I’m start­ing to fall for au­tumn’s ben­e­fits

Brac­ing walks, kids getting their ap­petite back, not put­ting them to bed when the sun is shin­ing . . . the sea­son is set­tling with me

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Lifestyle - Genevieve Car­bery

Na­ture has stolen 20 min­utes of my over­loaded day with its sur­pris­ing au­tumn nip ne­ces­si­tat­ing the need for coat com­bat.

The sea­son has brought great gusts of Mammy huff­ing and puff­ing as I dress my two re­luc­tant chil­dren in lay­ers of warm cloth­ing. Head up­side-down I try to zip the hoodie on the nine-month-old, who flips onto his tummy with glee like an ex­cited mon­key. He pulls the over­sized woolly hat from his head and waves like a ma­gi­cian at the end of a per­for­mance.

The pre-schooler and I long for sum­mer days, slip­ping on shorts and crocs and run­ning into the gar­den. The bite in the air has made him suc­cumb to socks. Co-op­er­a­tion has been ca­joled with a new bright blue hoodie (his first favourite colour of four, don’t you know). I’m hop­ing the ex­tra few min­utes it takes the “big boy” to put it on him­self (as I try and some­times fail to re­sist just zip­ping it up) will pay off some mag­i­cal day when I only have my­self to dress. As for the coat. It goes on, it comes off, until we set­tle on it open and hang­ing off his shoul­ders, like a teenage rebel in quilted blue. It al­most makes me want to stay in­side where the kids can roam hap­pily in their vests and there’s lots of time for horse­play and the baby mak­ing him­self gig­gle by wib­bling his fin­ger on his lip.

Thank­fully, chil­dren are pres­sure cook­ers with two set­tings – a slow re­lease valve or a great tantrum ex­plo­sion. So on Sun­day af­ter­noon we wres­tle our wrig­gling oc­to­puses and set off for the woods.

The newly fallen leaves, not yet soggy from rain, are at their most per­fect for feet crunch­ing. Within min­utes, we are jump­ing from one pile of or­ange and yel­low joy to the next. Then my son ac­quires a very long stick (and I ig­nore its likely prove­nance as a saliva-cov­ered dog chew-thing) and he is a dig­ger as he thrashes it up and down (and I steer his an­tics from the legs of pass­ing walk­ers).

Un­ex­pected places

The fresh air brings the chats, as my pre-schooler fol­lows threads of logic with ques­tion af­ter ques­tion, tak­ing us to un­ex­pected places (the pre­vi­ous day we’d gone from talk­ing about Mammy and Daddy hav­ing dif­fer­ent baby slings to the whys of male and fe­male anatomy). He’s harder to fob off than even the most per­sis­tent util­i­ties sales­per­son.

“Why do leaves turn brown? Why do they fall off the trees? Do they go back on the trees? But why?”

“They go into the ground to help fer­tilise it.” I can see where this is headed. My mind flashes back to child­hood and one of my first stark re­al­i­sa­tions of what death was from a book my sis­ter had called The Fall of Fred­die the Leaf.

But be­fore I col­lapse onto a pile of leaves, bang­ing my fists and cry­ing “The leaves are dead and one day we’ll all be­come food for worms”, I’m saved by a dog off his lead com­ing too close.

We ar­rive home as it’s twi­light. “Who put the light there?” asks the old­est, point­ing up to the rust­ing street lamp as though it has just been in­stalled. I re­alise when you’re three you go through much of the year without ever see­ing the out­side in the dark. The in­evitable bread­crumb trail of logic be­gins and be­fore we know it we’re talk­ing about the coun­cil pay­ing for lights us­ing the taxes Mammy and Daddy pay from work.

Au­tumn’s ar­rival has started to set­tle with me as we come in the door of our house and dis­cover an­other ben­e­fit of the sea­son for par­ents of lit­tlies. Hunger is back. The hot sum­mer in­volved lots of coax­ing the pre-schooler to “just eat some­thing”. But hun­gry chil­dren in cold weather are like starved wolves as their quick tea of sausages and eggs dis­ap­pears as fast as it was made.

Put­ting the kids to bed is nicer too. I al­ways loved the long, warm sum­mer evenings but shorter, colder days work as a par­ent. Block­ing the sun’s rays in the kids’ bed­room at 7.15pm all sum­mer felt like fak­ery. In­stead of fear­ing the baby will over­heat, I can fol­low my in­stincts to keep him warm with snug­gly baby­gros and heav­ier bed­ding. By the time all are asleep and the clear-up done, it’s pitch dark out­side. Un­like sum­mer, I can tell my­self that I’m not miss­ing out, as I set­tle in for an­other cosy evening on the couch.

■The fresh air brings the chats, as my pre-schooler fol­lows threads of logic with ques­tion af­ter ques­tion: “Why do leaves turn brown? Why do they fall off the trees?

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