For the past nearly eight years, there has been no solitary in my life, no long stretches of time on my own left to think and to wander – no roaming aimlessly in silence. Once I met my husband, we became an inseparable pair: if you see one of us, you see the other. There are no “girls” or “boys” nights, and apart from the occasional exercise or architecture courses we take here or there, there are no “left on my own to my own devices” nights either.
If I think hard, I can almost remember what it is like to be completely on my own as a single, working woman in the city living alone- the many dinners I cooked for “1” – which mostly consisted of soup, baguette and tomato salad. On quiet days off work, if the phone hadn’t rang or I had not gone out or called anyone, I would come to a sudden realisation that I hadn’t uttered a word all day. Not one. I used to open my mouth and make a sound, any sound, mostly to be sure my voice was still intact. It always was, of course.
I no longer know how to be alone. Whenever I have to get up early to go to the doctor or leave the house without my family, it feels so odd, like I am sneaking away into the shadows. On the extremely rare occasions when Grant and I have gone out alone, all we do is mostly talk about the kids and whine about how we feel as though we are missing appendages to not have them with us. In fact, now we are unable to recall our lives before we had children. Sure, we remember sitting around in the evenings, listening to jazz, drinking some kind of frothy coffees, reading, and snuggling up together to watch films. We remember lazing about on week-ends or days off, going to brunch at our favourite spots, going for long walks and wandering through the many outdoor markets. But these memories seem so distant now; in their place we have created other beautiful moments and habitudes that include our beloved children, not as replacement memories but as new treasuries of lives led by love.
With our growing family, there is never a dull moment around here. Moreover, there is never a quiet moment either. Even on Wednesdays like today when the children are peacefully going about their homeschooling and activities with me, and I seem to have things under control, something always occurs to thwart our tranquility. Rather than getting upset I have taken to bursting out into laughter, because if I don’t, well this SAHM/WAHM gig I’ve had going for the past five years would bring me to tears. My husband’s work hours are longer and more erratic than most (the glamourous life of a chef!), and if it weren’t for the children and our house of (controlled) chaos, I would probably be spending the bulk of my time on my own – which, let’s face it – I really don’t know how to do anymore.
But here is a very fascinating discovery I recently made: my (oftentimes very loud and spirited) children actually like the quiet. They have expressed how much they love drinking tea with me late in the evenings, awaiting their Papa’s return. They’ll even request to watch Top Chef or Downton Abbey with us, during which we get to have one entire hour together where we are all sitting and doing the same thing, and maybe even all sharing the same food. These are miraculous moments.
Do you know what else I have discovered? I love the chaos. In fact, I think I even crave it. I adore hearing my children tear through the house, bouncing up and down the stairs and squealing as they chase eachother around the furniture. I love listening to their conversations, watching their imaginative play, hearing them acting out parts in a play or a puppet show. Like me, they don’t know how to be alone either – and they don’t want to be alone.
When we first got our cat, we used to remark at how well-suited he was to our household. Everyone would comment on what a “good” cat he is, mostly how people call babies “good” … when what they actually mean is that they are “quiet.” He very much enjoys the children and will actually place himself at the very apex of the chaos, asking to be picked up and hauled around like a beanbag in little children’s arms. There can be toys strewn about the floor, sword fights and shouting, high-heeled princesses and swashbuckling pirates, absolutely no place to walk or move, and there is our beloved Loïc, nestled up in the center of it all, purring and squinting up his eyes. You see, to a kitten rescued from a harsh world where he too was on his own, the chaos must seem like a much welcomed place of comfort and attachment. Indeed, perhaps my greatest discovery of all is that where there is love there is life, and a house steeped in chaos is the loveliest kind of love and affection there is.