Archive of ‘parenting’ category
Disjointed: lacking a coherent sequence or connection.
You may or may not have noticed my lack of blog posting recently. It’s been a funny few weeks. Not necessarily in a bad way, but not entirely good either. I’ve had ups and downs, good days and bad – and have desperately been trying to promote my book by writing several guest blog posts which will hopefully be live soon. There’s been vomit and nativity plays and nights out with wonderful friends. There’s been a visit to Father Christmas and endless shopping and wrapping of presents. But what there hasn’t been for me, is festive cheer.
I’ve desperately been trying to get into the Christmas spirit – normally by now I’m totally Christmas crazy – yet this year it’s just not happening. And the reason, the painful truthful reason as to why I’m not in the festive spirit, is simply because this year, for the first time in twelve years, for the first time ever in her beautiful life, I will not be spending Christmas Day with my daughter. For she will be with her father, at her wish.
As many of you regular readers will know her father wasn’t exactly enamoured with the idea of becoming one at such a young age and he did pretty much everything in his power to make it not be true. And so for the first few years, when he was rather inconsistent in his presence, she was blissfully all mine at Christmas.
As a single parent, who’s father had passed away just two years previously, Christmas was always spent at my Mum’s house, where we carried on all of the wonderful Christmas traditions that had started during my childhood. It was wonderful, something I always looked forward to with immense excitement, and soon there came new traditions as we grew as a family and welcomed more people in. The phrase ‘all good things must come to an end,’ now springs to mind for after a long time of me trying to get her father regularly involved in her life – because even though I had formed a firm opinion of the type of man he was, I strongly believed she had the right to know him and make that decision for herself – we started alternating Christmases. He would have her from shortly after her school broke up until Christmas Eve, and then the next year he would have her until Christmas afternoon, when she was picked up on the way to my Mum’s.
This year, without either of us talking about it (our communication has been a bit crap of late) I assumed the same would be true. However my daughter’s father had other ideas which promptly placed her rather uncomfortably in the middle. Now I know at times she can be – along with every other twelve year old – quite a challenging human being, deep down behind all of the pre-teen hormonal rage she has a truly beautiful nature and hates upsetting people. She was torn and teary and it was horrible to see. So, in spite of everything I was thinking and feeling at the time (namely rage as her dad hadn’t been particularly friendly in the discussion) I handed the decision over to her and told her that I would support her 100% in whatever she chose. I reassured her that her Nanna and Uncle wouldn’t hate her, and neither for that matter would I. And – frighteningly quickly – she chose to go to her Dad’s.
I didn’t show her my hurt or upset, I didn’t voice my dismay all at her decision. I hugged her and told her I hoped she’d have a wonderful Christmas, and reassured her that yes, we’d do Christmas Day all over again for her on Boxing Day when she was to be collected. My husband and I then worked out our Christmas with the boys and my family (his mum and dad always come to us on Christmas Eve and prefer to spend Christmas Day at home just the two of them, so that was sorted!) and how and when we could pick her up on Boxing Day. All worked out. Daughter happy. Dad happy. Me…well you can imagine.
I hope you don’t think me trivial or indulgent for writing a blog post about my upset, because yes, it is just one day and I am incredibly fortunate in so many ways…yet for me without my daughter there, even for one day, Christmas simply will not be the same. There will be something missing. Part of me missing. Christmas undoubtedly becomes magical all over again once you have children, and that magic doesn’t stop when they become a pre-teen (she still wanted to see Father Christmas the other day) and it’s hard to know that for the first time I’m not going to be there to see it. And this will be the first of many, a new tradition now formed whereby every other year she is not here to celebrate with me, with us, with her brothers.
Since making the decision I can tell she’s still been torn. Whenever Christmas has been talked about I’ve also been incredibly torn – for if I say how excited I am she gets hurt and thinks I’m not going to miss her…and yet when I say it won’t be the same without her she gets equally upset and demands that I will be ok and have fun! Safe to say I’ve not been able to do right for doing wrong so to speak! No change from the norm there though really either – living with a pre-teen really can be a mine field!
