There’s no good without (silent) suffering

16 Sep
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Setting off to the unknown

Vipassana can be translated as “Insight,” a clear awareness of exactly what is happening as it happens. It’s a process of self-awareness – or as we like to say these days: mindfulness. In practice, this means silent meditation. And in this case, a silent retreat. Three and a half days of total silence.

My decision to take part in this retreat was like a lot things in my life, an impulsive one. For a while I’ve wanted to explore meditation, the use of breathing to slow down and calm oneself – I even had the damn words tattooed on my wrist. Then a friend sent me this link a couple of weeks ago and 24 hours later I had signed up. Didn’t over-think it, I just decided to jump straight in. Bit like me deciding I was going to train for a marathon when I hadn’t even managed a 10K.

No talking. No phones. No books. No writing (I cheated on that one). Nothing to distract you from the sole purpose of the retreat: Vispassana Meditation.

Firstly I will say this: this was probably one of the toughest experiences I have had to date. And the not talking part was the least of my problems. There was plenty of noise going on in my head. It was the isolation, lack of connection, human contact, the loneliness, the boredom, the sense of nothingness, the lack of productivity. The WTF am I doing here (thoughts that occurred to me many times a day). The being alone with only yourself for company for three and a half damn days. And the meditation. Lots of long, painful (the muscles!) meditation sessions. So here’s how it went:

Day One

Registration was at 2pm and the email said to arrive on time. After a morning of back to back work calls I left already knowing I was going to be late but decided to take the cool, meditative approach and not sweat it. After an additional 20 minutes to find the exact place I got to the registration hall sweaty and stressed at 2:45pm and discovered I had nothing to worry about… was greeted with a very long slow moving line of people – staring or talking into their phones, like a last gasp of air before shutdown. A quick assessment of the line found a variety of people who looked bit like me, or hipsters, or TLV start up types, yogis, or just got off the plane from India. All ages, all walks of life. I settled into my final few WhatsApp messages and shut off the iPhone – handed over to the safe along with my car keys and purse. That’s it I was in. After registration I was told to grab a spot in the meditation room. A friend had tipped me off to get a spot by a wall (for obvious reasons) – but no luck. Slight panic sets in. I grab a spot nearish the front, the AC and a window and pile up my meditation cushions. I find my room, sleeping arrangements were a room share with 2 other women – with simply a silent nod for greetings. First shock was when all this was done I realized I had 50 minutes wait until the introductory talk. 50 whole minutes with nothing to do. Do you know how many things I can get done in 50 minutes? A Pilates class, a whole episode of season 4 of The Affair, a supermarket shop, a work meeting. This was to become the theme of the retreat. A lot of seemingly nothing to do.

We had the intro talk, first meditation session and by 7pm I was crying. I don’t even know why. Probably self-pity.

Most of the retreat’s timetable was basically a combination of alternating sitting meditation and walking meditation, usually 45 minutes each. In addition there were lectures, talks etc. But most of the day – probably around 10 sessions in total beginning at 6:30am and ending at 9:30pm – was silent meditation of one form or another.

One of the big surprises was how bloody hard it is to sit still for so long. Finding a posture that didn’t make your muscles seize up was challenging. To begin with I alternated between kneeling on a pile of cushions in a “W” position (numb feet) and sitting cross legged (back ache). Eventually I opted for the lesser of the two evils: kneeling with numb feet.

The whole essence of meditation is to develop the ability to focus on one thing at a time which in sitting meditation is breathing and in walking meditation is movement of your feet. And it’s a slow, steady focused walk – not the brisk kind I love. So basically you’re mostly focused on just either breathing or walking and for the first day I battled with every other 1 million thoughts that came into my head – constantly. The noise! Like did I submit my social security forms? I must remember to talk to Liam’s teacher. Did I put an out of office message on my outlook? When will I have time to wash the car? As a person who likes to make lists – not having my sticky notes at hand was stressful.

