Thursday, March 6, 2008

Doing nothing...

I am sitting on the sofa doing nothing. Well, I was until I decided to write about it. I have spent the last hour sitting here with a poorly Bella asleep on my lap, watching Jemima play with her friend Marina. I admit it was not easy to resist the urge to move Bella from my lap and go and tidy up/check emails/think about dinner, but I stuck with it and it was great. Just sitting still, holding her, watching her sister. It reminded me of the title of the great book by Naomi Stadlen What mothers do, especially when it looks like nothing.

After an hour of marvelling at the creative capacity of three-year-old girls to make up exciting games out of nowhere, using more or less no props, and at the softness of a baby’s cheeks, I decided I badly needed a cup of tea, some bite cream (the mosquitoes were making the most of my inactivity) and a pee. Now I have returned to my spot, the girls are outside, both dressed in several layers of Jemima’s clothes, hats and carrying bags – a couple of true expat kids, they are on the way to the airport. Bella is on the sofa still asleep and I shall continue to do nothing – or at least write about doing nothing.

Two new mothers, both dear friends of mine, recently reminded me of what my life was like when Jemima was a baby. I wrote a whole book about it for goodness sake! As I watched them both just hanging out at home with their babies, cuddling, feeding, changing nappies, reading, sleeping, thinking, I realised how full my life had become recently. So I have resolved to spend more time doing nothing with my girls – it is after all when they are at their happiest.

Two other friends of mine have just seen their last child off to school for the first time and they have reminded me just how quickly time flies. I know I must make the most of the chance just to hang out with my girls, watching, listening, photographing... imprinting these days firmly in my memory forever, and in the albums for when the memory fades. I am incredibly fortunate to be at home with them (though it must be said that I would live in a shed and grow my own food rather than go to the office and leave them in the care of someone else) and I am lucky to have an age gap that allows me frequent time and space with Bella while Jemima happily entertains herself alone or with friends.

“You are sure it won’t be too much?” Marina’s mother asked. On the contrary, having a friend over for Jemima frees me up to do whatever I need to do. Play dates are brill!

So I plan to sit here until Bella wakes. She can keep me company while I cook dinner – what’s the point of doing it alone now? The ants that I am watching march in through the front door and across the walls will have polished off the girls’ biscuit crumbs and left again by the time I move anyway, far more efficient than me getting up and wasting valuable energy. The editor I was going to call will only say No, not interested… I can definitely do without that right now. The Khmer vocabulary I need to learn has waited six months already, an extra day can’t hurt. The toys can be put away at bed time. My sister has a postcard on her fridge that says: “A tidy house is a sign of a wasted life”. Too right. The nappies can fester.

The only thing that stops me from feeling entirely comfortable with my plan to do nothing is that I live in a country full of desperate people in need of help, in a city where voluntary opportunities abound. I have always filled my time with good deeds – in my former NGO career before children and since, as a volunteer with my children tagging along too. Ever since Jemima reached about three months, naptimes for children have always (mostly) meant me doing something worthwhile (mostly). I don’t want to do anything for anyone else right now, but there is a voice in my head saying I ought to. I think the best way of getting round this is by inviting the street kids in to play again. That way I shall have to be at home to watch them and they will have some sacred fun time just to be children for a change. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. Tomorrow. I’ll just get another cup of tea first…


Tara said...

Well, I was beginning to feel ashamed that I have been out of the loop for over a fortnight and not keeping up with blogs, Facebook, emails etc. Then I read this and remembered that that is exactly why we took this long holiday.... to do nothing but spend time as a family, with our families.... It is so liberating. And funnily enough, the book I am to read next is the Naomi Stadlen one!!!!This is the first day I have had to sit and look at the internet for long enough as the other days have been spent hanging out with my daughter, watching her take delight in her new surroundings (and if I am honest, all of us have been nursing some cold-weather illness or other too....) So, thank you once again for reminding me that I should take pride in doing 'nothing' and not worry about all the things I could be doing instead!!!!! (Altho' it is wonderful to 'read' you again.....) T xxx

Georgie said...

Hoorah thank you so much for popping in on your much needed rest! I miss you but am so happy to here you are doing what you should on a holiday although I can imagine there is an awful lot of keeping family happy and hiding from cold weather and colds involved too.... if it makes you feel any better we are all ill here - I mean all!! The entire expat community in PP seems to have flu! (well the ten people I know anyway!)