June is my month – not my favourite month (of course, that is October) but June always feels like mine. Even before my birthday, I feel somewhat fastened to this time of year, and the long, easy evenings filled with stolen light.
In this home, there is so much more light and I am particularly grateful for this, as we begin to unpack and unfurl into new spaces. I am also reminded to pay a little more attention to my state of undress, as I walk about the rooms now.
These last six days, the first days in this house, have passed quickly. We had only one night together before Howard took off to Scotland to get all of our things, and then the night I had planned for Miss A and I fell through somehwat when I embarrassingly managed to lock myself out of the house. I had to stay at our friends’ house down the road. While they were away camping.
So on Sunday, when we got back in, unshowered, a little disgruntled and weary, we did not have much time to do anything before one of my closest friends arrived to stay with us for a couple of nights, followed shortly by a very large truck and a very large amount of furniture, books, tables, chairs, clothes….everything. All the things we have done without for six months.
We did a little, here and there, but I was much happier to spend hours sitting and talking to Cat, who is one of those rare people who also loves nothing more than sitting and talking, which makes seeing her a very solid reminder of how special she is to me, and how much I miss having her here all the time. Her presence made the sense of beginning seem even more specal as we ate pizza on the floor of my (soon-to-be) craft room and threw a few things around, seeing what stuck where and how on earth we might make a start on the boxes.
And when she left, we plunged right in, and have managed to unpack a great deal (and by unpack I also mean shuffle around a lot of boxes until my craft room is an impenetrable fortress of cardboard and fabric. hmmm) Not an easy thing to do with a toddler who would like an unending amount of attention and milk, please, and would also like to navigate her way in and out and around of all the trickiest box formations she can find. And of course there is always the temptation to just slip down the road to our now-neighbour-friends and the comfort and loveliness of their home.
But toddler pace is a magic pace. If you follow it, you start to see that there really is no rush for anything at all. That actually, the whole thing is a lot more fun if you hold back a little and take stock. Things can wait. Playing cannot.
On one hand, Ava has slept better than she has in months in this new house, and I am quite sure she can feel and sense and understand the huge collective sigh of relief that we have made since moving, but on the other, she does not want to be far from me at all, and I have to remind myself, when I think of all the boxes that need emptying or the pictures that need hanging, that what she needs is altogether very different.
When I think of how much upheaval and stress the last six months have caused us, I am equally aware of how that may have filtered down to Ava. In some obvious ways, like when a child wants to nurse more if they are in an unfamiliar environment, to things more subtle, like playing games with an obvious feeling of control. I am more keen than ever to be mindful with her, to respect her and to be there for her as and when she needs me, something that goes beyond the attachment parenting label that has become both fashionable and contentious.
The more I read and the more I experience of Ava, the more I feel like as much as we would surely be deemed attachment parents through and through, the label itself is somewhat irksome. I know some incredible Mamas, with the most kind, clever and emotionally aware children, who would not call themselves attachment parents and who do not follow all of the principles either, but who are so mindful with their children that the effects are clear to see and very inspiring to me.
Mindful parenting, and certainly unconditional parenting, are two things I believe are key to being the kind of parents we want to be, and, by the examples I see in my life, to raising children who are compassionate, thoughtful and creative. Yet both are more challenging than anything else I can think of.
In preparation for moving I started to re-read ‘Simplicity Parenting’ again a couple of weeks ago, trying to keep those ideas present as we create another home for ourselves, and I am pleased with how much less cluttered and busy our new home is panning out to be. Yet in my mind and heart, I always return to the same two books when I am looking for a parenting answer or needing some guidance, ‘Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting’ by the Kabat-Zinns and Alfie Kohn’s ‘Unconditional Parenting’.
I came across the former today and was comforted to read through it again. During a time when Ava seems to need me a little more than usual, it affirmed what I feel deeply to be true – that attachment to my child is not a choice, it simply is. That I need never justify it, apologise for it, or explain it. That I have no obligation to anyone to lessen it or discourage it, and that it is hard but important to remember just how short a time our children are really children, and how everything we do, everything we say, every way we treat them, and others in front of them, shapes their way of being in the world and their views of the world. Although all of that seems, on the surface, like a hard thing to remember, it is in fact the easiest thing in the world to choose Ava, when a choice needs to be made.
And I try to keep in mind that it is so much easier to be mindful and gentle and attentive to begin with than as a reaction in times of need.
‘The days can be long, the years most certainly short. Hold them close and love them,’ Amanda Blake Soule