I don’t know if you’re familiar with the app ‘Timehop’, most of you probably have it. If you don’t, I’ll explain what it does. You can link it to the photos on your camera roll, to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Dropbox etc, and everyday it gives an update of any photos, or Facebook statuses, or tweets you may have written on that day years ago. I love it. Everyday, it shows me memories of photos and videos of my little ones that I or others took and I marvel at how small they were. I marvel at videos of them when they were only 18 months old and how I could understand them perfectly at the time – but I look back at their broken English, and attempts to communicate, gesturing and nodding – like a game of charades – and I think how nobody else would probably understand what they were trying to say, but my husband and I did.
Yesterday, as is my daily ritual, I opened Timehop again, and saw a series of photographs and videos that physically hurt my heart. It reminded me of a time when I desperately wanted to be in control of my life – but nothing could have been further from it.
Let me digress and travel off track a little. On the BBC at the moment, there is an advert that has caused a bit of a controversy amongst some viewers. The advert shows a teenage boy and a fraught mother. It’s Christmas time and the mother has to work – she can’t spend the time that she would have liked to with her son, and her son resents her for, as he sees it, putting her job before him. As a viewer, you can see the conflict in both of those people. Mum has to work. The son probably gets that too – but he wants to spend some time with her. The mum is also torn in half, she needs to work, but she also wants to spend time with her son. We see shots of them both struggling in their different settings, both angry, both frustrated. Finally, the mum runs out of work, races to be with her son and they spend the perfect evening together, reconnecting.
Why the controversy? I wondered why people were outraged. I wasn’t. I got it. Having felt that way many, many times in my life, I understood how that mother felt. I never wanted my own children to feel that way about me. You see the objection to the advert was that it was a woman. Why do women have to feel guilty about going to work and having a career and leaving children at home? I think those people are misguided. The advert wasn’t trying to say that. My interpretation was, in a world where we seem to be living to work, instead to working to live – there are times when we need to take a step back, revaluate what is important, the times and moments that we will never get back, and grab those moments so that we can live without regrets.
The photos and videos that I referred to earlier, was my eldest’s very first Christmas play, when she was in Reception. I had resigned myself to the fact that I couldn’t go. I didn’t bother asking my boss at the time, whether I could go because…because I didn’t want to put anyone out. It was alright, I convinced myself, my husband would be going, she would have one parent there to watch, that would be ok. It didn’t matter if I didn’t go. That’s what I told myself.
The day of the performance finally arrived, and all I could think about was making sure that she was ok. I hugged her and explained that she was going to be brilliant and that daddy was going to take lots of pictures and videos, so I wouldn’t miss a thing. From an extremely early age, she has been incredibly emotionally intelligent, so she just smiled and said that everything was fine. With a heavy heart, I drove to work. Now the play was starting at 1.30 in the afternoon, and my husband had to pick his parents up from Heathrow that morning. A completely straight-forward job. He was keeping me updated about the flight and his arrival time and all was going well – until the flight was delayed. The airport was about 2 to 2 and a half hours away – and we were in trouble. Chances were that he wasn’t going to make it back in time, and our little 4 year old was going to have no one there to watch her in her first performance.
I felt anxious anyway about not being to watch her, but knowing that we had promised that Daddy would be there, and for her to not see anyone in the audience was too much for my heart to bear. Feeling distraught, I went to my head and explained the situation to her. I’m not sure how articulate I was, but she could see the distress that I was in, she was completely wonderful and let me go.
I made it. I made it on time, to watch my daughter play the part of a sheep, singing her songs and doing the actions that she had spent hours at home learning and perfecting. All the other parents were sitting together, they all seemed to know each other, I found an empty seat somewhere in the crowd and suddenly there was a bustling of excitement as the play was about to start and the children were walking in.
Looking back through the photos, I remembered my daughter’s face, so wide-eyed with amazement as she took seconds to process the fact that I was there! Mummy was there to watch her. And then she waved excitedly as I blew kisses and waved like a crazy person back at her.
The play began, and I sat back in my chair wondering at the might of God. Even though I thought that this was an event that I was destined to miss – the Almighty had other plans. Genuinely, it felt like a Christmas miracle. My husband didn’t miss out either. 20 minutes into the performance, he arrived and saw the rest of the play too. Both of us had tears of both pride and joy and relief in our eyes…
Although it pains me to look back on those times, I’m also extremely grateful that I was able to make life choices and decisions that helped me to redress the imbalances in my life. I’ll be honest, a few years on and I had forgotten about that time. But the photos and videos brought everything back to me, like a jolt of lightning.
One of my mantras in life is to have no regrets. Life is short and unpredictable, so at times, we have to make life choices that may seem bizarre to others – but are right for us. I am grateful to God every day for being with me, and helping me to not live a life of regret. And I will never forget the day that I was not supposed to watch my daughter’s play – but God had other plans. And for that memory, I will be thankful and grateful forever.