Oh and the pace. Everything is very very very slow. I have long legs and grew up in London. We speed walk everywhere. Suddenly everything was in such bloody slow motion. Made me realize how fast my life is – moving around, eating, faster the better. Even my favorite hobby running is related to speed.

Day Two

Surprisingly I slept amazingly well. Instead of my usual 5-6 hours a night I slept a solid 8 hours, and woke up feeling energized. Thankfully my roommates slept silently (no need for ear plugs) and in the absence of usual bedtime rituals (a bit of FB, WhatsApp and Netflix) I got into bed and literally simply fell asleep as my head hit the pillow at 10pm. Wow who knew that was possible?

The day began with not my usual morning run but 6:30am meditation. Which seems counter-productive – why get up from bed to do more of sitting around? Well, I was determined to push on with the program.

The whole retreat is run by a voluntary organization called Tovana where everyone gives their time voluntarily – the retreat is entirely free, although you can make a donation at the end. At registration you’re asked to sign up for chores, so everyone has a part in the running of the retreat. Ironically these chores were to become the highlight for me (productivity! Human interaction!)  A note about the meals – they were delicious, wholesome and entirely vegan. Amazingly I didn’t feel hungry between meals (and boredom usually breeds snacking), I barely ate sugar the entire time and I didn’t crave chocolate once (a breakthrough for me). And by the end my skin looked great.

Throughout the second day I realized that I missed the usually pleasantries we experience day to day. A thank you, good morning, bon appetit, a smile. When these don’t exist you feel more and more isolated.

The other thing I realized is the attention you give to minor tasks when you literally have nothing else to do. Body cream, eye cream, foot cream – wow I could rub those in for hours. And do you know how long you can floss your teeth for? A very very long time. Watching a kitten play with a leaf, staring at ants on the ground, the clouds moving overhead. Yep, the things I did to pass the time. Oh and chipped toe nail polish. Did a lot of staring at that.

In the afternoon one of the teachers gave a talk about mindfulness and kindfulness. That we need to be kind to ourselves, that meditation is not a competitive sport, they never say “concentrate”. It’s something that should be easy, relaxed (seriously??). She talked about meditation of war or meditation of peace and I was comforted to learn that everyone has distracting thoughts during meditation (phew) and we need to be kind, don’t fight them, let them pass, don’t be judgmental of ourselves. The other thing I learned was that most people feel what I called “pain” during meditation but it’s how we relate to this pain. If we think of it as a sensation, and we focus on that sensation, recognizing it as not more than that and understanding we won’t die from it, it actually fades. Over the next couple of days I tried this technique and you know what? It works. It reminded me of my marathon training: when you acknowledge (not serious) pain as part of the process, don’t get mad with it, it too becomes bearable. Enlightenment? Maybe.

That afternoon there were small group sessions where each person aired an insight or concern. It was the first time I’d spoken in 2 days. Suddenly my voice felt loud, intrusive – others even felt strange speaking. Mostly I was thrilled for the interaction – I only had a couple of minutes, but just that moment to connect in dialogue was extremely energizing.

Towards the end of this day I decide to ease up on myself – I skipped a sitting meditation session and took advantage of the slow mindful walking meditation session instead for a fast walk to burn off energy which was dying to get released. Breakthrough that evening: a whole almost painfree sitting meditation.

Was again asleep by around 10pm. Boredom is exhausting.

Day Three

Woke up before 6am excited about my morning chore: 6:30am cutting fruit for breakfast. Team work – even though in silence – was extremely comforting. And I was being productive. And I had a valid excuse for skipping morning meditation.

This afternoon I noticed a few “cheaters” reading on the grass in their spare time. I must add that many people took the whole meditation thing extremely seriously, seemingly constantly in a meditative state – and although I was momentarily regretful that I hadn’t brought a book, I understood that it would have been so easy to escape there, and therefore NOT deal with my crazy mind – which was the whole point of the retreat. And by the way – along with the millions of thoughts in my head I realized I was actually creating fantastical stories in my mind. Bit like a dream which begins with a realistic story and then develops into a crazy fantasy, I was doing the same thing. Only I was awake.

