Max, Oli and I were just leaving the library last week and I was thinking about what I could cobble together from the fridge to give Max for supper when I remembered I'd left a potato boiling away for, I checked my watch, nearly 2 hours... Envisioning San Francisco's trusty fire service lined up outside our house, lights flashing, I realised we would have to hurtle back to Pine Street to do some damage limitation. Getting Max to walk in one direction without being distracted is a challenge at the best of times, but the right direction? and at speed? Forget it. My only recourse was to pick him up, all 30+lbs of him. So, pushing Oli in his stroller and holding Max on my hip I started my gallop home. We were doing quite well until Max, thinking this was great fun, leant down to the handle bars of the stroller to 'help' me push. So now Max is horizontal and I have my arm around his waist still pushing the buggy. Max and Oli are virtually rubbing noses, and Max is grinning, loving this unexpected game. Oli is looking a bit startled. He has good reason. Two blocks to go and we come to grief in a jumble of bruised knees and grazed knuckles, and the stroller is resting on 2 wheels and the handle bars. Oli, thank God, is strapped in and looks like a little parachutist, only it's a stroller rather than a billow of silk behind him. When we finally limp into the house the saucepan is browning a little but there are no flames and no firefighters. Max is very disappointed at the lack of 'Fy engines'. So much for the high drama! I need a stiff drink but instead, feeling a little shaken and wearing Thomas the Tank Engine plasters on my fingers, I settle down to read Max his library bounty, 'Fix-it Duck'.
I love our local library. The childrens' section has magnetic letters you can stick to the wall, a little puppet theatre, wall charts with strings to pull, and of course books galore. The only problem for me, is that the kids' area is at the far end of the building away from any of the interesting literature. Max will not be dragged away from the magnetic letters ('Letters are make words, Mummy') so I'm stuck looking at the junior reads or the parenting books. For that reason, my library bounty from last week was 'Be A Parent, Not A Pushover', which I think tells you something of the forthright nature of my eldest son. However, when I finally get to take a look at the book, I see that it's 'A guide to raising happy, emotionally healthy teens'. We are a decade away from the teen years but for lack of other reading material I'm now a hundred pages in and wow, do we have some fun ahead of us! With chapters focussing on anger and negotiation, discipline and communication it seems that stage is going to require double the energy I have now. I've just got to a bit about family rituals, important because they are all about 'how we relate to one another, how we change, heal, and celebrate.' It got me thinking about the rituals we had when I was growing up and the one that stands out was 'The 3 Ws'. This was not a forefunner of the www. you see at the top of your screen. It stood for Wet Windy Walk and was most often greeted with a groan. I can feel the rain stinging my face just thinking about it. It sums up my family's commitment to the outdoors come rain or shine and a belief that a good blustery walk can cure most ills.
As for the rituals we have in our embryonic family, I hope boiling potatoes dry is not one of them (I have to admit, it's not the first time it's happened). Being in sunny California means the wet and windy part of The Three Ws doesn't happen very often. I'm sure we'll develop our own rituals over the years. One habit we've got into with Max is recapping on the day at bedtime. 'What we do today?' he will chirp from his bed - yet another delaying tactic as we approach lights-out. But it is therapeutic for me too...if there's been some 'Naughty Step' action, we can put that to bed too, but at the same time say all the fun things we did. Sometimes I don't recognise having done the things Max talks about but I suppose it all comes down to interpretation. This evening he said, 'Mummy was dancing'. I couldn't think at first but then remembered jigging Oli around in the stroller in the kitchen to Johnny Cash. And the day I lacerated my hand, endangering my children to try and save my burning home was simply, 'There were no Fy engines'.