I've also been thinking about my parenting skills, or lack thereof. I was never one of those mothers who listened to all the advice from the proper grown-ups. I breast-fed on demand for as long as baby and I wanted to and whenever baby wanted to, we did some co-sleeping, lots of cuddling and "spoiling" (honestly!!), but my rule was that "Mummy always wins" - helps you to think before picking those fights!
Miss Meg a couple of days old
As they got older (and took up more space) the big boys were never all that interested in toys and were more interested in playing on me or Daddy. They have always been feisty and I do remember years of exhaustion and the feeling that I couldn't cope with these wild children.
An armful of wriggly boys
We learnt that getting them OUT was the only way for survival, which was why I walked everywhere, dragging toddlers and pushing a pram, up hills, down hills, along the coast path so rugged up that their wee arms stuck out horizontally!
A wet and windy walk near Stirling (spot the Wallace Monument)
They learnt to ride bikes and played in the street until it was dark and I encouraged the older boys to take on responsibility by walking/riding to school by themselves, walking to friends houses and even going to the shops for the odd can of tomatoes. Fortunately we lived in a quiet, small town where they would have been spotted getting up to any nonsense and I would have know all about it before they even got home. They played football in all weather with John and would have to strip at the back door and be hosed down, I had to bin undies that were so mud-stained even Vanish couldn't shift it!
Coming to Australia changed things again. Where we live is not so conducive to walking about safely, schools are a bus ride away, as are most friends. They have been learning new skills and are adapting to new ideas and ways of doing things. But there is still a lot of beach action and lots of football with Dad when things get too boisterous in the house. Sport has proven to be a life-saver for us and them!
All 5 of them having a walk together at One Mile Beach
Dad's training school!
I spent a morning recently clearing out all the old baby cups, plates and bowls and doubling my storage space. It is quite sad to get rid of these things that I have handled, washed and used on a daily basis, some for 13 years, and now it would appear that we could probably do with buying a new dinner set for all the people using 'proper' plates now. Another reminder that we are moving on and growing up.
When they ask me about my job as a mum I tell them that my job is to make sure they leave home. This used to be met with shock and wobbly lips, but the older ones realize that I see my role as preparing them to go out into the big, wide world, able to cope with whatever is thrown at them. I won't be with them at University to write their essays, I've got my degree already. I won't be there to do their food shops, cooking, washing up, cleaning, laundry etc. I figure that if I do my job right now then hopefully (everything crossed tightly) they will turn out to be decent, successful human beings. But for the moment we are still juggling a pre-schooler and a teenager and 3 more inbetween. It's a whole new kettle of fish these days, but I think we have all survived relatively unscathed so far.
We talk a lot as a family. We discuss our faith and beliefs, hopes and fears and how putting these into action should affect the way we live our lives to benefit others. We talk about how people judge each other, how to avoid judging and to avoid being judged. They are given responsibilities around the house and help out more as they get older. There is a lot more growing up to be done, but every now and then there is a glimpse of the fantastic people they will become.
As for me, I think I'll just stay 40 for a few more years...