When you haven't blogged for ages, it becomes harder and harder to start again. It feels like, after a few months away, you can't just start chatting about the random things that come into your head like you did before. It almost has to be something monumental: I'm back because...
Actually, there is no because. I've just missed it. It's funny, I spend all my time writing, for work, and it leaves me no time to actually write.
I thought perhaps the right thing would be to do a general catchup on all that has happened since I last blogged back in September, but a quick scroll through my phone pics reminded me of birthdays, grandparent visits, school plays, trips to Scotland, Christmas, more birthdays and all kinds of lovely events that I couldn't do justice in a few lines.
What did catch my eye was some recent snaps I've taken whilst out on dates with my children. It doesn't happen often, but when I get the chance, I like to take the opportunity to spend some individual time with my children. This is easier with Eilidh, as Arran is at school full time but she does part-time nursery, so we have two days per week just us. We go swimming and do other nice things, but I still occasionally like to have a proper little outing with her that she knows is special - just me and her. It's trickier getting time with just Arran, because S works long hours, including weekends (Saturday school and Sunday for our business), but one Thursday afternoon recently, S was home and I got the chance to pick up Arran after school and take him out.
Family life is fantastic, but I also know that there are times when the house and the day doesn't feel big enough to fit everybody's moods, needs and agendas. Sometimes it's about getting from morning to night with tummies filled regularly, spare clothes packed for nursery, library book remembered, reading done, laundry laundered, meals planned and shopping done, hair brushed (sometimes) and so on. Just a ticklist, and we don't get a chance to really stop and check in with everyone.
I also think that my children feel a little bit special when they go out for a date like this. I think and hope that it makes them feel valued - Mummy wants to spend some time with me, just the two of us. Of course, I play with the children and read to them pretty much every day, but there is something about getting out of the home surroundings and distractions that makes it seem a bit more valuable.
Kids need attention - they absolutely thrive on it. I've always been puzzled by the attitude some mums have towards attention seeking... 'Oh he's just attention seeking. Ignore him.' Surely if your child is attention seeking what they actually need is... attention? And yes, I agree that you might want to discourage negative forms of attention seeking, but I think that one of the ways to do that is to give positive attention instead.
With Arran, one of the things that makes me think that we need to spend a bit of time together is when I start to feel like I really don't want to spend a bit of time together! Isn't it true that they say that people need love the most when they deserve it the least? On days when he's pushing my buttons, I have to make a big effort to shut out what he is saying or doing, and instead hear, behind the actions, 'I'm feeling insecure and I need to check that you still love me even when I'm being a pain', 'I am testing these boundaries to check that I am still safe within them', 'I am five and not yet mature enough to ask for the attention I need right now, so I'm going to do something that you've just asked me not to.'
That's the theory anyway. And when we get to that stage, we find a window in our busy day-to-day lives and we go on a date. Somewhere where we can just sit and chat. We don't have deep, meaningful conversations (does anyone have deep, meaningful conversations with a five or three year old?). We choose what we want to eat and drink with no guidance or talk about what sugar does to our teeth. We choose a table and sit together. Often, we watch people coming in and out of the supermarket below and we talk about what they're wearing or what they might be doing, if we think they're nice people, why we think they are holding hands, why the baby is crying.
It doesn't really mean anything - but it matters a lot.