When you are submerged in the manic world of parenting young children, it can sometimes be hard to remember what it felt like to be a separate entity existing in your own right. Every action, every breath and every move you make before your child is 5 comes with an accompanying audience ready to monitor your bowel movements; add a screeching vocal soundtrack to all your telephone calls; and chip in with their take on your domestic disputes (“Mummy, stop being mean to Daddy!”)
As our children grow and become more independent, the gradual realisation dawns on us that we may finally be able to shut the bathroom door when we are in there; get ourselves dressed without queries about what “those funny lines on your tummy” are; and actually be able to head off for a night out reasonably confident that all hell with not break loose when we leave.
Whilst these changes may ostensibly appear to be welcome ones and we may sigh with relief the first time we manage to pee in peace, once we get used to our newfound independence we may perversely find ourselves missing the fact that a mini human was once entirely dependent on us to fulfil their every need.
Facing the fact that our babies are not babies anymore is quite a reality shock and can leave us feeling a little adrift in the world, no longer sure what our role is, or how to rebuild our own independent selves as our off-spring begin to build theirs.
So given that we now have a little free time (who am I kidding? Free time is a thing of the past! But – you know – it’s possible you may now have time when you only have 5 things to accomplish per minute of available waking time rather than 10.), it might be an opportune moment to take up a new hobby of your own.
I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I realise that my talents and skills seem a little limited. Sure I can carry out a pretty intensive spelling test when required and tell you what Pokémon Tepig evolves into (its Pignite for those of you who are interested!) but in terms of unique, interesting skills, I appear to have acquired very few in the years since my eldest child was born. So at the beginning of September I decided to try something complete new. I laced up my trainers; gathered my nerves and headed into the unknown to try my hand at fencing.
Now you may think it a strange choice and wonder if I arrived at this decision after carrying out thorough, detailed research, but in reality I thought I would just give it a go. After all, it always seems pretty cool on the telly and the idea of being able to call ‘En garde!’ and not sound like a pretentious fool or a wannabe Zoro is quite appealing.
Four weeks in to my new venture and I cannot say enough about what a revelation it has been. Not only do I love the fact that I am challenging myself both physically (all those squats and lunges really take their toll) and intellectually (trying to outwit your opponent; remember the complicated combinations of moves; and learn all the old French terminology keeps my little brain cells whirring), but I had forgotten what it’s like to be part of a disparate group of people momentarily united in one common goal….and what a truly fabulous thing that is.
Having worried that the club would be dominated by students and I would feel like a random old person tagging along, I found instead, that this sport draws people from all ages and all abilities. And, like many hobbies that focus on developing skills over time, it offers much more than a quick exercise boost or a diet-aid. It offers a space in the week where I can free myself completely from the never ending ‘to do list’ in my mind; it offers the chance for me to feel like I am properly learning something; and it offers a surprisingly heart-warming feeling of inclusivity – of feeling like I have become part of a little pocket of society I hadn’t even been aware of before. And you know what, those are all pretty great things.
If you need something to take your mind of the fact that you no longer have children hanging off every limb as you walk along, then taking up a challenging new hobby is a distraction I can highly recommend.
You never know, you might even learn some techniques to help you manage the unruly teens your children are shortly to become – “En garde oh children of mine!”