Yesterday the girls and I walked up to our local high street to buy some Christmas cards. It was a cold morning, and we were all wrapped up. The little one whinged; she had refused the buggy but didn’t want to walk either. As if to prove her point, she fell over three times on our road before I picked her up and carried her for the rest of the trip. My eldest had scooted off independently, eager to get to the shops.
Whilst I browsed, they played with the 50p toys at the back of the charity shops. We hopped from one charity shop to the next, the girls test-driving all of the toys in each one. They helped to choose the cards we needed, then paid for them and carried the ones they liked the most.
The sun was shining and I didn’t want to go straight home; it was only 10am. We each chose something from the bakery and then sat outside on wooden benches, a perfect spot for watching the world go by. The girls noticed each dog that passed, the pigeons eating dropped biscuit crumbs, and the long shadows the low sun cast around us. We saw people we knew who stopped to chat with us, and watched as other mums walked past with their own children. I wrapped both hands around my coffee cup, its warmth welcome.
It wasn’t a perfect morning by any means. The girls were tired after a busy weekend and there was a fair amount of whinging about being cold and hungry on the way home. As if to prove their tiredness, they spent much of the afternoon asleep or watching films. But it was a lovely morning that proved that sitting together with unpretentious biscuits can be just as important as exciting trips out or new adventures.
This is my eldest daughter’s last year at home before she starts school. We have nine months of absolute freedom left. This time next year, she will be spending these beautiful wintry days in a classroom, rather than scooting up to the high street or the park. We won’t be able to make as many impromptu bakery stops, sitting outside in the sunshine with no need to rush. We might not have five more minutes to look at the second hand toys, and perhaps next year it will only be me and my youngest choosing the Christmas cards. Rather than time stretching reassuringly from one week to the next, our time together will be condensed into mornings, evenings and weekends. I will need to learn to let go of her and watch her begin to find her own way.
The days we have together are never perfect, but being able to spend time with my children whilst they are small is a privilege. I don’t feel that the girls and I need to cram in extravagant trips or expensive experiences during the next nine months; being free to do the simple things together each day is luxury enough.