I was thankful for the notebook I brought. It was where I wrote down everything I’m writing here and relieved a little of the daily boredom.

I should add there was A LOT of philosophical discussion (well we listened silently while the teachers discussed) over these days about the teachings of Buddhism, the Dharma technique. I made some notes for myself (mainly “note to read more”) because truthfully – I understood very little. But a few insights did come my way which I will summarize at the end – and maybe even take into my day to day life?

Later that afternoon I had the opportunity for a one on one chat with one of the teachers (any opportunity I had to interact I grabbed!). I told him of my frustration at the lack of productivity, the lack of movement – that when my muscles hurt from exercise I know they’ve worked hard vs. muscles hurting from sitting around doing NOTHING. He reminded me (gently and with patience) that we are practicing a different muscle here – the mind. The ability to focus on one thing at a time. That it takes time to see these benefits. And practice.

Later I found an old shopping list in the pocket of my jeans shorts. I sat down and actually read it beginning to end. I felt like I was slightly losing my mind.

That evening I began to feel pretty sorry for myself. It was Friday night, and another meal in total silence, not even an acknowledgement of the delicious food, no one saying shabbat shalom. Every evening there was a session after post-dinner meditation called “Inquiry” where people were invited to come up and share a concern or question and Radha, our rather impressive guest teacher from Australia would inquire and give her thoughts. In my pitiful state I volunteered to come up (yes! another opportunity to talk!) I stated my name and said (in these words): “It’s Friday night. And I could really do with a good conversation and a glass of wine.” After some laughs from the crowd, Radha explored my feelings and again made me realize that these are merely feelings and I can let go of them – and not let myself sink into my self-sorrow. I was mainly cheered up by the chance for this brief conversation (even if it was in front of 100 silent people) but her insight lingered with me.

Day Four

Final day and woke feeling great – I had permission to go for a run! And miss morning meditation! I LOVED the speed, the sweat, the fuck you all and your slow meditative walking because I’m moving FAST. Yeah it felt good. It felt like ME. Followed by a hot shower, breakfast and then clean up duty. More productivity! Feel a bit like my old self.

There were these funny moments of “normality” like in the kitchen that morning when a huge metal tray came crashing to the ground narrowly missing someone’s head. We all jumped back in shock and someone blurted out: “Finally! SOME NOISE!” followed by laughter all round. Or the day before when someone had a fit of giggles in the meditation room. A guy was trying to catch a beetle (because you can’t kill anything living) and as laughter is contagious the giggles quickly spread – and this felt light, humane and normal.

After my energetic morning I remembered that we still had our final day of alternating walking meditation, sitting meditation – 3 sessions of each right up to lunch. In dread, I realized that it felt like my marathon interval training where you agonizingly count down each interval until it’s over. It was getting bloody tedious…but I was determined to see it through. The last meditation session (post lunch, before the wrap up talks) was ALMOST enlightening – the pain was no more than sensations, I didn’t fidget, I did a lot of steady breathing and less thinking, and I only checked my watch once.

The retreat wrapped up with a talk about Dana – which in Buddhist tradition means “generosity” – making monetary offerings for the teachings. Dana is not payment for goods or services rendered; it is given from the heart. The organization relies heavily on “Dana” which is considered one of the highest levels of Vipassana practice. This makes sense to me – it’s commonly known that one of the keys to happiness is being kind and compassionate to others – a behavior I could do more to adopt in my daily life.

So it came to an end – we got our valuables back, made donations, switched on the phones, and began to talk. People began to engage in conversations but after a few hi’s and bye’s and pleasant smiles I was happy to slip away, get in my car and put on some very loud music for my long drive home.

