There are certain things in the world that we should never take for granted. Top of that list for those of us lucky enough to be parents is that moment we tuck our children into their beds and kiss them goodnight before leaving them knowing they are safe in our care.
It’s only natural as life gets busier and busier that we don’t always find the time to count our blessings. And let’s face it there are times when having children, no matter how we love them, can feel like a burden.
There are nights when I wish I could walk through the door and only have to worry about myself and no one else. There are nights when I would love to be able to make my dinner without youngsters demanding my attention, needing help with homework or fighting over control of the TV. (We face a daily Disney Junior versus Sky Sports row in our house). And there are certainly mornings when, perhaps having sneaked an extra wee glass of wine the night before,
I have felt desperate for an extra hour in bed before getting up to start a long day dealing with the demands of two young children.
Much as I would love to say I’m one of those parents who adores every single moment of parenthood, the fact it is can be hard work. And there are times when my children are out from under my feet that I breathe a small sigh of relief and enjoy the peace and quiet.
And there are times when putting them to bed becomes less of a nice family bonding experience and more of a quick shoving of a child under a duvet and turning off the light before they even mutter the words “bedtime story”.
Yes, there are times when I take the children in my house for granted and that’s only natural. But this week I’ve held them a little tighter and told them I love them a little bit more.
Once again we have all been reminded how life can horribly cruel and how evil can be all around us - how your life can be changed irreparably and for the worse in a moment.
I’ve wanted to walk out of work and go get my children and take them to the safety of my home and wrap them in cotton wool and keep them there forever.
I know that is a kneejerk response to an horrific situation which has unfolded elsewhere but for so much of this week I have wondered how any parent can endure such pain when it comes to their children - how utterly helpless and hopeless you must feel to have your child snatched out from under you.
I know, statistically speaking, such cases are not that common. The majority of children who do come out to play come home again at their allotted time (or five minutes late). The vast majority of children will not go missing or be snatched away - but every time a story such as that of April Jones it serves as a stark reminder that the worst can happen.
I can think of no worse nightmare - to wonder where you child is. To wonder who has taken him or her. To wonder what they have done to them. To imagine your child so desperate for you to help them. I have had a ball of anxiety in my stomach just watching the news just allowing myself the occasional two of three minute interlude into the lives of the Jones family.
And two or three minutes is enough - because any more has been unbearable.
I’m sure I won’t always be perfect. I’m sure there will be still be nights when I come home from work and long for a bit of peace and mornings when I’ll wish I had no one to wake me up and demand breakfast at some ungodly hour. But this week I have hugged my children extra close. I have held their hands extra tight. I have revelled in the soft, small, warm feel of their hands in mine. I have kissed them more - a lot more. I’m sure they are really quite fed up of it by this stage, but I don’t care. They can’t pass me by without me kissing the tops of their heads.
I have told them I love them more. I have told them how they make me happy. I have told them to be careful when they are outside the safety of our home. I have told them how much they mean to me and how life has been so much better and brighter for them being in it.
When they have gone to bed I have, tired or not, given them the time for all their bedtime routines. We have chatted, and laughed and read stories and said prayers together and I have tucked them in and left them to sleep.
And later, after they have fallen asleep and before I have gone to bed myself, I have crept back in to each of their rooms. I have perched myself beside them and hugged them gently (Wouldn’t want to go so as far as to actually wake them!) and told them again how much I love them and reminded myself how lucky I am.
This week I have not taken them for granted - not one bit.