So for now my job before she goes on Christmas Eve, is to embrace what time we will spend together over Christmas, and make it as magical and special as I can. I’m lucky I have my awesome husband and gorgeous boys to celebrate the day with and my heart goes out to others who are not so fortunate. For families come in all shapes and sizes and each have their own challenges to face.
And for us, I’m determined that Christmas this year will still be a magical one…just a little disjointed.
Goalposts: The structure of a goal can vary widely from sport to sport. In sports where goals are the sole method of scoring, the goal is often a rectangular structure that is placed at each end of the playing surface. Each structure usually consists of two vertical posts, called the goal posts, supporting a horizontal crossbar.
Ah the joys of the pre teen. Last week I was sat, in my lounge, at home and alone with all three of my children whilst my husband was (still) at work.
Earlier in the evening my 12 year old daughter was upstairs in her room throwing everything she could find, firmly and loudly, after having left a trail of destruction and debris on her way there. The four year old was asking what was happening and the toddler was trying to fly by jumping off the sofa and laughing when I said ‘no!’ Oh, and I’d just discovered that I’d washed a nappy containing toddler poo with a load of clothes in my washing machine. The day was going well, I was kicking parenting’s ass.
Now I’ve mentioned my feisty daughter many times on my blog before, and have been very honest about the challenges parenting a pre-teen has brought me so far. About how at this age for me, it’s not easy letting go, letting her have more freedom and hoping that I’ve taught her to make ‘informed’ and ‘good’ decisions. My daughter has a lot of common sense, she is quick witted and has an inherent need for attention. She is stubborn, dramatic, emotional. She will argue that black is white, fiercely believing it to be if it means she can get something out of the debate; and she’s sadly growing up in a world where some people feel they are owed everything and that ‘I want’ should mean ‘I get.’ She thinks she’s invincible, she thinks she is wronged daily, misunderstood, and blamed for everything. She’s also beautiful, thoughtful, and caring. Talented, confident and determined. She is a blend of many magical and wonderful things, however sadly, at the moment, she is predominantly anger personified.
I’m not sure how many of my readers are aware that our family is a ‘blended’ one. My daughter has a different father to my sons, who I have had with my husband. She’s had a lot to deal with in her little life and has faced a lot of changes. First, and from the very beginning it was just the two of us, living in a beautiful flat in Bristol together for 6 years. We were surrounded by friends and tragically, when my daughter was 6 years old, a close friend of mine who we’d known for years and who used to look after my daughter one day a week after school, died from breast cancer. My daughter already knew about death as she understood that my father had passed away before she was born, but this was her first experience of it in person. And it wasn’t easy on any of us. Shortly after this we then moved just outside of Bristol with my now husband; another change. A different school, new friends and routines and a very different ethos to the inner city school she’d previously attended. Then my first son came along, my husband and I got married, her father had a baby, I had another baby, I got very ill with PND, her father got married. Change after change after change. Always honestly talked about with her, always addressed and never ignored or brushed over, but uncontrollable endless changes nevertheless.
I often wonder what impact all of this has had on her and whether it’s added to her anger and fuelled her indignation at so many things. Being twelve these days is by no means easy. As a girl, and a short ginger one at that, she’s subjected daily to teasing and p*** taking. Already she’s asked me what a ‘ginger fanny’ is and has been called a bitch in the dinner hall. The boys in her year reportedly describe her as ‘small but feisty.’ So it’s no wonder she’s always got her defences up. When you’re twelve you’re developing your identity, where you fit in the world, what your beliefs are and so much more, yet peer pressures and the latest trends and fads undoubtedly impact on this. Not to mention the delight of hormones which, at the ripe old age of 36, I still haven’t mastered myself yet. It’s a tough time and I wouldn’t want to be there again for love nor money. Yet what I do want is to be able to put myself in my daughter’s shoes and see things from her perspective. And I desperately want to help her manage her anger so a repeat of what happened the other day is not on the cards.
Wanting to put myself in her shoes led to both of us digging out my old diaries this weekend.
