It's Father's Day this weekend so I've been thinking a lot about Oliver and all that he brings to our home and family. I think he's a great dad and I'll always be proud and grateful that our children have him as a Daddy, but I'm not going to go on about that! In many ways I think its for the boys themselves to decide what kind of a dad Ollie makes so instead I've been focussing on he and I, and parenting together.
We don't have the 'perfect' relationship, children or family, purely because I don't think any such thing exists. We are real people and as such our lives are full of rough and smooth, ups and downs, ebbing and flowing. I like it that way, it's a huge and valuable part of our learning and growing as individuals, as a couple and as a family. Our time together since becoming parents has been a whirlwind, particularly with the addition of twins just before Joseph's second birthday, and the decision this year to learn at home makes it a poignant Father's Day for me as I think about Ollie's part in the decision.
Because I'm the one doing most of the talking and all of the writing about our decision I wouldn't be surprised if people thought it was made mostly by me. Its certainly true that it originated from my own belief system about people and children, my study of psychology and work with young people, and my political viewpoint to a degree. However I also know that it's unlikely I would have come to this decision had it not been for Oliver.
Oliver has everything he wants and needs, he always has and he always will! Some people are just like this and he is one of them! This has had a huge impact on me. When I met Ollie I stopped looking for what was coming next and began to enjoy the here and now, letting go to some extent of a need to control the future. Not long after we met I remember talking to Oliver about my own plans, and asking him about his...he replied "I just get up in the morning and see what each day has to offer!" I didn't believe him and thought he was mad, but now having lived with him for almost 6 years I know this is mostly true, and I think it's inspired!! It has it's downsides sometimes, he's not always that focused and is pretty untidy to live with but I let go of that for the benefits, and in case you're wondering if he's some new-age hippy then not in the slightest, and I don't think he has any idea most of the time that his approach to life isn't that typical!
Oliver has taught me to enjoy the world around us, especially the one right outside our front door. Not by telling me to, but by just enjoying it all so much himself that it becomes contagious! He is blissfully happy in nature. I remember being at his Grandma's house for lunch around 5 years ago and his sisters were talking about their travel experiences/plans when his Grandma asked him "Wouldn't you like to go travelling Oliver?" He replied, "There are parts of Kent I haven't seen yet Grandma!" This sums him up pretty well, Oliver can 'see a world in a grain of sand'.
I know that the approach we take to life has inspired the decision to allow our boys to learn without school. We want them to be outside enjoying and engaging with the world. We want them to make up their own minds about things, and we would like to give them a sense of the value of living and learning happily in each moment, without the worry or pressure of what they will achieve or become. We are not attached to an outcome for them, they are their own people and they will be what they will be.
Oliver is totally supportive and trusts me completely as a mother. Every instinct I have had, every decision I have made he has supported and he has shown faith in me even when I have been severely lacking any in myself! When we had to hand the forms in to decline our school place, Oliver was working away and I was feeling afraid and doubtful. He told me to write down all the reasons I would consider sending Joseph to school, and immediately the decision was made! He is stronger and more resilient that even I realise at times. Last year we went away to get married without telling our families first, and when we returned I felt compelled to explain myself to everyone and make sure they felt ok about it. Oliver reminded me that this was about us not anyone else, that other people's feelings and responses belonged to them and needed to be dealt with by them, and that we needed to give them space to do this. He is, among so many other things, calm and wise and I feel constantly grateful for this. I should tell him more.
Oliver is also a brilliant hands-on dad who always has time and energy for his children and I often watch him throwing the boys around (heart in mouth) thinking about all the things his presence and way of being at home must teach them. I particularly remind myself of this when I feel an urge to interfere or tell him how he should be doing things!! Just as I have instincts as to how I should mother I know that he has his own, and the boys will be benefitting in ways I can't even imagine! I think it was in Steve Biddulph's book 'Raising Boys' that I read about rough and tumble and how boys learn from this their physical limits and how to use and understand 'stop'. Oliver does all this for them so naturally, and no doubt better than I could...only this week at the park I was pushing Joseph on the swing and he said "You're getting better Mummy, but Daddy is still better!!" When Callum and Charlie were very small Oliver would get all 3 boys out of the house, to the park and home again by 8am some days, leaving me to doze! I would ask on his return "have they eaten/been changed/been dressed" and the answer would always be "No!" The boys however were always rosy-cheeked and happy, and this taught me a great deal about the pressure I sometimes put on myself to do things the 'right' way. Oliver doesn't always do things my way, but he knows what he's doing :)
Oliver is fun-loving, happy and peaceful (not in the quiet sense...he's pretty noisy in that respect). He doesn't take himself or the world too seriously and is mostly optimistic and fearless. He is kind, patient, forgiving and generous among many, many other things. I know I nag him more than I should which is silly, because secretly I want my sons to grow up to be like him. Sshhh, don't tell him I said that ; )
There is so much more I could write and perhaps one day I will, but I wanted to end on an important memory. I was emotional one day a few months ago, looking back on when Callum and Charlie were tiny, feeling like I hadn't been 'ideal' enough and comparing myself to how I had mothered when I only had one child to think about. I recall telling Ollie how I remembered changing and feeding Callum and Charlie while so exhausted that I didn't talk or sing to them while doing it. Writing it down makes it sound trivial, but as a guilt ridden mother it upset me deeply. Oliver told me:
"Think about what you were doing though Lou, you were making them comfortable by changing them, making them feel safe by holding them against your skin and easing their hunger by feeding them. They will just remember the feeling, and that feeling was one of being made more comfortable, safe and content."
Exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. Oliver has always told me that an important part of being a good dad is supporting me to be the best mother I can be. The above is just one example of how brilliantly he does this.
Thank You Oliver, from all four of us xx
"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour."
- William Blake