The halting problem

Struck down with a particularly vicious virus, I wanted to head to the shops for a miracle cure. Or at least some vitamin C, which is probably the closest I can get to a miracle drug that won’t also poison me for some reason. In my current state of health riding wasn’t an option, so I leapt into the car. Click. whirr. groan. All the unmistakable sulking of a car with a dying battery. Forward progress was clearly not going to be a happening thing.

I dragged myself back inside to await my beloved’s descent from the nap cave, where he was trying to persuade our 3 year old that sleeping for an hour or so was a vastly preferable alternative to spending the afternoon crying hysterically whenever something happened. Or didn’t happen. Or nearly happened.

Fortunately our Christiania bike has carrying capacity for the evacuation of a small town, so it was more than adequate for a quick trip to kmart to buy a new battery. Sadly  there were no safe sources of vitamin C at the same shopping centre as the car batteries, so the waiting, the shopping, and the battery fitting delayed my urgent trip to the shops by over an hour. Which time I spent lying on the floor with my 7 year old, making loops out of train track, and deciding which bits of track needed outfitting with trees, hospitals and people that made the trains and buildings look Lilliputian. All part of the same set, so you have to wonder what the manufacturer was trying to say with this combination.

My point, should I ever manage to stop digressing long enough to make one, is that despite feeling extremely seedy and wanting a new head, respiratory system and immune system pronto, not being able to continue with my plan to hurtle about meant that I chilled out, had fun, and bonded with my daughter. Quite by accident. Oops.

In an absurdly hectic week, far more full of chaos and rushing than justified by my effective progress on any of the tasks I was allegedly pursuing, I had forgotten how to chill. Too often when my kids ask me to play with them I wind up saying “I just have to…” and then listing 5,000 things from the top of my todo list. Fortunately the whole idea of having two kids is paying off beautifully and they spend a lot of time playing together, despite a 4 year age gap. In fact they play so well that I sometimes forget that every time I say ‘not right now’ is a missed opportunity.

We have lots of cunning games involving me lying on the couch. It’s a dangerous position, because something about a recumbent adult just BEGS children to leap onto them and apply all kinds of pointy anatomy at speed. Elbows. Knees. Bottoms.  I know that bottoms aren’t typically pointy, but somehow these particular bottoms are. I can’t explain it. But I have the leg wounds to prove it.

Whether I’m lying on the floor playing with trains, or lying on the couch being a vet (surely if this gets out it will trigger a radical rethink of the standard veterinary surgery), reading stories or looking at old photos on the laptop (“Mummy! What’s that on Daddy’s neck???” “It’s his hair.”), there are plenty of ways to relax and still play with my kids. They don’t require me to leap about and perform amazing feats of ingenuity (apart from untangling the slinky). They just want me there. Physically, and mentally. Away from the laptop. Not reading a book. Present in their game, and in their world.

Not just for the big stuff, like performances, but for the wandering around afterwards eating sausages. Not just at key points like bedtime and school pick ups. They just want me with them. And how great is that?

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One thought on “The halting problem

  1. Daniela Tymms

    These times are so valuable, so indescribably invaluable.
    A gift. Something you will long for, grieve for, when they no longer want you.

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