So the insights:

  • I am comfortable with silences. Yes I crave contact and connection – but would welcome some more peace and quiet times in my life.
  • Meditation as the practice of focusing on one thing at one time is definitely something I would like to take to my daily life. Much of my life is chaotic activity of juggling multiple tasks and I believe I could simplify how I manage my life by adopting this technique.
  • Let feelings pass. If you create attachment to feelings you fuel them. Understand that all feelings pass. Slow down. Be steady. Don’t be reactive in situations.
  • Contentment comes from inside of us. Much of my day to day life is made up of finding distractions to uncomfortable feelings: have a couple of drinks, get a friends opinion, buy myself something nice, eat chocolate etc. etc. While these things are great, it could be beneficial to realize that I myself am capable of comforting myself, of letting go of feelings – that I don’t NEED anyone or anything to do this for me.
  • I can manage a fairly successful relaxed and steady breathing meditation of 15 minutes. Maybe I’ll try this at home from time to time?
  • Finally: remember to inhale, exhale.

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Memorizing in May

4 May

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Today we sit quietly, pensively on the eve of “Yom Hashoah”, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

When I grew up the “Holocaust” was taught to us in earnest, in our youth movements, on summer camp, within our families, so we should never ever forget the horrors our families experienced. Paradoxically, even though all this happened way back in in my childhood, today, more than 30 years on (and supposedly 30 years of advancement?!) the horrors of the Holocaust seem so much closer and scarier than I ever remember.

We live in a scary world. I can’t believe that in 2016, on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day, we are actually publically fighting anti-Semitism. Ironic? That I’m reading and responding to FB posts on this topic. That there is a real debate about the questionable opinions of the parliamentary leaders of my own “homeland”.  That I even have to utter and consider the language of anti-Semitism and the words that are related to it. (Apologies to anyone  in my social media discussions – actually I’m not sorry – this day is emotionally loaded and is so sensitively significant that it’s hard to separate our feelings from any “hard facts” you present to us). To be honest, why does this word “anti-Semitism” even still exist in our lexicon? Why didn’t it die and go away, as we advanced and learned and progressed and became an empathetic, open and accepting society? Ah, because we haven’t.

Even I, in the past 20+ years that I’ve lived here, have on occasion questioned the relevance of the endless Holocaust movies and documentaries that are repeated in a 24 hour loop on this day each year. But you know, today, in May 2016, boy am I glad for this reminder. And I am comforted.

  • I am comforted that Liam just returned from his annual “Yom Hashoah” ceremony at the Scouts
  • I am comforted that tomorrow Maya’s class will see an acclaimed production of “Ghetto”, the astonishing story of a theater that was active under inhuman conditions in the Vilna ghetto between 1942 and 1943
  • I am comforted that Ella will spend the morning with aging Holocaust survivors (so few are still with us) at their care home, sharing in a memorial ceremony, many of whom she meets on a weekly basis throughout the year to teach them computer skills as part of her school’s community involvement program
  • I am comforted that I will start my morning at Liam’s elementary school watching the Yom Hashoah ceremony which his class is leading, in which Liam will read closing words of hope and optimism that although we lost battles in the past we won the war to establish our homeland
  • I am comforted that Maya’s entire school year has spent the past few months on Holocaust studies and will be visiting Poland this summer, to discuss, learn and pay respects at the places where millions of our people perished.
  • I am comforted by the survivor stories of my family: my heroic late grandparents and their parents and their siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles, and my late father-in-law and his family and the dozens of stories that we have heard, read, documented, recorded and shared and we will continue to do so for generations to come.

Because we will never ever ever forget. And my wish for my children’s future? That the abhorrent words “anti-Semitism” will be part of our history.

 

 

10 Minute Check

1 Feb
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What happens when we don’t get the 10 minutes

Years ago when my girls were very small I read an article about what quality time with your kids actually means. The article said something like 10 minutes of undivided attention per day per child was considered quality time. Time well spent. In those days it took me 10 minutes just to get one small child into a car so really, this sounded a bit, I don’t know, pessimistic?

