There are times when family life just doesn’t make sense. When emotion drowns common sense. When the kid’s reactions to minor things are so utterly disproportionate that you’re left floundering in the gale of their upset, wondering ‘…where the heck did that come from?’.
But then, there are times that enable you to lift your head, shake off the weariness and smile.
Time and again the uplift moments don’t come from connecting kids to the iPad or spending lots of money, but from moments of simple imaginative engagement and connection.
I’d planned a simple trip with the Boys (5 year old twins) from Finchley Road Station, just an afternoon ride up the Metropolitan Line to Uxbridge. The plan was then that we’d meander across town to Uxbridge Boatyard to buy the paint I needed to finish off painting Eileen’s rudder before our Easter trip.
Boys, trains, boats – what could be better? Except, of course, the Metropolitan Line was closed for engineering works and I had to resort to using the car. Grumpy boys, a distinct possibility that the day would be written off in ‘it’s not fair’ sulks.
Until we used our imaginations. We imagined the car to be our replacement tube train and at every red light on the road we pretended to be the driver explaining to the passengers why we’d stopped. We invented new tube stations by reading the names of roads on the bus stops. We made the sounds of the tube train stopping and starting. And, we made it to Uxbridge in a grand mood.
Perhaps too lively. The Boys were guffawing, lively as eels, daft as puppies. The thought of them and their inquisitive hands entering the sweetie-shop temptations of a chandlery was nerve-racking; until that is, they saw the small rescue dog behind the counter in the shop. For calm minutes, whilst I shopped, they gently engaged with the dog, stroking her, talking quietly to her, utterly engrossed.
And we went stick collecting.
Is there anything simpler and more satisfying than trooping off to the woods to collect wind-shed twigs for kindling for the stove on the boat? Our bags quickly filled, the Boys in contented hunter-gatherer mode.
Once our bags were filled we scavenged for a long stick each and practiced stick throwing. Firstly javelin-style and then by holding the stick at the base, raising it high over our heads and flinging it, allowing the stick to cartwheel and bounce across the grass. A magical hour on a mist-and-drizzle afternoon. Red cheeks all round, and laughter.
ps. I was so engrossed in stick throwing that I forgot to take any photos! So, by way of illustration, here are a few images of artist Andy Goldsworthy having creative adventures with sticks, oh and this one of a few of our collected sticks…