Diaries that I started writing when I was just 11 years old and stopped, for no particular reason other than lack of time, when I was about 30. Written every year; covering my first period, my first kiss and oh so much more. We started reading my diary from 1989 together and couldn’t help but laugh at what I’d written (that’s a whole other blog post!) and what struck both of us immediately is how much younger than twelve I seem in the diary. I’m still enjoying building sandcastles on the beach and playing in the park. I’m not bothered by make-up or clothes or boys. There were no mobile phones, no internet or Facebook, and the tv had a measly four channels, none of which showing provocative singers parading around in their underwear. Children were undoubtedly able to be children, with very different expectations made of them. My homework at twelve, for example, was simply colouring in. Oh how different the goalposts were then, in many ways.
We all know that parenting certainly has it’s challenges, and for me it hasn’t got any easier the older my daughter has got, the challenges have simply changed. Parenting a pre-teen in this day and age isn’t straightforward, and neither it would seem, is actually being a pre-teen in 2013…and I think it’s something we’re going to have to work out together.
To be continued…
Incentives: An incentive is something that motivates an individual to perform an action.
This morning I awoke to the news that in the UK they are trialling giving mothers vouchers in exchange for them agreeing to breastfeed their children. Incentivising them to do something that we all know is best for our babies, for we’re told often enough. Bribing mothers to perhaps make choices they’re not comfortable with or have no control over, thus adding to the pressure and guilt of parenting. I assume all babies born in the area where this is being trialled behave themselves and enable their mothers to gain financially…someone sent all unborn babies a memo about this right?
Yes I’m being deliberately obtuse because as a mother of three children who has both breast, formula and mixed fed I’m horrified at the suggestion. I’m appalled that the government is attempting to bribe mothers to do something they may not be able to, or want to do. And whilst I can’t fully understand why someone would choose not to breastfed, I believe everyone has a choice. Do I think more mums should be encouraged to choose to breastfeed…yes! But do I think this should be done through a finical incentive…no!
Breastfeeding is a divisive subject and one that all mothers have very strong opinions about. As I see it often those who found it easy claim it’s the most natural thing in the world and are dumbfounded as to why everyone doesn’t do it. Yes they say it hurt, yes they say it’s hard work, but they did it so why doesn’t everybody? Then there are the mums who choose not to and are vehement in their belief that they are good mothers in spite of this. Why should how we feed our children determine what kind of parent we are? And then there are those who desperately want to breastfeed, who struggle and try everything and yet, for many reasons, can’t. I’ve been all of the above mums at some point in my parenting journey.
When my daughter was born 12 years ago I exclusively breastfed. Ironically she is the only one of my children with asthma and eczema, but that’s another story. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would breastfeed, I was a single parent and it was bloody hard work, but I did it exclusively until a lorry drove into the back of my car and the stress of the hideous accident caused my milk production to disappear instantaneously. Back then whenever I breastfed in public it was sat on the toilet, in a cubicle and out of sight. It wasn’t discussed it was just what we all did, and it was lonely, uncomfortable and boring, not to mention particularly unsanitary. Times have changed and with both of my boys I breastfed in public, but it wasn’t always welcomed and I think that before we judge as to why people don’t want to breastfeed and incentivise them to do it with money, we need to look at changing opinions of breastfeeding in public and in general. We need to make it fully acceptable. I was out for lunch with a new mum the other day who I didn’t know very well and she kept apologising every time she breastfed her baby, and this made me so incredibly sad. Why did she feel the need to apologise all of the time, who had made her feel that what she was doing needed an apology? And would paying her to breastfeed her child change the way she felt she was viewed? I doubt it.
Let’s look at why people don’t breastfeed exclusively for 6 months as is recommended. There are many reasons and for something supposedly so natural, Mother Nature certainly doesn’t make it easy at times. Cracked nipples, engorgement, mastitis and many more delights can make breastfeeding hard, painful and unpleasant. My middle child had very bad reflux, and once vomited blood after a feed, turns out it was my blood and not his. There are also difficulties faced by parents of children with tongue ties or cleft palate. At the end of the day, our role as a mum is only half of the breastfeeding story, the baby plays a part too; and for some, breastfeeding is sadly never going to work. Thank goodness there is an alternative! There seems to be a trend on social media this morning in response to the news report, saying that formula should only be available on prescription for those who can’t feed…taking away choice and adding to guilt. And just how malnourished would your baby need to get before it was deemed that breastfeeding was not a viable option. How desperate would the mother be at this point, how much of a failure would she feel and what lengths would she go to? It’s a disgusting idea and one that actually makes me angry at anyone who suggests it. Have the people suggesting this struggled or not been able to breastfeed? Have they been there, do they know how it feels? Or are people assuming things and judging others again instead of trying to empathise, support and see things from another persons perspective? Formula feeding mums are made to feel guilty enough as it is. Will formula feeding become illegal next?
