Yesterday my oldest and I had the pleasure, thanks to a teaching inset day, or insect day as she liked to refer to it, to hang out together. As it had been a tribe weekend there was a mountain of post Sunday lunch pots, pans, crockery and cutlery sitting on the side waiting to be washed up. I am familiar with the theory of wash and tidy as you go, however Sunday being Halloween, we had been preoccupied post Roast Lamb with getting all four of the children face painted, through the Halloween games and packed and out the door back to their mum's for 6pm rather than tidying up the kitchen and the rest of the bomb site house. So there we both were, me with my marigolds on and my eldest with a tea towel, standing side by side, as generations have done before us, chatting away whilst listening to Radio 1 and pondering how Justin Bieber can write an autobiography. As my sage of a daughter said, '...how can HE write an autobiography when he's only 16yrs old, how ridiculous..'..., that's my daughter.
It's not often, as my husband likes to point out with slight indignity, that I make the children help with chores, however facing such a dauntingly large pile of washing up I had offered her either to wash or dry, and in order to help she'd had to put to one side the episode of 'Vampire diaries' she'd been trawling through on the computer and rather begrudgingly come in to the kitchen. It was this slight reluctance that set the tone for the task, and so began a conversation about the changing roles of women and mother's starting with her grandma, my mum of 84yrs. We talked about how my mum had brought up us four children, myself being the youngest, and how her day would be spent in a constant round of washing up, hoovering, cleaning, dusting, polishing, changing bedding And keeping us children fed and entertained. Something my eldest found mortifyingly boring as a concept and how my dad, now almost 90yrs, would come home from work and sit in front of the TV whilst my mum got tea ready and then after tea would sit back in front of the TV with the newspaper whilst mum would start the night time routine of bath, bed, story and night night kisses only seeing my dad for a goodnight kiss and sometimes on rare occasions a good night story. We talked about how, in my mum's days, that was pretty much the woman's role, to be solely responsible for keeping a tidy house and children whilst the men went out to work. My eldest, after several hours of drying up and one hour of keeping the youngest child entertained whilst I cleaned the rest of the kitchen surfaces and stove top, couldn't comprehend why anyone would want to do,as she put it, such a boring job and 'no wonder women wanted to go out to work'...then as often happens in our household the conversation disintegrated from intellectual discussion to talking utter rubbish... and in that moment of side by side synergy with my eldest I can truthfully say, hand on heart, that I had enjoyed myself standing at the sink washing up. Perhaps that's the key to living simply, without a dishwasher, and facing a huge pile of washing up I had resorted to a task my mum and I would regularly do together. It was a time, and in fact still is when I go and visit on a Sunday, for us to stand and talk together, our time away from everyone else, and I loved it. I'm not sure my eldest would agree, the lure of Internet catch-up TV is strong, but last night heading for bed she told me she had enjoyed spending time with me, talking, and that made my heart feel full and warm.