Roll on a younger brother and about 14 years later, and here we are, struggling to find those quality moments. I’ve never forgotten that ridiculous article and often I find myself using it as a mental check as I brush my teeth at night: “Did I get those 10 minutes with each of one?”

And you know something? It’s not that simple.

Bring on the smart phones, laptops, headphones, online gaming, schoolwork, the after school activities, our work schedule, dinnertime, homework and that bit later on in the evening when you’re comatose on the sofa. Those 10 minutes per child – 30 minutes in total per day for me – are precious and hard to come by.

In those 10 minutes I try to force myself away from whatever “noise” may be distracting me and give them those few minutes of me. Eye contact. No smart phone in my hand. No sibling to disturb them. And it may only be 10 minutes (and again, those 10 minutes are so hard to find) but it’s those 10 minutes and another 10 minutes and in the end its hundreds and hundreds of minutes of you just giving yourself to one child, one at a time.

I grab them whenever I can. And sometimes you may even find the gems in those 10 minutes.

On Sundays for example I get 30 minutes in the car alone with Liam after dropping off his older sister and on the way to swimming training. Most weeks he either doses off or is plugged into YouTube but yesterday he did neither. He stared out the window and said “Urgghh mum please could you switch off the sun?” (It was a really sunny afternoon) and I laughed and he told me the weather here drives him mad. And he told me of the places he’d like to live when he’s older: none of them here in Israel, near us, to my surprise. I asked him why he sees himself moving away and he turned to me with a weary look in his eye and said, “Mum, I’m just fed up with all the HATE that surrounds us.” Wow, I never realized that he even noticed that.

Yesterday, in those 10 minutes I learned something about my son that I never knew before.

So that’s why when I brush my teeth last thing at night, I do my 10 minute check.

Dear Diary

21 May
The battered old notebook

The battered old notebook

I did something this week that I never thought I would do. I read my diary to my husband. But this is not any old diary. This diary was written 24 years ago during a year of traveling, when I was just 18, and recounts in detail how I met and fell in love with my husband.

I came across it last week while sorting through some stuff. It was obviously something dear to me as I never put it in a storage box in some random top-shelf cupboard, but rather in a drawer in our bedroom, buried under a bunch of unrelated items and mementos. I’ve noticed it a few times over the years but it’s been untouched for as long as I can remember. Until a few days ago, when I decided to take it on a little vacation we took together.

Late at night I told him I had a surprise for him and took it out of my bag. He vaguely remembered the cover and was immediately curious to know the content. I admit I was slightly cautious – I hadn’t read it over myself and couldn’t be sure if everything in it was going to be cool for him to know. I recalled there were arguments and ups and downs in the beginning and who knows what I had shared with dear diary back then, but this was part of the excitement, a kind of test…

So it began. Sydney, Australia, January 16, 1991: our first meeting… and I just continued to read out loud, nonstop, on and on for months of entries, no censoring.

Firstly – and I say this with relief – it was cool. There were no skeletons in the closets, no deep dark secrets. Mostly it was cringe-worthy – recounting a typical holiday romance of an 18 year-old teenager complete with the backdrop of bitchy friends and kitschy soundtracks. How we laughed at ourselves (more accurately, we mostly laughed just at me!) Memories flooded back to us as we read in detail (and boy am I sucker for those details!) about the places we had traveled to, the people we met along the way, the experiences we had shared. Dates, names of cafes, bars, pubs, people (many many people!), lakes, mountains, hiking trails, scenic spots. The stories – so many stories. We felt quite old, the passing of years was obvious – numerous entries recounting the chores of getting our photos developed and sending the packs of pictures home, making time for the infrequent and expensive long distance calls to family, hours spent in travel agent offices booking flight tickets, and the difficulties of coordinating travel plans with fellow travelers with no way to contact each other (we left messages in hostels, stood in line at public payphones …) – all sorts of things that are just no longer relevant today.