I think if there is money spare to invest in breastfeeding mums then that money could be spent so much better than on vouchers, for sadly some children aren’t fed at all. And the more I write this post the more I realise that there is a much wider issue here and one that I cannot even attempt to cover in just blog post. Could the money be spent on support? On enabling mothers returning to work to continue to breastfeed somehow? On making breastfeeding in public accepted? Let’s be honest, mums don’t give up breastfeeding because of financial difficulties so why incentivise them with vouchers? Why should we be paid to feed our children?
This debate is still very much going on and who knows I may add to this blog post later.
What’s your opinion?
I’d just like to say that after reading this poem back, it could possibly sound like I’m a bit dissatisfied with my life at the moment, which couldn’t be further from the truth!! I guess I’m just very aware at times that even though I do different things everyday, my days are still very much centred around the same stuff I do as a mum….and I really do sometimes feel like I am forever on my hands and knees clearing food from the floor…just from lots of different floors!
Each day I wake, know what’s ahead,
Rub my eyes get out of bed.
Packed lunch to make, teeth to clean,
A few smiles and tantrums in between.
School run; walk come rain or shine.
Smile and wave, pretend I’m fine.
Home to put breakfast things away.
Change a nappy, out for the day.
Different people, same things we say.
Talking comes easily, brightens the day.
Home to make lunch, pick remains off the floor.
Nap time, me time, always need more.
Pick up from school, pop here and there;
Dentists, shopping, cutting of hair.
Home for dinner, cooking some more.
Again clearing remains up from the floor.
Bath time, bedtime; one, two then three.
Time for just my husband and me.
Exhausted and sleepy, weary from work,
Eyes start to close, limbs start to jerk.
Head hits the pillow, another day done,
A new one tomorrow, opportunity for fun.
Another play date, another game,
Each day different, yet somehow the same.
Parenting: Parenting (or child rearing) is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the aspects of raising a child aside from the biological relationship.
I’ve written a few posts about trusting your instincts when parenting, however I’ve become aware that these posts are mainly about how important I think instincts are and how much I dislike parenting manuals. I thought maybe a post was in order where I write about what trusting your instincts means to me. Where I define it and put it into context. Where I show you how it’s helped me and how I learnt to trust mine.
Today I googled ‘instinctive mum,’ not because I wanted to revel in my own presence on the internet, but to see if there was anything like my blog out there. To see and read blogs by like minded people. Instead however, I found a blog that was completely the opposite. Where the whole premise behind it was about how we learn as parents, and that instincts very definitely do not exist; and those who say they do are doing others a disservice.
Understandably I was saddened by this, and frustrated. Now I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and boy do people have their own opinions when it comes to parenting, but I felt this was a very strong statement to make. I tweeted what I had read and many of you replied, outraged that someone should say such a thing. Dig a little deeper and you’d discover that the author of the post gave birth to a daughter who was in constant pain, and who, no matter how hard the author tried, was never comforted. Is it any wonder therefore, that the writer of the post doubted her maternal instinct? That she felt like her’s had left her and that she’d failed immediately as a mother?
I then asked the question to my followers on Twitter as to whether they believed parenting to be ‘learnt’ or ‘instinctive.’ The responses were thick and fast with many of you saying it’s a mixture of both. To which I agree. But what surprised me in the replies, and prompted this post, were the beliefs about what ‘instinctive parenting’ actually means. Does it mean knowing what each different cry from your baby means? Does it mean you always know exactly the right thing to do in every situation? Does it mean you are smug and have got this parenting malarkey sorted? Ha! No! Far from it!
