It’s amazing what I can see and learn if only I take the trouble.
I’ve just been very lucky to have a 3-week holiday, most of which we spent in France, during which time I was able to spend more ‘quality’ hours with my family than in the past 3 months. With a combined set of schedules that are almost insanely complicated and busy, we’ve been living a somewhat fractured family existence recently, almost never all together for very long, almost never ‘not doing anything’.
So it was that during our time in France I discovered a few things about my brilliant daughters that surprised me, and illuminated the wonderful ways in which they are growing into themselves.
While Eleanor is still mostly very happy with the ‘menu enfant’ and a relatively simple choice of meals, Hannah has expanded her horizons in all sorts of ways. She wants to tackle the full menu of choices, and on our last night of the holiday, in Orléans, she had the meal of the night. She chose the bavette (steak) that came with a chèvre goat’s cheese sauce. In a way that made me very proud, she asked for it un peu saignant (rare). What came back was a thick, sumptuous, HUGE piece of steak, cooked beautifully, with a small pot of sauce that was simply amazing. All this from a 3-course menu costing 18€. It was miles better than the stringy entrecôte I chose, and her moelleux au chocolat dessert was a gorgeous feast of yumminess, again contrasting with my tarte aux pommes which seemed to have come straight from the freezer…
Both girls are big fans of our new family iPad, and especially of ‘messing around’ on GarageBand. I’m not at all claiming they’re the new Daft Punk or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but seemingly in minutes they create pieces of music that have their own personalities. Eleanor seems to favour more melodic things often led by elegant keyboard motifs or plucked acoustic guitar sounds, and builds layers of sounds to nice effect. Hannah is definitely more experimental and seemingly influenced by rhythm. There’s also more variety of sounds, from bright and airy disco to more industrial techno. Kraftwerk look out!
Swimming in Straight Lines
Hannah has never seemed very keen on swimming in straight lines. She was a later starter into the world of swimming lessons; the first time we took her to a ‘big pool’ for a lesson she screamed for 25 minutes and barely got a toe wet. In the last few years she’s progressed really well with lessons at Dursley, with Vicky, Matt and Dave all helping her develop her strokes. But despite having a good technique when she puts her mind to it, she’s never seemed like she’s that bothered by trying to swimming fast or very far…
…until we arrived at the wonderful outdoor municipal pool in the tiny Pyrenean town of Alet-les-Bains. This is a real delight, filled with mineral water from the local spring. We’d been there last year, and it was a favourite with the girls, as it has a proper big pool that’s never less than 1.6m deep, as well as a smaller children’s area and some terrific fountains to play in. On our first visit this time around, Hannah surprised me by going straight into the main pool, and swimming breaststroke for 4 lengths (100m), which is further than I’d ever seen her swim before. She was a bit puffed and pleased with herself.
A few days later we returned and without any drama or announcement, she set off again. Her technique wasn’t everything she’d been taught, but she was doggedly determined, quietly persistent. 4 lengths became 10. Rachel and I took turns to swim alongside her, as 10 lengths turned into 20. She never stopped for a break, even for a few seconds. She swam the length, avoided other swimmers carefully and without fuss, touched the end and immediately set off again. She declared she was going for 30, then 40. This was unchartered territory for all of us, but she kept going, counting off the laps, smiling all the time, occasionally responding to our encouragement to swim like she’d been taught… As we turned for the 40th length, I urged her to “go for it”, and she did, swimming strongly right the way down the pool. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.
This 1,000m swim took her about an hour, more sustained physical effort than she’s probably ever done. She never looked in any trouble, never complained or wanted to stop. She surprised me, and I think she surprised herself. A couple of days later she swam another 20 lengths to make a full mile in total across our visits.
She’s barely mentioned it since, but I could sense something in her afterwards. It was a joy and a privilege to swim alongside her as she made this achievement, to help her out of the pool as she exclaimed her legs “felt like jelly”, and to see the pride in her eyes and the smile on her face.
Expanding foodie horizons, musical experimenting, physical effort. My children are growing in all sorts of ways. I must pay attention more often.