When I used this quote with Jen, way back on our first late night dream-planning session, could I have looked ahead and seen us at 1am last night going over floor plans and budgets and taxation?
“Making plans. Very little sleep.”
I probably could have predicted the kids getting us up at 6.30am though. I’m feeling quite guilty about our kids. When Seb was born we were posting his carry cot around the house as we went through the first renovation stages, Jen often breaking from paint scraping or project managing to feed him for 30 minutes, before getting back to work. Seb learnt to crawl in our lounge, on layered rugs and carpet offcuts. I’ll never forget the unrestrained glee he had while racing around and around the snug once we’d finally got the carpet laid down and he actually had somewhere to race around. He expressed the same freedom when pelting away from us in a friend’s olive grove in Italy, his tiny yellow-jacketed figure zooming off into the dusk. We asked so much of him in those early days and not just our living arrangements but the hour long weekend car journeys to Jen’s weddings, when he always seemed to know just how long to sleep, just when it was a good time to wake up, making every journey as easy as he possibly could. Callie had a different time of it, with the snug already done and the garden no longer a brambled wasteland. And now they both have a lovely room of their own. But we’re still asking of them. Even right now, when Cal brings over a bale of nappies to me and lies herself down on the floor expectantly I need to pull myself away from this dream, this pursuit.
“I expected that. It doesn’t worry me.”
And it’s not going to end any time soon. So much of our concentration over the next few months or even the whole year is going to be focused on this endeavour the three of us are willingly taking on. So there’s going to be a lot more telling Seb to just give us a minute, mummy and daddy are talking. To be setting them both up with breakfast in front of Tiny Pops before snatching another hour of rest. To feel those butterknife stabs of guilt from another ask, another request that they play together quietly, that we can’t give them any attention right now, that they should please stop climbing on this thing or banging that thing or spreading those things around the room. And plenty of time for the worst feeling of all, the shame when the pressure we’re putting ourselves under and the demands we’re making of our time and energy (not to mention the continuous upside-down living conditions of doing up this house) leave no room for patience and I lose my temper and bellow and swear. They never asked to be pulled into this crazy world. They’re just tiny innocent people excited by simply being alive and having people who love them all around and a warm place to sleep and dance and eat and live. Cal might be turning over yet another toybox to add to the clutter left from another visit from the carpenter and Seb might be running a non-stop commentary on the game he’s playing or bouncing around noisily on the bale of Sainsbury’s basics nappies Cal was carrying around but can we really say they don’t give us everything we need? They might pester us for attention but they never complain, really. Do we do enough for them? Are we asking too much of them? Are we pursuing this radical life so fixedly that we’re losing our ability to be the parents they need us to be, when they need us? Or is it too arrogant to believe that all the demands we make of them now we’ll be able to make up to them over and over again with all the joy, freedom, opportunities and unbroken family time that the relocation to France offers? Is it too much of an ego trip for me to see this as the equivalent of us leading our little tribe out of the wastes on an arduous but ultimately rewarding journey into new territory? Our kids are happy. You can see it in everything they do. Our only goal in life, as parents, has to be to keep making them happy, to keep that fire burning in their eyes, to do everything we can to give them a happy life, a happy world to live in. And not merely a contented afternoon of our undivided attention.