For me trusting my instincts is not about having parenting sussed. It does not mean I know everything, that I am the perfect mum and always make the right decisions. I’m not and I don’t. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve doubted myself. I’ve always been useless when it comes to telling my babies’ different cries from each other and often discover the root of the problem through trial and error; if the nappy isn’t full then it’s milk time! Just because I trust my instincts does not mean I find parenting easy. Parenting is not easy, in any way shape or form. Instinctive parenting is in no way meant to be intimidating, or like a gift some of us have and others don’t. And I’d be horrified if it was added to the already over analysed list of the way we parent, as if it’s a fad or some new technique to try.
Instincts are not a wonder drug, they cannot prevent cot death or cure a sick child. They do not offer all of the answers, but they can tell us when we need to ask for help and seek advice. They are there in the middle of the night when your baby has a temperature and you need to help them. (and yes not knowing what to do and ringing the doctor is also trusting your instincts in knowing when you need a professional!) They are there when your baby cries inconsolably and you can’t comfort them and you need to ask for support and advice. They are there when your baby is adjusting their nap times, or isn’t ready to sleep alone or is showing signs of being ready to start potty training.
I agree with many of you who believe that parenting is a combination of many things and that it is an inherent blend of instincts and learning. Many parents believe instincts can tell them when something is or isn’t right for their child, and then they look for the answers, try something new and learn little more. Others say instinct relies heavily on a bond between you and your baby, yet for me I found the opposite to be true; when I was ill with PND I had difficulty bonding with my youngest and relied on my instincts more than ever to listen to his needs, as loving him didn’t seem to be enough.
Many people feel the need to seek acknowledgement or approval before they learn to listen to and trusting their instincts. Others think instincts are primeval and enable you to fundamentally look after your children whilst being influenced by other factors; and some believe that parenting is learnt from our parents and instinctively reproduced. And me, well you all know that I believe in listening to what my instincts are telling me before anything else and going with what I feel is right. I observe, ask myself many different questions, and listen to the answers my instincts are offering. And when no answers are offered I know I need to look elsewhere.
Parenting is about team work between you and your child; it’s about learning together. Undoubtedly the more time you spend together, the more you will learn about your baby and all of their beautifully individual characteristics; but I’d say instincts will definitely have played a part in building this powerful knowledge. They certainly don’t exclude learning, and can work in harmony with it. Instincts are invaluable in helping you have the confidence to trust what you’ve learnt combined with what you know deep down. You can ask for and listen to advice from others (and they’ll often give it whether you’ve asked for it or not) but only you can instinctively know which advice to follow. Only your instincts, if you listen, will let you know which advice is best for your children and your family. It takes time, it takes practice…and it’s priceless.
Do you think parenting is instinctive, learnt or a combination of both?
Instincts: Any behaviour is instinctive if it is performed without being based upon prior experience (that is, in the absence of learning), and is therefore an expression of innate biological factors. Sea turtles, newly hatched on a beach, will automatically move toward the ocean. A joey climbs into its mother’s pouch upon being born.
Manual: Manual may mean: Instructions. User guide. Owner’s manual. Instruction manual (gaming) Online help.
This morning I sat down to write a post. A post which I had been meaning to write for sometime, but had never quite plucked up the courage. For this post might just be a little bit controversial. Now, if you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that I always try to be fair and balanced, but the name of my blog itself implies where my loyalties lie in this particular piece…however I will, as always, try to look at it from every possible angle! And before we get started I’d just like to say that I am not saying don’t ask for advice. I think asking for advice and support is brilliant…I just think you should ask for it from the best possible places.
I wanted to write a post about books. Namely manuals and books all about babies. The kind of books you buy when you are pregnant with your first and then promptly ditch or use as a coaster with your second or third. You may have put your feet up on maternity leave, read these books and thought you had it sorted, that this parenting malarkey was going to be a doddle because you knew what was coming and were going to be in control. That these mums whose babies didn’t sleep through the night, were fussy eaters or had tantrums were bad parents and had done something wrong. The manuals made it all sound so easy, so simple, so straightforward.
Or were you a new parent, overwhelmed and completely sleep deprived searching for answers, seeking much needed help? Were you desperately trying to find some way of making your baby sleep because you were led to believe that a baby that doesn’t sleep is indicative of a bad parent? Were you sat on your bed in the middle of the night scouring these books to find a solution, and then did you try a gazillion different things suggested these books,that didn’t work? Whilst all the time not even looking at your baby to see what it was they actually wanted?
