I remember sitting up at 4am with a newborn Dragon, over ten years ago now. I’d been in a proper full time career type job before I had him. I was a Manager and people did what I asked, when I asked them. I wore grown up clothes to work and talked to people in joined up conversations rather than that motherese way of talking we have when addressing babies. I’d never even really held a baby before Dragon, certainly never changed a nappy or been in sole charge of one so I was grabbing all the information I could from books, from parenting magazines, from the ante-natal classes we’d been to and from the other mothers each week at baby clinic with babies a bit older than mine. In my head I had this idea that there would be a sudden magic change at a certain magic date when everything would return to ‘normal’. When sleep would happen in one whole block at night again, when food could be eaten without a child jiggled on my lap, when tea could be drunk while still hot. I clung to this idea of ‘getting back to normal’ for a few weeks, pestering anyone who had already had a child about what age they slept through, didn’t cry for no apparent reason and allowed you to resume your life as a person in your own right. I realised, during one of those 4am moments, sat gazing down at him in his cot, stroking his cheek and listening to the tinkly Winne the Pooh song his mobile played that things had already become normal. The New Normal. What needed to change was me and my attitude towards life, not life itself.
It was a powerful moment and one which made me shake up and change some of my approaches to parenthood and life in general I guess. I let go of a lot of the parenting manual and magazine mentalities and dictats. I learnt to trust my own instincts and ideas, to listen to my son rather than the world around us and by the time I had Star two years later I was almost an old hand in adjusting my view and our life to suit what was happening in it rather than trying to make it fit my view. It’s a skill that I think all four of us have in varying degrees, Dragon, Star and I perhaps slightly more so than Ady but he’s learning and whilst his adaptation may be slower with a little more hiccups and clinging to old routines than ours it is one of the things he has said he hopes to get out of this year.
We knew when we started planning this year that there would be the things we could anticipate in advance would be testing and challenging and then there would be things that cropped up along the way and just tested our ability to cope with curve balls and living in the moment. Lots of people voiced concerns about how we would cope living in such a confined space. We’re a week in now and this is probably the most intense period of living in the van we will have to deal with as we are cooking, eating, sleeping and full-time living in the van. When we are with WWOOF hosts we will probably only actually return to the van to sleep. So far we’re doing fine, the dynamic has shifted and all four of us are equal partners in making things work. So far we have all made each other laugh, given comfort, shown compassion and empathy for each other. We’e also all shouted, been grumpy, felt fed up or hankered after home, got cross with one, two or all three of the others and been tested, challenged and learnt stuff.
Yesterday Star told me stuff I didn’t know about squirrels, Ady told Dragon more stuff he didn’t know about squirrels, we all learnt about spirit levels thanks to a random question and an answer provided by google, we all walked slightly further carrying heavier stuff than we’d have chosen, Star and I had a fascinating conversation about plastic surgery and body image, we all watched a film together and shared a dinner that none of us would have chosen as a favourite but all enjoyed nonetheless. We’re getting used to moving things around the various spaces in the van depending on whether it is being a kitchen, a lounge, a bedroom or a vehicle. Currently I am sat in the van writing this, Ady is doing the washing up, Dragon and Star are out playing in the sunshine in the field next to the campsite, so there is more than a shred of our ‘old normal’ still very much in evidence too.
I don’t know what next week will hold- our first WWOOF hosts where we are due to sleep in a tent, what next month willl hold, as we ask Willow to get us another 100 miles or so along the route and I’ve no idea what next year will hold when our adventure is complete and we have to decide what happens next. But I know that living in this moment seems to be suiting us all pretty well and as Ady has just come back from the washing up room, I can hear the kids laughter calling me and the sun is shining I’m off to share the next moment and probably the one after that with the rest of the Wanderers.
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