We live in a concrete block seven stories high. It’s more lovely than it sounds, all airy and light and relatively spacious. But I forgot something.
I forgot what my children needed most. And while we were finding bliss in coffee shops and restaurants and the pulse of the city after living in the sleepiness of rural France, finding ourselves again, the girls were doing the opposite. Slowly, they began to unravel.
Screaming at one another, at us, at nothing in particular. Full on meltdowns daily. Hysterical crying. Harsh words and brittle anger.
They need to run! I told my husband despairingly, full of guilt,
‘but we have a playground and a pool!’
Me, holding residues of resentment that the kids don’t know how lucky they are to have a pool and a playground beneath their feet while at the same time submitting to the truth that
the playground is astroturf and bright coloured bars. The pool is wonderful but we are always telling them to stop making noise.
And guilt that I had forgotten they needed none of the things we think that we need.
Get her into nature, barefoot a sweet and dear friend messaged, out of the blue.
My heart sank. Nature? Where? There is no nature here. The city is treelined and bushy, but has a lack of green spaces and parks. Taxi rides to the few parks or to the mountains would be stressful and chaotic in itself and presented more problems than they solved.
And then we found it. Look Mummy! she breathed, walking back from the supermarket. Her hand was tight in mine. It’s like a secret garden! I looked to the narrow strip of green hidden on the other side of the car park. Glimpsed a wan trunk of a tree, a scattering of leaves.
And so after breakfast we went. Most people would see a barely there line of something that passed for grass, too many cars to count and a handful of spindly trees.
We forget kids find magic everywhere. We forget their wildish nature only needs a hint of encouragement.
The trees and the grass called. Shoes and socks came off. Palms welcomed tiny arms wrapping around them.
They gave us a boat! she marvelled at an old dried leaf on the ground, almost as big as her.
We planted nuts we found nestled in the roots. Dug holes. Saved shells for squirrel food, made squirrel plates from giant leaves. Stared at red millipedes and snails and dug toes into the sweet, sweet earth.
The stone table from Narnia, we decided, and there I drank my coffee as the girls saw nothing of the cars and the concrete car park and building towering overhead, only feeling their chests as they ran in and out of trunks, planned gardens, and bird spotted and made nests.
And now they are sat as they once did, in the short time ago before we moved here. I daren’t break their play. Like it’s too good to be true.
The morning so calm, peaceful again. Debates dissolving before they even ever really occur. I journal next to them on how thankful I am, for our landing strip of bare earth and palm.
Calmer kids and finding calm for ourselves begin with the simplest of practices. Rituals, feet on earth, running in the breeze, touching trees.
They didn’t need the acres of land we had in France, or the orchard we had in the mediterranean. They just needed to connect with nature. To feel that energy that we feel from a day at the beach, the gentleness that settles around us after a walk with the dog through fields, or the calm that comes from watching a sunset.
When we reconnect with nature we reconnect with endless fresh energy, energy that nurtures and vibrates goodness and peace through our very being.
Cultivating peace and joy begins when we start to reclaim our bodies and minds, one bare foot on the earth at a time. And so do they. Perhaps I needed that tiny patch of earth just as much as they did.
To your freedom shifts