Now, I might have angered a few of you already. Have I made judgements? Assumed things? Or would it surprise you to know that in both of the cases above the person I have been taking about is me? I’m not ashamed to say that with my daughter, twelve years ago, even though my instincts were screaming many things and me (as was she!) I still attempted to follow the rules and listen to advice which told me what she should and ought to be doing. I still read the (often conflicting, one size fits all approach) books and believed that sleeping through the night was something that had to be achieved and then I could become part of an exclusive club. I know we all like sleep, but surely the needs of our babies are more important?
The more I read in the media and on social media the more upset and frustrated I become. I fear that parents are becoming less empowered to trust their instincts. That so called ‘experts’ are making parents believe that they are not doing the things right, and are sucking the natural parenting instincts and confidence out of new parents through feeding off their anxieties. These ‘experts’ are now, thanks to the wonder of social media, more available than ever and can even come into your house and make you believe the only reason your baby is now sleeping is because of them, and what they told you to do. That if you didn’t follow their often very strict advice and guidelines, then you’d be in a mess because you are not an expert. That if you don’t do 100% of what it says in the book that you and your baby are doomed for life. How does a mother then feel when left on their own or when what is said in the books just doesn’t happen…possibly worse than they did before?
Many of the authors of these books are not parents themselves, however, I would also argue that even if they are they would still not be the experts on my children or indeed any children but their own. They might be an expert on mixing formula, or creating a nutritious meal, but not about all of the intricacies of a baby that only a mother knows. Now I’m not saying that these manuals are the reasons for all doubt, for all anxiety and all loss of trust in our instincts, but I am saying they undoubtedly don’t help. So what would help?
I know a lot of mums I have spoken to tell me that when their baby was born they felt they had no instincts. That they didn’t know what to do. That they couldn’t read their baby who cried all of the time. And it got me thinking (yes again, sorry!) about what I could do to help. Is there a market for a book about trusting your instincts? A book that empowers parents to trust theirs? And if there were then what could I write in that book that would help, comfort, and reassure mums? (yes I do appreciate the irony of a mother who has just written a blog post about her avid dislike for baby books wanting to write one, but this book wouldn’t be a manual ok?!) It would be honest and tell of real accounts of life with babies, possibly elaborating on my previous blog posts like the one on sleep and potty training. And instead of pages and pages of instructions on what you must do it could have questions at the end of every chapter to help you read your baby and learn to trust your instincts? Your baby, your instincts, your choice.
Yes parenting is hard, yes at times it is draining, debilitating and more frustrating than anything in the whole world, but it’s still a journey I believe you and your children should undertake together. You’re not always going to get it right, but if you have the confidence to trust your instincts you’re never going to be far off the mark.
So let me know, what do you think would help mums trust their instincts more?
I wrote this post for myself and my blog, but have agreed for it to be shared on What to Expect.
Battle: Generally, a battle is a conceptual component in the hierarchy of combat in warfare between two or more armed forces, or combatants. A war sometimes consists of many battles. Battles generally are well defined in duration, area and force commitment.
Constant, heated battles,
Angry with me most days,
You want to shout out loud, be heard
Determined to do things your way.
You feel you’re so grown up now,
Yet you’re not quite old enough,
To do the things you’d like to do.
You’re finding it so tough.
You challenge every sentence.
You feel wronged in every way.
You get frustrated, get grumpy,
From one mood to the next you sway.
You say I make you angry,
That I’m cross all of the time.
You answer back because you,
Think you haven’t done the crime.
You’re quick to think the worst,
To think I’m constantly having a go.
You think I’m always saddened by you,
The seeds of doubt begin to sow.
Is this the beginning of teenagdom?
Is there worse to come?
Am I doing something wrong?
Am I not being a good mum?
Our bond is a very strong one,
Sometimes we’re just too close.
Too similar, we’re just the same.
She is like me the most.
We’re stubborn, always think we’re right.
Self doubt sometimes sneaks in.
Attacking the best form of defence,
Not stopping until we win.
