Having my family at home for the mid term break from school and work has once again demonstrated to me how much we have changed over the years. We often go away camping during this holiday and had hoped to do so again this week. However, the cold and wet weather limited our choices; it would not have been enjoyable to have been sleeping in a tent. How we dealt with the free time that this left us to fill has shown once again how we have all moved on with our lives.
My daughter seems to be the most able to organise her days. I suspect that she would not see it that way as she regularly despairs of her tendency to procrastinate. Nevertheless, she has managed to spend one weekend away camping with friends, a day walking with the family (the promise of a pub lunch was persuasive) and has a concert in London to look forward to this evening (Green Day, All Time Low and the Kaiser Chiefs are to perform). In between activities she has been studying for her remaining exams, working out at the gym and watching a selection of her favourite TV shows on DVD. It has looked to me as if she has struck a good balance between work, rest and play.
My sons, on the other hand, have opted to spend their time in less constructive ways. True, they were both very helpful in the garden when the weather allowed us to get outside last weekend. However, the consistently cold and wet days that followed gave them the excuse to spend rather too many hours on their computers. Although my elder son has a week of exams later this month to prepare for, he appears to have done little work; I can only hope that he has done enough. My younger son is practising hard at becoming a moody teenager.
When they were younger I used to make my children earn their screen time, which was always severely limited. If they wished to play a game on their DS or watch a DVD then I would require them to complete homework, tidy their room or help out with some other task in the house. Long walks and cycle rides were completed with the promise of an hour of screen time on our return; attendance at an activity that they had been eager to sign up for but had now tired of would be achieved with the incentive of a family viewing of a film they wished to watch. These days they help out for cash payment and, having bought their own computers with money earned and saved, cannot be easily dissuaded from using them.
Perhaps the biggest change in how free time is spent though has been with my husband. He has visited the gym each day this week but has otherwise appeared to do little when it has rained. I do not have a problem with someone opting to rest, but this is notable because it is so different from the way he used to be. He no longer shows any interest in home maintenance or decorating as he once did. Neither does he seem to wish to go out and about when the weather is inclement. Rather, he will sit at his computer for as many hours as his sons; at least this does not make him moody.
I am used to spending my time as I please so my week has been less of a novelty. I have enjoyed having my family around me, even if they have been largely occupied by their screens. I have had company on a few of my gym visits or swims, and mealtimes have been sociable occasions. I have got less done as I have tried to fit in with what plans the others have had, but the mundane tasks that occupy much of my time will always wait.
We are now forecast a sunny weekend so will try to make the most of that. With my daughter off to London with her friend it will be up to the boys to decide on activity. I suspect that we are not the only family in the area planning on lighting our barbeque this evening, and I hope for some fun in the garden before we eat. Perhaps we will even be able to persuade our shy, new chickens to accept a cuddle. They are still very wary of us.
Our family barbeques usually have a festive feel to them with lively music adding to the atmosphere. The choice of music played is as good an indicator as any as to how each of us has changed. When the children were younger they were happy to listen to the latest offerings from the pop world alongside their parent’s favourites from the eighties and nineties. As their tastes have diverged my husband has insisted on playing more of the music that he enjoys from the seventies and eighties, whereas I have found pleasure in much of my daughter’s heavy rock or my son’s classical discoveries.
Good music can bring so much pleasure. It can be cheering, relaxing, contemplative and uplifting. However, having to listen to music that I really do not enjoy can put me on edge. It is unfortunate that my husband likes a lot of artists and bands that I would put in this category. I know that I must let him choose what we listen to from time to time, but so much of what he enjoys makes me want to leave the room. Sometimes it gets on my nerves so much that I do. I try to practice tolerance but in this area find it so hard.
My favourite music is still that which my children make on the instruments they play. I love to hear them practice and perform. I quietly nurse a hope that someday they will be as good as my father, whose beautiful piano playing was the soundtrack to my childhood.
Whatever type of music we choose to listen to, it is so much easier to appreciate any genre when played live. The concert that my daughter is attending tonight is in a huge stadium, but I expect the atmosphere will help to overcome the limitations of the acoustics; that and being able to appreciate the experience with a friend.
With music and books and good company to enjoy, the distractions offered by computer games will continue to perplex me. We each have to find our own way though. People change, I know that I have. All will be happier if we can each learn to accept and enjoy what we have become; if we can relax, smile and go with the flow.