is what you are into, then fine, get into it. Sing along with Mariah Carey and Michael Buble and all the other cheesy, sickly crooners. I pick and choose the parts of the festive spirit I want to be involved in. Normally the food. I love a ham, love marzipan, love the excuse to have a drink or two in the sun, even if there is nothing but rain predicted for the next few days…much needed by the way.

So for me, Christmas is about the gathering and it is about a stolen nap in the afternoon after a sumptuous lunch. Christmas is about a glass, or maybe two, or maybe even one too many, of whatever is your chosen tipple, shared with company and a laugh. It is about the smiles on the faces of delighted children, beaming and tearing into wrapping paper, opening up presents and giggling and laughing with glee.

Christmas is about long afternoons on the beach, lazy strolls in the bush, stretching out with a book. It is about holidays and sweaty, hot road trips to places far flung.

All of that and family too.

Have a good one.

 

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