She’s fiery, gorgeous, passionate and strong,
Confident and wild.
My gorgeous tween, my crazy girl,
My beautiful first child.
I try to stay calm when the whirlwind starts,
Hope the anger doesn’t last.
Take deep breaths and say to myself,
Don’t worry, this too shall pass.
Release: 1. To set free from confinement, restraint, or bondage: released the prisoners. 2. To free from something that binds, fastens, or holds back; let go: released the balloons; released a flood of questions. 3. To dismiss, as from a job.
So, it’s Wednesday again and time for a quote from me for my #wednesdaywords. And this Wednesday is indeed a very special one. For today, my middle child started school. Well, I say started…he actually only went in for two hours as the school has a ridiculously long settling in period, but nevertheless it was the first day he would wear his uniform and cross the threshold of the school building independently. A building where he will spend the next 7 years of his life and come out an entirely different person, shaped and moulded by many different experiences.
The first drop off thankfully went very smoothly. There were no battles about putting the uniform on, no tears about us leaving; just a gentle apprehension about what would happen next. The boy is so confident in so many ways and yet so shy and stilted in others. New experiences gently shake him and new people cause him to become mute and often hide behind my legs. I was worried about him starting school, worried as to whether he’d actually talk to any of the adults there. However this morning he embraced the change; the new; the unknown. He seemed a little nervous, but mostly excited about what was coming. And when he came out he was buzzing with talk of everything he’d done. He surprised me and I felt so proud. I’m a firm believer in bringing my children up to be confident and independent and his independence today made me smile. Even though he wasn’t 100% confident, he had the courage to do something new, like all of the other wonderful children in his class.
Interestingly this morning it was actually my husband who was the emotional one; he says he can never explain exactly why he is emotional (men!) but today he felt like he was giving our son over to a new part of his life. He said he hadn’t felt that emotional since the birth of our youngest. That it was the uniform, the formality. The emotion, my husband says, came completely out of the blue as he’d mostly been very excited about seeing our son off to school. And then leaving him and seeing him all alone in the classroom hit him hard. This made me feel a bit guilty, for I’d spent so many weeks preparing the boy for school that I’d forgotten all about Daddy…who was a mess!
And me. Ah where to start. Surprisingly given everything I’ve blogged about in the past I was actually very strong today. I’ve become very good at compartmentalising things; for example when I’m at work I am focused on work and don’t think about home, and vice versa when I am at home. Today I knew my role was to be happy and confident and show my son that school was nothing to fear, that it was something to enjoy and be excited about. I knew I couldn’t cry or hang around and pander to his apprehension or that would make it worse for him. I guess the primary school teacher in me came out a little bit as well. I knew being strong would help my son and would help his teachers. (And maybe, dare I say it, help me too?!)
So no, I haven’t cried yet. Maybe I’m not allowing myself to comprehend the enormity of today. But maybe it’s not the actual starting school bit I’m sad about. For he’s not the only one staring school today; there are hundreds and thousands of small children starting this week just like there were last year and will be again next year. No, it’s not that he’s starting school that makes me sad, it’s the loss of our time together. It’s that my little boy will spend most of his days away from me; changing, learning, and growing with someone else guiding him. As teachers we are ‘in loco parentis.’ We are their parents when they are at school and I’m emotional about having to share my son with so many other people. People who may hear him read his first word, or answer his first sum. People who will be as proud of his achievements as I am. People that aren’t me.
I’ve blogged about releasing children before. About how they are slowly released from us over time and that we have to let them go, confident that they will be safe in the care of others and will learn to trust their instincts and make the right decisions in the future, but I am always surprised about how hard I actually find it. My Twitter and Facebook timelines are full of mums and dads anxious and emotional about their children starting school. Parents who are pushed out of their comfort zones and are having to do something that they find difficult in learning to release their children a little bit. I know I’m not the only one. Can I offer advice? Wisdom? Can I reassure these parents that it gets easier with each child? Ummm no, sadly I don’t think I can…because for me it hasn’t. And I imagine that when my youngest goes to school in three years time, I may not be as composed as I have been today. For me it seems, releasing my children is proving to be be more difficult with each child.
Based on all of this the quote I have chosen for today’s #wednesdaywords is this….
