Last week my husband took our three sons sailing. “Home Alone” I embarked on the mammoth task of clearing out my studio.

There are many paintings and art materials in my studio but our family history is stored there too.

Essentially I was opening time capsule after time capsule: boxes of drawings our children did when younger. Boxes of photographs from years ago. Little notes our children have written me over the years (most impressively an essay titled by our eldest son aged 8, titled WONDERFULL THINGS THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW – which essentially is about love and friendship. He was 8 years old when he wrote this).

I found letters from my father (who died almost exactly 6 years ago) with beautifully observed descriptions of our children as toddlers and younger children (today they have all ‘hit the double digits’ – they are 15, 13 and 11).

Sitting there, without the noise, distraction and demands of family life and family meals, with so much history passing through my hands, suddenly “time” felt like a most elusive dimension. It felt like my father had just walked upstairs and my children’s toddler selves were having a nap or hiding in the tree house.

And not just that, but any thoughts of the future had a similar ‘unreal’ quality to it. Like another day I will sit there with pictures of my children as teenagers passing through my hands. Or even my adult children finding these boxes and the ‘art portfolios’ I so lovingly made all of them, long after my own death. Perhaps showing them to their own children (if I am so lucky!)

Somehow it was a very good exercise in seeing what truly matters. In straightening out my priorities. As my husband often says: “In life we get so busy with what is URGENT that we do not always focus on what is IMPORTANT’.

Here is our son Quinn’s brilliant essay:


1   Usually mums and dads are the best people in your life

2   There is always hope

3   Be strong when making your point so everyone knows

4   You should try to like everyone you know

5   Everyone is your family

6   Anything can be a friend

7   Care for everything and everyone

8   Help everyone in need you can help

9   Think about everyone and animals

10  Share and give what you can!

Really these are the ‘Ten Commandments of an Eight Year Old’. And they are no bad guidelines to live by.

Today same 8 year old is a giant 15 year old, who has joined his girlfriend and family for lunch to celebrate her birthday.

He said to me this morning (after I had given him a tutorial in how to properly wrap a gift for a girl in neon pink wrapping paper!): “Listen Mum, I don’t like shutting you and Dad our of my private affairs, but if you ask silly questions or make totally naff jokes, I am going to have to, you know?!”

And I have a yin to ask him to write down the TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR PARENTS OF TEENAGERS.

The picture shows our son, aged 8, up a tree in Honduras sharing his food with a Spider Monkey. (We were sailing up the coast of Central America when he was that age).

He just got in and I asked him to write a new set of commandments. He said: “Talk to me about it later. I need to think about it first…”

Imelda Almqvist