A small life.

For those of you who have been reading my previous posts you would already know that I live in Australia and that I am divorced. You know my only daughter lives in Israel and that my only grandson lives there too. (Of course!) For the last 3 1/2 weeks I have been in Israel doing heavy duty Grandma time.

Having only parented once myself it’s easy to forget how small the life of a two year old is. My usual travelling day involves walking at least 25km and taking 750 photos. I stop and eat when I want and generally just live the life of a travelling photographer.

Not on the Grandma trips! My day consists of getting up early. Early enough to be the first up and then a 5km run, back in time for the waking family. We make porridge. We watch some youTube cartoons. We take 45 minutes to walk to the corner shop and stop and look at every single stick along the way. From the 4th floor window we watch with great interest and a running commentary, the truck empty the big garbage bins. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we go “riding in the car” to take mum to Uni. We spend the whole day exploring Bar Ilan University and have worked out where all the easily accessible powerpoints are, where the best wifi is and which of the cafes sells the best coffee at the best price.

We play in fountains and chase the birds. We just do what Ahu wants to do. It’s in sharp contrast to what fills my day back home. Where my time is scheduled down to the half-hour. The life where I run two calendars. The work one and the “me” one. Where I have to be sensible and in charge, the 2IC of a workplace with nearly 1000 inhabitants. Where I spend time writing and processing the photos I have taken. Here in Israel I am just “gram-ma” and my job is much simpler. We literally stop to sniff the roses.

I remember as a 30 year old mother, I would also schedule my day to the nth degree. I would wait for nap times to get the million things I “needed” to do, done. I was desperate to get back the “real” world of work and thought my life was not complete without a paid job. I was not keeping up my end of the “sisterhood” bargain being a stay at home mum. I returned to work when my daughter was 18 months old. My (then) husband stepped up and became a stay at home dad. This was a groundbreaking move at the time. It allowed him to study and complete a Bachelor’s degree, then Honours and finally a PhD. We were trailblazers and our friends and family thought we were crazy.

I look back now and regret my impatience. I missed a lot. Now even though there IS still a million things I could be doing – Grandmas don’t, at least not when they’ve clocked on for Grandma. Duty. I marvel at how Ahu learns new words everyday. He is eager to chatter and share his ideas. He explores his world with precise and deliberate actions.

In the 25 years that have passed since my baby was a baby, the women’s movement has moved on – a little. Now the sisterhood lets you have a bit more flexibility. You don’t have to be a super-mum if you choose not to be. You can stay at home, work part time if you want. (If you can) Stay at home dads are more common and parental leave can support that. We still have a long way to go. On top of that, the reality is that our consumerist lifestyle means that both parents have to work to be able to pay the bills and children, although loved and desired, need to fit into the hectic schedule of the grown ups.

If I had my time again I don’t know I would do parenting any differently. I think I did the best I could at the time. My goal now is to the do the grandparenting right. Not Grand-parent over my daughter’s parenting. Not quibble about how I would have done things. Not to give advice where it’s not wanted.

I can take this time to recharge my own batteries. And look inside and think. For this short period of time, the the most important decisions are what picture book to read, and making sure little Ahu knows the Australian word for everything in his world!

(Once again this post prepared on my iPad so the photos are a bit wonky. Back to normal programming next week! No photos of Ahu as he doesn’t do facebook/blogs)

My first blog – a countdown to 50

Back in November 2010, I started writing my first blog. 200daystill50. It was all about my 200-day countdown to my 50th birthday. It’s archived and private now but when I go back and read it over, it makes me laugh and I feel grateful for my plucky spirit.  I am aware I have many failings but I also know I have a few good qualities. One of them is optimism and another is stick-to-it-ness. I had made a grand plan for my birthday – to drink champagne on the upper deck of the Eiffel Tower with my 20 year old daughter.

Sick of the wine and wedges[i] diet I had been sticking to for the past year, I decided it was time to quit wallowing in the self-pity that had consumed me after (semi)separating from my husband of 27 years and get my life back on track. I knew I needed to break the shackles of the past by doing new things; meeting new people and going to different places. So, I challenged myself to do something new every day for next 200 days. The blog was my accountability partner.

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So (nearly) every day I posted about the new things I had done. Sometimes the new things were very small, like trying a new brand of breakfast cereal. Other days they were substantial like flying to France and crashing the hire car within the first 10 minutes of picking it up. The blog challenged me! Some days I hated it. I couldn’t think of anything new I had done. I pressured myself to do something new – anything – so I could write a post!

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By the third day, Day 197[1]  I was already scratching around for new things! I settled on having lunch with different people. But by Day 183 I was  reporting feeling more positive about life.

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My musings where usually matter-of-fact. Did this – did that.  Other times I got deep and meaningful:

 

Day 97: More than half way through the challenge – probably more than half way through my life. I think that’s the difference between being old and young. When you’re young you have lived for less time than you have left to live. As you get older there comes a time when you realise you are not going to double your age. That you have had more time than you are going to get.

 

During the time I kept the blog I wrote about 5 natural disasters including floods and cyclones in Australia, an earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand and a tsunami in Japan. I went to Bateman’s Bay; Bellingen; Armidale and Western Australia. I watched several movies; completed three subjects for a law degree. The Americans killed Osama bin Laden. I ruminated on my own thoughtlessness and the thoughtfulness of my friends. My Ex moved in and out of my life.

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My posts got a few comments every now and then and at times it got over 100 views. I don’t think that mattered. The point was to push through. To keep myself sane in my own mind. When a failing relationship was being kept afloat with equal measures regret and hope. When even though a thousand times before I had slammed the door, and declared it was over, I hoped it wasn’t. When he lived in two places. When life seemed like a revolving door. The blog let me think out loud in the noisy space of the internet. Even if no-one did read it they could…it was possible.

 

I love reading the last few entries. Too busy to post properly as we drove (in the smashed car) from Bordeaux to Reims via the Loire Valley and back to Paris, staying in castles and ordinary hotels; my daughter’s high school French helping us along the way. The sense of joy in my (written ) voice still buoys me now. The Ex ended up meeting us in Paris on his way to a conference in Stockholm, two days after my birthday. A massive fail in the independence stakes perhaps but it seemed right at the time.

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It would take another three years till I finally changed my name and really lived my own life.

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That blog was a stepping stone. This blog? We’ll see where it takes me.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] I was counting backwards

[i] Big chunky potato chips or oven baked fires.