The loveliest time

Reading the Chicken Leg House to Eliza all day while she painted and then lounged on the trampoline. Feels so good to have that one to one time with her and bask in her love and vibrancy and vitality and at the end of the day I can see her radiating connection and happiness. Her cup is filled and so is mine. X

A sunny day

Flower garden Brockwell Park. Sunshine on my face. The first sunshine of the year? I’m stopping to close my eyes again and feel heat burning on my skin. Bird song bright and thrilling close range like bullet sprays.  Human chatter and bee drone conversation hildren rattle and shriek of a child on a scooters.

A construction in my chest a tiredness on my tongue an ache in my breath. Letting the birdsong and the warmth and the gentle breeze ease out this anxiety warm up this heart clear out this persistent loneliness.

Remembering this morning. Cleaning plants pots in the garden, planting pansies, loving the microcosm visible again. It feels we are all just on the wrong side of sinking into what matters, kept away by the speed of the traffic and the weight of our history. This imposed isolation feels like wripping a hole in a bag of flour, everything we need held inside by something as fragile and permeable as paper, ready and waiting to spill out our contents.

In the Hood

IMG_8087This morning Eliza got up and without saying anything to us, (not uncommon I have to say),  got dressed up in her finery, a long dress, all her make up and jewellery and then told me she was going down to the corner shop toget some sweets. This is a new thing, just in the last week, she’s been pushing, we’ve had a few ‘episodes’ and finally she and her friend Lula went down alone.  Worlds are widening. Curiosity is peaking.

It’s like she got dressed up this morning to be agrown up (not that I spend that long getting dressed, or putting make up on, or putting jewellery on!), so that she could express her desire for independence andcarry out her vision of going to the shop alone. When I think of it now, it is so beautiful, with her little jewellery box that she’s keeping her collected pennies in. She looks sublimely innocent and open and incredibly serious about the whole thing.

I mentioned to Duncan that one of my concerns is other people she might encounter on her way. It’s a really short journey but especially with what she was wearing, it got me thinking about how to broach the subject of other people she doesn’t know in the streets/shops. Last night she and Seamus and I talked about things that children might need to think about when they are out without a grown up. Nothing in the least bit to do with danger from other adults came up or was mentioned by them. It was all about packing spare clothes, food, having a compass to find your way, having money, a card for the bus, that kind of thing. I don’t even want to say the word ‘stranger’, because that immediately creates fear and the idea of other people being alien and foreign. I think she’s too young for that conversation. If she was in school, she would already have had that conversation, the one about ‘stranger danger’.

I think it’s my job to make sure she is safe, without her knowing that I’m doing that, and allowing her the freedom to express and learn and find out about, what she wants to know in each day. She’s not asking me about other people. She’s asking to walk to the corner shop with money to get sweets, and to do it on her own, without feeling that I’m ‘minding’ her or ‘monitoring’ her. She wants to know what that feels like. To have money that’s yours to spend without asking. To walk along the pavement without a grown up. To buy things without permission, make choices in the shop unaided.

I think she’s very sure in her mind about what she’s comfortable with for this project – she’s actually set the length of the trip, the distance she’s going etc. She wants it to be perfectly normal, and not to make a big fuss about it.

She came back this morning (she did two trips this morning) with a long jelly snake which she’d gone to get especially for her friend Lula. Up until a few days ago, I was faffing about how to administer pocket money, how to help her understand the value of money, how I would help her decide how much to spend. Within the space of a couple of days, she’s learnt for herself so much that I hadn’t figured out how to do. That she wants to come back with money still in her purse, that it’s fun to keep going back to get  more, that she can save and buy a gift for a friend, and presumably that the shop keeper will help her work out how much the thing she’s spent is. Andloads of other things.

She’s exploring being a grown up, being a woman, being comfortable, secure and independent, in the neighbourhood that she’s grown up in. To some, an inner city neighbourhood in London is not the best place to bring up a child. And I agree, the pollution levels are horrendous and I’d love the freedom to walk up a hill or run down the beach to the sea if I could. And to have a corner shop where I knew the owners really well in a neighbourhood where everyone knows everyone.

But every neighbourhood is a learning delight for a child. It’s a habitat. Every habitat, however urban, is full of it’s own pulse of life, energy and cultural rules. It’s a creative force that any child will be drawn to explore, find out about, understand and engage with. My job, is to help my daughter do that, 6 and a half though she may be.

What other ways can I find to help her fulfil this insatiable desire for autonomy whilst keeping her safe?