Standing in the endless drizzle on an unreasonably dreary Good Friday,
watching Felix play a repetitive game on the merry-go-round, I got to thinking about the meaning of parenting and life in general. The park was practically deserted; just a few damp dog walkers and our little group braving the elements. It seemed the whole world was shut up inside enjoying a lazy afternoon while we watched our energetic toddler play on the roundabout, as intent as a marathon runner in sight of the ribbon.
Faced with such repetition the mind tends to wander, delving into darkened passages of thought where cobwebs hang thick and laden with dust. What is the point of it all? Is it just a way to kill a tedious afternoon, a few hours closer to nightfall and ultimately to death? Such morbid thoughts sidled across my mind as I felt my jeans go from mildly to moderately damp. Things have been somewhat up and down recently. I have suffered an unforeseen professional setback, upsetting my pleasantly trundling cart and sending my apples rolling in all directions. Out they tumbled, rosy spheres winking merrily as I scrambled to retrieve them, knowing it was fundamentally futile. I am suddenly confronted with a crossroads, one side falling away to a gaping chasm lined with slippery indecision and the nagging sense of urgency coupled with confusion. Which way to turn? Leap or stay put and hope for a miracle? And if not leap then stand transfixed while the ground crumbles away beneath, revealing a sheer drop to oblivion. Resilience - according to the experts - is the primary quality that unites successful people. The ability to take bad news and setbacks and turn them into fuel to the fight is of critical importance. Normally I am rather robust but this time I have felt crushed, wishing fervently that things would right themselves without my having to make the mammoth effort to pick myself up, dust myself off and launch myself back out into the unknown.
Meanwhile Felix continues to grow and develop, picking up an occasional new word and slowly but surely becoming more independent, more delightful, more able to play alone. This comes as a welcome relief as in his exuberant excitement at everything around him he has often been unable to focus on the toy or game in front of him, a toddler with the attention span of a fish and the energy levels of a puppy. His latest verbal acquisition is daffodil, pronounced daf-a-doh, revealing his ardent love for the bright yellow flowers that have sprung forth all around. On the edges of Dukes Meadows, our favorite haunt on sunny days, clusters of yellow heads nod invitingly, whilst every entry and exit to our home is accompanied by my blooming tete-a-tetes, the miniature daffodils that are so perfectly on Felix’s scale. Over Easter we managed a brief and much needed escape from the Big Smoke to the wide open spaces of rural Wiltshire, and Felix was in Seventh Heaven. ‘Daf-a-doh’ he exclaimed as we pulled up to our lodgings, pointing at a row of splendid sunshine yellow trumpets. Lambs gamboled merrily in the pasture while their milk-swollen mothers bleated aggressively, cherry trees puffed up pink with blossom and birds singing their hearts out in the sudden sunshine.
It was all a picture of bucolic perfection, yet a nagging sense of anxiety stalked me like an abandoned cat, tearing me from the present into a purgatory of worry. ‘It’s swings and roundabouts’ - the phrase echoed annoyingly through my mind all day long as I tried to sort the clamouring thoughts into order. I have never been entirely sure of the exact meaning of the saying, and for the purposes of accuracy I looked it up, discovering a succinct explanation that encapsulated my present dilemma. ‘Gains and losses that offset each other’. Perhaps my recent setback is actually the dawn of a new era, one that leads to a future of emancipation via the gathering of new skills; as the dictionary says ‘What you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabout’.
Easter Monday dawned blue and crisp as a freshly laundered sheet, sky high and arching and dew steaming off the grass in the morning sun. As Felix wriggled from my grasp and ran over to a patch of custard and cream coloured daffodils, the cheerful friends who pave the way from early spring to early summer, he babbled and chirruped as cheery as a canary. 'Dafadoh' he said, smiling at me, and I took a deep breath and inhaled the joy of his new word, realizing it was a small yet vital step towards self expression, to communication. Thank Goodness for words, these magical squiggles that represent our thoughts and dreams, that convey sadness and heartbreak, that express delight and wonder and awe, and that allow us to share with one another the joy and pain of living. Language, how I love thee! Sending forth my missives to the world, lighter in heart and mind once they are freed from the tangle of my mind to the clarity of the page. And so I ask you; what does it all mean, where are we all headed, what should we be doing? It’s swings and roundabouts my dears.