Because today in this family, we’ve all had to do something that scares us a little bit. Be it starting school…or letting go.
Chapter: Chapter (books), main division of a piece of writing or document.
End of one part,
On to a new.
Time to start school,
Now you’re four years old.
The next chapter for you,
New stories to unfold.
You’re ready and excited,
Brain absorbing many things.
Craving fresh challenges,
Soaking up all they bring.
Beginning a new journey,
An adventure will flow.
One that will shape you,
Change you as you grow.
I worry as mums do,
Of what your future holds,
But you have to experience it,
Not the same being told.
I wish you embrace it,
The good and the bad.
So it moulds you to being,
A confident, happy lad.
Be the best that you can be,
Enjoy as you learn.
You only get one go,
And now it’s your turn.
Forget the assessment,
Forget all they test.
For me if you’re happy,
Then my worries can rest.
I’ll be here beside you,
And love you each day,
So for as long as possible,
You can be a child, play.
School is a big step,
For you and for me.
What the next chapter holds,
Will be exciting to see.
Restore: To return (something, esp a work of art or building) to an original or former condition. To bring back to health, good spirits, etc.
You know the phrase ‘I didn’t know how hungry I was until I ate something?’ or ‘I didn’t realise I was so poorly until I felt better?’ Well now I’ve invented a new one….’I didn’t realise how much we needed a family holiday together until we had one!’
For the last two glorious weeks we have been in France, staying in an old and crumbling gite near Royan, which is on the west coast near Bordeaux. Just the five of us for two whole weeks. The last time we went on holiday abroad for two weeks was four years ago, and then only week of it was just us as a family (then only four of us) and the last week was with my mum, brother and sister-in-law. It was the holiday where we got engaged, proposed to at Mont St Michel and it was lovely, but not in the same way as this. This has been magical. We have slotted into a relaxed, carefree routine and blended together as a family. Work and PND have not enabled that to happen for many reasons over the last year or so. My husband often works long hours and can be in Bristol on a Monday, Leeds on Tuesday, London on Wednesday and then Edinburgh at the end of the week. Sometimes we are definitely like ships that sail in the night and only have time for a brief ‘hello’ before tiredness sets in and one of us has dropped off to sleep on the sofa. We haven’t had a “date night’ when it has just been the two of us for at least the last six months, if not longer. And often the children see daddy briefly in the morning as he’s rushing out of the door or for a bit before bedtime. Weekends are also often so busy visiting lovely family and friends that again it’s never just us. In essence we’ve almost been too busy to be a family.
So last year when I wasn’t very well and it was a difficult time for us all, my husband thought it a good idea for us all to have something to look forward to. A two week holiday in one of my favourite places, where I used to holiday as a child and is filled with wonderful happy memories. We saved up and found a gite we could afford. The gite is very traditional and is a bit tired and things tend to fall apart in your hands the minute you touch them, but it’s been our home for the past two weeks and has been fantastic!
Somehow France has worked it’s magic. It’s relaxed us all; the 12 year old has had less hormonal moments than usual and even the 1 year old has been sleeping! Work and the groundhog repetitiveness of everyday life have been forgotten. The silly things my husband and I used to bicker about no longer important. I’ve actually managed to read two whole books and I haven’t worn any make up or done my hair once! It’s been so refreshing!
But more important than all of that is the little traditions and memories we are making as a family. Songs on the radio that become our French holiday songs. Games on the beach and in the sea that become our holiday games. Time spent making wonderful memories for the children to look back on when they are grown up, just as I have been remembering my wonderful holidays from when I was a child. You can read a poem I have written about building memories here. And also, in the evenings when the children are all in bed, my husband and I have had precious time to ourselves, time where we’re not too exhausted to have a conversation, time to listen to each other and laugh.
I know we’ve been very lucky to have been able to afford a holiday abroad (next year we will almost certainly holiday at home) and that this holiday as been the perfect first one as a family of five. We shall all treasure it forever and need to remember how important time as a family is. It is so easy to get eaten up by everyday life and all of the cr** that it can bring so….my mid-year resolution is to make sure that we have more time together as a family….and that my husband and I will have that all elusive ‘date night!’