Our big move to a little island off the coast of Scotland, is likely to have a big affect on our toddler. Unlike our other four children, her earliest memories will be of life here and the freedom that it offers. Her picture of the world is being formed from this beautiful and rather wild place, steeped in nature and rich in history.
When she wakes up in the morning she doesn’t hear the sound of cars on the road outside, instead she hears a myriad of birdsong or the wind rushing past the house.
Her playground is the rocky coastline, full of opportunities to climb and play with water, where the seals keep constant watch and the birds nest in the rocks above her head.
Her imagination is growing as quickly as she is and so is her inquisitive mind. Always exploring, always looking for adventure, learning from the natural world all around her.
It isn’t just the environment around her that will make her early childhood very different from that of her older brother and sisters. I am a different parent here and so is Matt. We are more relaxed thanks to the huge amount of space that we have to take a breath here – to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of busy modern life.
With age and the experience of raising four other children before her, we fret less and let her be bolder with her risk taking. After all, in a big home educating family, there are many eyes to watch her and many hands to catch her.
I am thoroughly enjoying watching her grow up here, so pleased for her that she has these great wide spaces to roam in. So glad that she has this happy life on this beautiful island.
That is not to say that I don’t have any worries or concerns for her as she grows up. I am a natural worrier. I always have been, since I was a young child. Always seeing danger, always overthinking. I have learned to ignore fear so that I can make bold decisions and squeeze every drop out my life. But the concerns are still there ticking away in the background, sometimes quietly and sometimes a deafening roar.
We have been here for nearly seven months now, but three of those have been during the covid-19 lockdown. We were in the process of finding clubs and activities for our kids to join so that they could have a rich and varied social life, when this whole crazy year began. They were only just beginning to make some friends here when they were forced into isolation. So it’s difficult to tell what our life would be like here normally.
I worry that life here will prove to be too quiet for our teens and later on for her. It seems that most of the islands teenagers run off to mainland UK at the first opportunity. Most of the population are families with school age children and retirees, but late teens and twenty-somethings are in short supply.
They love the beauty of this place as much as we do, but during this time of lockdown I can see that they miss their friends down south and miss the weekly routine of drama and dancing clubs. It is a time in their life when they need to connect with people and test their wings outside of our little nest.
Only time and an end to the coronavirus situation will tell, if they can find a happy balance here until they are ready to go on their own adventures.
For their little sister though, this year has been about enjoying having her family close around her, learning and growing in confidence and independence everyday.
Although she enjoys seeing other children and trips to the library and play parks, her life is so full of adventures and new experiences that she has not noticed any impact from this year’s isolation.
This wonderful place is like a giant playground for her, from climbing rocks at the beach, to muddy puddle jumping in the peat bogs, there is so much fun to be had.
The warmer weather and long hours of daylight in the spring, have meant that much of her time is spent outdoors, soaking up the natural world around her. Whether she’s spotting caterpillars and butterflies, watching tadpoles grow, finding all sorts of creatures in rockpools or learning the names of countless wildflowers, she is always busy.
The surrounding farmland has proven to be a big hit with her as well, as she has watched it come to life this spring. The fields surrounding our land, which stood empty when we arrived here, are now full of sheep and their lambs, playing, leaping and running. She is fascinated by our neighbours chickens who roam free and are now busy with large broods of fluffy chicks sheltering underneath them or spilling out in a noisy rabble.
Our rather wild back garden is full of trees and nesting birds. Between the trees are the holes of wild rabbits that we often see running about. With all of this to experience, she has become a real chatterbox. She has an enormous vocabulary for someone so small, which is fuelled even more by her love of books and songs. Even when she is playing by herself, you can hear her constantly chatting away.
Watching her experience of life here has made it all the more wonderful for us, as we all get to enjoy it with her.
So for now, we will put any concerns behind us and follow her example – soaking up all the wonderful things that this island has to offer. Perhaps we can all grow as wild as daisies, I certainly hope so!