No time for dragons


‘Absolutely no time for dragons,’ I yelled this morning as I wrestled my middle child into his car seat. Absolutely no time for dragons, I snapped again, running back from the car and into the house to grab coats, bags, books and lots of other random stuff I needed for the order of the day.

I was still on the dragon rant five minutes later, after I’d hauled everything in the car, checked all children were there, picked my glasses off the dirty floor and wiped them on my scratchy top. Dragons! The cheek of him, thinking I’ve got time to crawl in behind the couch at 7.50am on a school day to find his teeny tiny purple-with-darker-purple-wings plastic dragon that was his latest toy du jour.

All the boys fell silent as I adjusted the radio to a moody concerto from Lyric FM and got on my way in the bleak morning June rain. No time for dragons! June rain! echoed in my head on the short drive to drop my eldest son to school, and my middle son to preschool. But by the time I’d helped my five year old with his rucksack, and he’d stroked me on the hand to tell me two important things 1) He loved me and 2) Which Lego he wanted both for his birthday and his friend’s birthday, all my creaky morning edges had softened out and I got to thinking – ah now, does there really have to be such absolute no time for dragons?

That is obviously what childhood is all about. I looked at my remaining two sons in the rear view mirror. The dragon whisperer was subdued, the baby too. Perhaps he thought I’d really hammed up the dragon thing, like, had it really been too monumental a request to carry out for his beloved older brother, who shows him important things like how to jump off the windowsill and onto the couch without smashing his head off the floor, and how to choose a piece of Lego to put in his mouth that is large enough not to choke on?

I drop my second son off, and as I help him wriggle out of his coat I ask, where’s the dragon again? I say it with a serious enough tone that he knows I will make it a top priority when I get home, over picking cement-like Cheerios off the floor, over folding the laundry, and tackling the messy living-room. I want him to know that, despite my quick temper and dire organisational abilities in the morning, there will always be time for dragons in these glistening first years of his life.

The Walden of suburbia


To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.’ So said the great Henry David Thoreau in Walden. Each day, during his two-year sojourn in a long cabin in the woods near Walden Pond, he would get up to bathe in the pond at dawn, calling it his ‘spiritual discipline… a religious exercise and one of the best things I did.’

Now, I’m sure he didn’t necessarily want to do it every morning. I’m quite certain some early, pitch-black deep cold mornings he woke up and thought: There is just no effing way I’m getting into that pond. I’ll do it tomorrow, I’ve got, like, forever to do this.

But he did it. Every morning.

I like to read about other peoples’ daily routines. I’m an absolute sucker for those ‘I’m winning at life’ spiels you read about, you know, I go to the gym, run, drink a turmeric shot, smear chia seed jam over my face, deal with all my emails, all before 4am. I’ve been reading them for years, but the most fundamental habit I wished I could adopt was simply ‘I get up early.’ I love the idea of those pencil-quiet morning hours, profoundly peaceful moments in which you can create your hopes for the day ahead, and by default for your life. But I’ve never been able to get up early. In my 20s and 30s, I took lie-ins to the max; there were lie-ins so epic that the promising pink of the day would regularly fade into the stifling dark of the night (this is depression).

Now, I have no choice about getting up at Silly o’clock because of my three babies. I’m awake by around 6am, so getting up ‘earlier’ would mean 4am and not much sleep. That will change. Until then, I affect the quality of the day by meditating each day, without fail. It is my spiritual discipline and the rock that I sit on daily – staring into my own version of Walden Pond, a refreshing dip into the reliable immensity of the universe.

Conversations with my body at 6am


Mind: Good morning. Have a green smoothie please.

Body: Ugh, no thanks. I don’t want a mucky green smoothie for breakfast. Smoothies aren’t normal anyway. Did we evolve to drink smoothies? No. Did they have blenders in the Paleolithic era? No. I’ll have a coffee please. Scrub the Paleolithic era comment, that doesn’t work here. Look, just give me some coffee. Black coffee.

Mind: Ok – how about a celery juice then? That’s a bit of a trend at the minute. It will probably change your life if you were to make me a straight-up celery juice, this morning and every morning for the rest of time. Something about salts pulling toxins out of your body. Something about that.

Body: A celery juice would make me puke. I’ll have a coffee. Black coffee. Lots of it. Whatever gets me through, right?

Mind: Sigh. Look, you’ll have to have something healthy. Anything. Will you take some of those chia seeds sprinkled over something?

Body: No. Can you put the coffee machine on? I just need a coffee. Like, yesterday. What time is it? 6.10am? That’s ridiculous. That’s too early. I can’t even eat at that time anyway.

Mind: A banana? Some blueberries with yoghurt and some crushed flax seeds on top? Ok, Weetabix. Even just Weetabix then. You can have it with real milk this morning, not fakey milk.

Body: For the love of all that is good in the world will you just give me a goddam coffee, make it strong, I’m knackered, I’ve been up all night feeding or tending to a small child or peeing. Just give me the coffee. NOW.

Mind: Alright, this is the last time though. Tomorrow I’m going to make you have that green smoothie. You’ve got all the gear, you have to use it.

Body: (Drinking coffee, triumphant bells play in background, angels sing Hallelujah) Thank you! Bless you! The day can begin! I knew I could count on you, Mind! Let’s do this again tomorrow.