We spent Easter with Noel's family in Doncaster. This was actually our first visit since Violet was a very young baby and I was excited for the girls to spend some time with this side of their family, my side currently being camped out in Singapore.
It's amazing how much more you notice when you are with children - well I find I do anyway. I notice and learn so much not only about the children but also about myself, and about Noel, and about our dynamic as a family.
The main thing I noticed this break was how much more rewarding life, travel and everything in between is when you slow down and take the time to pay attention.
Noel and I consciously chose to slow down to our children's pace when Cherry began walking. It's a very adult trait to hurry and rush your child along, to hurtle to the destination for no purpose other than because that's where you're going.
The day we realised that for Cherry (and now Violet too) the journey usually is the destination, and the fun part, was the day we vowed to never hurry or harry our children. Instead we do things on 'Cherry time' or as it is now, 'Cherry and Violet time'.
(That said the actual car journey to Doncaster was a little too unhurried even for our liking, six and a half hours of relatively relentless queues and roadworks. Fortunately both Cherry and Violet are pretty good travellers.)
In slowing down and taking things at Cherry and Violet's pace this weekend I saw:
My older daughter gritting her teeth and setting her jaw in determination as she struggled to master swinging off a hanging rope. I think left to her own devices she'd still be there now!
My younger daughter's attachment needs loom large before my eyes as she asked for far more holding, cuddles, feeding, love and attention from me than 'normal'. I made a mental note to pack the sling for Singapore! We haven't done much babywearing recently, mostly Violet walks everywhere or goes (reluctantly) in the buggy for short distances. Being out and about for full days she was much more keen to be carried.
How Noel and I often go home too early. This is partly a throwback to days when Cherry still napped, and we tried to coincide coming home with her nap or make sure we were home in time for her to nap. And if I'm honest it's partly because sometimes Cherry can be something of a slow-burner when it comes to days out. She's always been a child that takes time to settle in - then once settled, she doesn't want to go home! But on the days when it takes her a really long time to settle, it can be much easier to just pack up and go after an hour or two than stick it out for the entire day.
How easily and happily both Noel and I wander off the beaten track, follow our own and our children's noses and find new and interesting things to do. Our willingness to explore and enjoy the journey rather than rush to the destination is one of our greatest strengths as a family and I felt really proud of all of us this weekend.
How uncomfortable and anxious Cherry can be when she feels nervous, overwhelmed or in unfamiliar and unexpected circumstances. We all want to see the best in our children, but I feel it's important to see children for who they truly are too.
That sharing a queen-sized bed with a restless Violet and a poorly Noel does not make for a good night's sleep!
That children really do know family. We haven't spent huge amounts of time with Noel's family, and since Violet was born even less, but both children seem to understand that the people we were surrounded by meant something and were truly connected to them.
That it's lucky I had promised I wasn't going to stress about bedtimes and sleep, because both girls were awake until nearly 9pm and up and about at 6. It's nice to let them stay up later and see them enjoy themselves - but I think they will need a few earlier nights this week!
Somehow time is flying by and we leave for Singapore in less than a month. In the spirit of honesty I freely admit I am both hugely excited and more than a little anxious about our impending trip. A few days in Yorkshire actually went a long way towards settling some of my concerns about our upcoming six weeks on the other side of the world.
I was reminded of how fundamentally adaptable children are and how much easier everything is when you slow down and take time to explore as opposed to stick to the pre-ordained path and hurtle to the finish line.
As incredibly grateful as I am for the opportunity to travel and see more of the world with our children, I can't deny that the trip does feel like a huge undertaking - not least the 13 hour flight home with both children but without Noel! But I am confident if I take things on Cherry and Violet time I will be up to the challenge.