Almost every day you'll find Jemimah and me together somewhere. You may find us cuddled together on the sofa, or talking animatedly around the dining table, or working side-by-side at the kitchen counter or in the garden. With the sound track turned down low you would assume that ours is the perfect mother-daughter relationship. Close, comforting, supportive.
Listen closely though, and you'll discover that when we're at the table we're discussing long division; at the kitchen bench the talk is about dissolving the flour in the fat before adding the liquid so that the gravy won't be lumpy; on the sofa the subject is the mapping of the Australian coastline; in the kitchen garden it is crop rotation. We're just doing school.
Jemimah and I spend a lot of time together. Most of most days, in fact. We have quantity time down pat. Quality time, on the other hand is a little more difficult to master.
Quality time is that time that lets my daughter know that, aside from the one I have with her Daddy, my relationship with her is the most important of them all. Quality time lets her know that I love her as a daughter, value her contribution as a young lady and enjoy her company as a friend. Now this is not stuff that she would easily be able to glean amongst the tares of maths and history and narration, important as these things are. Quality time clears away all the gumph that consumes our everyday life and just lets us enjoy and nurture the very special bond that is between us.
Every month or so Jemimah and I have mummy-daughter nights. Sometimes we grab a pizza and watch a movie together. Sometimes we play a game of Monopoly or do a jigsaw. Sometimes we bake patty cakes, ice them, decorate them, and eat them. Mmmmmm. Once or twice a year though, we plan something extra-special. A super-dooper-mummy-daughter-date-time.
Last weekend we spent the day in Melbourne together at the National Gallery of Victoria's von Guérard exhibition, Nature Revealed.
Now this display of Eugene Von Guérard’s meticulously detailed landscapes of Victoria in the mid-1800s provides plenty of scope for including educational content in our day and making it a perfect Charlotte Mason inspired field trip, but this is precisely what I was trying to avoid, and I hope these pictures (taken before I discovered that I wasn't allowed to take them) give you an idea of just how much my delightful young companion enjoyed our visit. The second photo is of her observing closely the landscape, Castle Rock, Cape Schanck, 1865, depicting the area where her father and I first met. I wonder what she is thinking about?
The exhibition of over 150 works included a number of the artist's beautifully illustrated sketch books, and as a keeper of nature notebooks herself, these were probably Jemimah's highlight, although she also loved the detail in his pen and ink drawings. For me the best bit was his exquisitely rendered painting, View of Geelong. There is something special about paintings of things familiar and dear to you, isn't there? Especially when they are as beautiful as this one is:
Afterwards we took ourselves off to the charming Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the Block Arcade for Scones with Strawberry Jam and Cream and the ubiquitous pot of English Breakfast Tea. We couldn't help but wonder whether Eugene von Guérard had done the same with his friends, for the tearoom, open since 1892, was certainly around even in his day.
I wonder if you can see the pleasure etched on that young face?!
Over tea we discussed life, death and the universe. We discussed the exhibition too, but only in passing. There was no educational stuff on the sound track today. Instead we discussed our dreams, our hopes and our disappointments. We talked about us.
We had a wonderful time.
It might be a while before we have time for another Mummy-daughter Date as special as this one, but we will do it again. Spending Quality Mummy-Daughter Time with Jemimah is one of the most important things I can do as her mother.
Hopefully if I continue making time to just hang out together and talk about the mundane things of life important just to us, she will also continue to come to me to discuss the not so mundane and the far more important. I hope she will continue to feel comfortable talking to me about her problems, or when she is confused, worried or in trouble. I hope that she remembers that I am there for her and that I listen to her and that I really do care and that I love her very, very much.
Because I do.