But mostly, it reminded me of what attracted him to me in the first place, how the essence of who he is today was strongly apparent to me back then. I had no way of knowing then that he would become my husband, that we would share our lives together, but even back then, as an 18 year-old teenager, I could clearly see the qualities I loved in him and that made him special – and that they are just the same today.

Later when we’d finished I closed that battered old notebook and thought what a cherished gift this is. That life isn’t about gathering stuff. It about gathering experiences, experiences that we can share with our loved ones and gather them all up in a battered old notebook to recount and reminisce over years later.

Whitsunday Islands, March 13, 1991 (on exact same day 8 years later Ella and Maya were born!)

Whitsunday Islands, March 13, 1991 (on exact same day 8 years later Ella and Maya were born!)

Be Vain. And Other Good Advice.

5 Apr
That time I showed up and we were dressed the same. Yes, we were

That time I showed up and we were dressed the same. Yes, we were

A couple of weeks ago I was back in London and dropped round for a cup of tea and a chat with my grandmother. My 98 year-old grandmother. These visits are a regular thing whenever I’m on town – but what amazes me is that even though months will pass between our meetings, I barely see her change.

This time the visit started something like this:

Me: “Hi grandma you’ve had your hair done! It looks great”

Grandma: “Really? I tried a new color, do you like it?”

I am not sure what’s more surprising for a women barely shy of a 100 – that she has her hair done every week or that she is trying out new colors. We talk about what’s new in my life, what she’s been up to, my work, the kids … she’s full of life and keenly interested, and apart from speaking a little slower, and me speaking a little louder, our conversations are as animated as ever.

And during that short meeting she enthuses about her secret to living a long full life. I always tell her what an inspiration she is to all of us and she tells me: “Darling, be vain. Love yourself. Always get your hair and nails done.” As she shows me her gorgeously manicured pearly nails I ask “Every week?” and she says “No, don’t be silly! You can get your nails done every other week. It’s fine.”

And a couple of other bits of advice we could all benefit from:  Take care of what you eat. She reminds me how she gave up almost all sugar years ago (I remember when – it was way before the trend, to her it just made good sense) and she claims she feels great and this is key to her longevity. And finally, she tells me: “Sweetheart, no regrets. Never look back. Keep on looking forward, the past is past.” From the woman who has outlived two husbands. So it’s time for me to leave and I remind her that in the summer I’ll be here with all the family and she’s thrilled, just around the time of her birthday. We’ll celebrate, she says, do a party of something. And I know, of course, that we will.

The Final Eight

28 Feb
Deep in thought somewhere in the final eight kilometers

Deep in thought somewhere in the final eight kilometers

It wasn’t my day to run a marathon. Physical training is the most important part of preparing for a marathon but it’s not everything. It’s not an excuse, but sometimes the energies aren’t aligned – wrong time of the month, a random pain in the knee that appears mid-way, your iPod that dies on you at 22km (my perfectly prepared playlist now irrelevant) and of course the hot HOT weather.

But this is not about whining. I’m enormously proud of myself for what I accomplished today at the Tel Aviv Marathon. I found myself alone at 27km, somehow my friends no longer nearby, my last buddy jogging along happily somewhere in the distance after I’d told him to run on, my pace slowing him down. I’m dragging a throbbing leg, with no music to distract me and 15km still to go. It wasn’t really the way I planned it.

