The Pirate Park in Windsor is well-known to us locals, a little island of golden sand housing wooden ships for kids to play on, climb and transport sand up and down in buckets, as well as boasting swings, a skateboard ramp, football fields, a ping pong table and zip wire, with ample space for we parents to relax on the grassy sidelines or perched on the many picnic benches while feeling the sun warm our cheeks.
We’re lucky to be surrounded by sprawling, picturesque countryside here in Berkshire and can take our pick of parks close by but this playground has become a firm favourite this year thanks to its boredom busting scope (the kids can really while away hours there) and importantly, this one gains added brownie points thanks to its close proximity to on-site toilets and a Costa up the road. Priorities.
…It actually struck me while taking the photos here (Portrait mode on the iPhone, FYI) that while this period has been nothing short of s*** for the majority of us, the upside has been witnessing the growth of our kids, the quantity plus quality time we’ve all had whether we wanted it or not with homeschool and lockdowns. My two have dramatically matured this year in every way.
Emotionally, they’ve honed a myriad of skills spanning strength, resilience, compassion, charity and patience (in ways none of us could have forseen) and being flung together thanks to homeschool, we’ve all learnt so much more about one another than we ordinarily would have.
Physically, Oliver is becoming a young man, his jaw is more pronounced and both he and Xander have grown far taller, almost catching up with me (not hard) and their feet are at least 2 sizes bigger than a year ago with Oliver’s new trainers, a mammoth size 8. It’s shocking really. Especially as I’m a size 7 and I can distinctly remember how I felt at 11 myself, and most days, still feel 16, not 40.
Xander, 8, is thankfully still hanging onto his sweet, sweet baby face (with those kind brown eyes framed by a cloud of angelic curls which literally stop strangers in the street) but he’s equally grown up this year flitting between his beloved cuddly toy collection (his baby meerkat is dressed in a nappy by night and Pjs by day) and reading more sophisticated fare like Konnie Huq’s brilliant Cookie series and Harry Potter, and he, like his brother, has become a dab-hand at creative gaming like Minecraft, building new worlds that simply blow my mind.
His confidence is admirable too, the way he effortlessly memorises lines for lip sync Tik Tok videos, smashing them in single takes, contributing to my videos reaching millions on Facebook.
Oliver has naturally hit puberty and it’s not just me who has noticed-a tween girl literally danced around him in Tesco the other day trying to get his attention, not that he noticed (‘I’ll have a girlfriend when I’m 16 Mummy, I need to concentrate on my studies’ he replied when I questioned if he’s considered a girlfriend. I, on the other hand, dated twins at 4!
I’ve relished in introducing him to the joy of comedy series such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Eating with my Ex and Modern Family, and in turn, he’s taught me everything he knows about physics (self-taught) with a special interest in space demonstrating excellent memory retention, problem-solving and enthusiam, and I hope he achieves his dream of working for NASA, one day. The sky’s not even the limit, son!
Something else that’s felt other-wordly lately is the transformation and consolidation of the bond between my boys.
Xander has suddenly started to catch up with his older brother emotionally, and after this enforced time together during the pandemic, they seem to understand one another more deeply and even like one another.
Xander is sensitive, spiritual and philosophical (my friends call him Angel Baby): a typical empath like me, and Oliver is more rational, firm in his manner and easily irritated (expecting every child to be like him: a 40 year old trapped in a tween boy’s body). Oliver’s tough love approach towards his deep-thinking brother has often been ill-received over the years, causing tension between them as they often clashed. With more time together and far less competition for their time and energy from friends has proved to be a blessing.
They have slowly learnt to respect one another’s differences and accomodate each other more. Xander is far less triggered by Oliver’s criticsm and no-nonsense approach to life and in turn Oliver has stopped lecturing him regularly (he has a keen sense of justice but can be too hard on Xander, at times). So in the midst of this pandemic, they’ve met somewhere in the middle, connecting in a way they haven’t in years. More fun, fewer fights.
It’s been this year’s highlight for me.
Best buds at last.