All I had to keep me going was that voice in my head: “Just keep moving.” “You are strong.” “It’s nearly over.” (OK so that one was a lie but the clichés were flowing.) A few more kilometers of self-help talk, I finally packed up the iPod when I accepted that it wasn’t coming back to life and yet, I was only at 35km. Ok, so I need to break this up, the leg is agony. Come on mind, what we going to do next? So I decided to dedicate each one of the remaining kilometers to some of the people who are special to me:

  • 35km: My girls back in London. I know they look at me like a crazy lady when each marathon comes round but the love, support and hilarious laughter is unprecedented. I remembered the time earlier this week actually laughing out loud reading their messages.
  • 36km: My dad, my running mentor. When I just started running and he would exhaust me only for me to realize that was just his “warm up” and off he’d go again leaving me panting in the distance.  I remembered his email last night: “Enjoy every mile. Even the difficult ones.” Yep, am trying dad, am trying.
  • 37km: My son Liam, his magic hugs and kisses, his amazing foot rubs. I mentally schedule one for tomorrow.
  • 38km: Maya my daughter who while appearing supposedly nonchalant about my running hobby, never fails to ask how my run was, how much I did, how I feel.
  • 39km: My other daughter Ella and her vague amusement of my strange habits, I laughed at her shocked reaction to my carb loading over last few days (“mum, doesn’t your stomach hurt??!”)
  • 40km: My running team – Limor, Shlomi, Moran (and where the hell are they right now??!) and  every long run we’ve done together, the constant encouragement, the only people in the world I can text at 5am and have full blown conversations.
  • 41km: Ilanit my amazing friend, who has been my mental coach and nutrition consultant this week. I especially thanked her for forcing me to drink half a liter of isotonic drink at 3:30 this morning. My legs may be screwed right now, but energy was on form. She got the 41st kilometer as this was the time she showed up to escort me to the finish. Whooping, cheering and being basically loving the whole way. I could have cried.
  • 42.195km: And my husband Ofir – he got the last kilometer and a bit extra. I saved him till last because I really needed him right now. He has loved, supported and quietly encouraged me ever since I took on this crazy hobby. Never failing me. Always understanding.  I never take it for granted.

And then there it was. The finish line. THE GODDAMN FINISH LINE. Never a sight more beautiful than one big bold word: “FINISH”. Not my best time, far from it. But nonetheless, so very proud and so very grateful.

DONE!

DONE!

I thought there would be more

27 Dec

photo (3)Last week on holiday in London, I took my 10 year-old son and his friend to the Christmas Market at the South Bank. As he bobbed up and down on the carousel shouting “this is the best thing in the world!!” I turned to my parents and said “you know what? This is it. This is probably the last time he will be interested in getting on one of these.” It was just one of the many, smiley moments that filled this week and I know, in the treasured moments of rapidly passing childhood, there are very few left.

It was a fun week of doing stuff that 10 year-old boys love in London. Half a day just in the launch pad of the Science Museum. Freezing our butts off on the open top bus. Trying to make the Queens’ guards laugh. Copious amounts of Starbucks hot chocolate. Trying to stay upright on the tube without holding on to the handle. You get the picture. I gave myself totally to their wants and wishes and got so much pleasure from their innocent enjoyment. It sounds like a cliché but true.

And then on the flight home I watched a movie recommended by my friend. Boyhood. Filmed over 12 years it recounts the childhood and passing of years of a boy from age 6 to 18. Almost 3 hours long I was glued to the screen not because of the drama or intricate plot, but because I was so endeared to this child, who literally grew up before my eyes, and watching the simple passing of the years of his childhood. And then came this line from his mother: “I thought there would be more” as he packed his boxes for college. And yes I had a lump in my throat and I squeezed Liam a little and I thought about the week of fun we’d just had and I thought about the movie I’d just seen and you know what it made me realize? Raising your kids isn’t about a series of WOW moments and huge gestures. It’s basically made up of run-of-the-mill daily routines, where we muddle through doing the best we can, often winging it, but if we get a few occasions to laugh out loud on any one day we know we’re doing ok. That’s pretty much it.

I know I will forever remember this small trip to London, and I know he will too. It was when he learned to read the tube map, it was when I had to tactfully explain what those skull-shaped water pipes were in Camden Market and when we spun with childish glee on the old-fashioned carousel at South Bank.

And really, there isn’t much more than that.