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.
Holiday: A holiday is a day set aside by custom or by law in which normal activities, especially business or work, are to be suspended or reduced.
Having just arrived home after an eventful few days ‘holidaying’ in Wales, I am currently sat with a much needed hot cup of tea and a large mountain of chocolate beside me, looking at the photos of our few days away. After the success of our last family holiday in France I was looking forward to another break away, and another chance to build more memories. Which technically, we did…but not in quite the same way, as the weekend was more of a comedy of errors than a restful break away. I shall start at the very beginning, and I apologise for what is rather a long, and possibly at times, rather rambling post…but I needed to get it all out! (skip to the end for my profound response to it all if you choose! ;-))
So…my husband was supposed to have the whole week off work before we were due to got I Wales onThursday, but as always in his line of business, there was some sort of ‘deal’ happening and he annoyingly needed to go into work on both Monday and Wednesday. Now I have to admit to not being too amused by this, however as there wasn’t really anything I could do I (mostly) kept my mouth shut. It did mean however, that as I had all three children to myself my brain wasn’t completely focused on the packing and by Wednesday night it still wasn’t done and we were due to leave by Thursday lunchtime. I don’t know what it’s like in your household, but generally here…I do ALL of the packing, partly because I’m a total control freak, and partly because my husband wouldn’t have a clue what to pack even if I asked him. Normally I’m very organised and in control of the packing (I do love a list!)…..however this time, I did it very quickly and I didn’t do it very well. (not a list in sight)
It quickly became apparent that I’d forgotten quite a few things. Never has the phrase I uttered as we were driving down the M4 and across the bridge ‘I’m sure I’ve forgotten something’ been more apt, for I had forgotten some quite vital things as you will discover as you read on…
We arrived at the cottage and let ourselves in as we’d been told it was unlocked. Small and quaint, but perfect for what we needed we were quite pleased! There was as strong smell of air freshners which turned out to be those stick things you put in a jar of smelling liquid, it took about five minutes for us all to start sneezing so I hid the offending freshener in the downstairs toilet. The smell stopped, but the sneezing didn’t….all sodding weekend. Fresh air was in order and we were just around the corner from the ‘Mountain Cafe,’ where there were apparently amazing views of the Brecon Beacons. Not today however, as just as we got back into the car to drive there the heavens opened. We found the centre, surrounded by mist and rain clouds and not a single pleasant view, and all ran inside. It was about four o’clock by now so we went to the cafe for a cuppa and cake. There was a nice softplay there, yet as always, my 17month old wanted to wander where he shouldn’t, which was on this occasion around the tables that weren’t being used and had chairs upside down on top of them. I asked my husband to get him (he was closer!) as I could foresee a nasty chair falling incident and got the reply, ‘he’s alright he’s just walking,’ and then, yes, you guessed it, two seconds later and the boy decided to pull a chair in top of his beautiful little head. Cue screaming, cue looks from everyone judging us for letting him walk there in the first place, cue me shouting ‘I told you so,’ and everyone feeling slightly awkward. Thankfully the crying stopped and we could see there wasn’t much damage done to my little one, yet everyone else was left feeling a little bit tense.
We went back to the cottage where were discovered that it really isn’t set up for small people. There were no stair gates, no secure fire guards next to the log fire, no high chair, hard corners everywhere, cleaning products in kitchen cupboards where the doors could be easily opened….I could go on. I take it for granted that at home, and the majority of other homes I’m in, that there are things put in place to make life easy, to keep children safe without you having to follow them around every single second of every minute. The toddler jammed his fingers in drawers, picked up firewood and got splinters, changed the channels (to no channel) on the tv, ran up the stairs and all sorts of other mischievous things…and that was with two of us watching him constantly! It was not relaxing AT ALL!
Thankfully he goes to bed at six and it was then I discovered the first of my packing errors…I had not packed a bottle, not one single bottle and he will currently not go to sleep without one at night…so this resulted in me having to do a very quick dash into Brecon hoping that the local supermarket sold bottles, which thankfully they did. I raced back to find a very overtired little boy, a rather stressed out Dad and that the majority of the lounge had been moved or altered in some way to make it a bit safer…for everyone!
The boys went to bed and the second of my packing f*** ups became apparent…I hadn’t packed the four year old’s blow up sleeping bag bed. No bed. FFS. Why couldn’t I have forgotten socks or toothpaste or things that weren’t really, really important? After a frantic search and brainstorm we found some cushions that are meant for the sun loungers that were outside. We found a spare duvet cover to use as a sheet and a lovely blanket for a cover. Sorted.
Wine was now in order and then I cooked dinner (priorities!) We had a relaxing evening in front of the tv and then went to bed. Day 1 done.
Day 2 was ok, we discovered a lovely farm and spent hours there feeding lambs, holding rabbits and chinchillas and watching spooky shows. The only things that weren’t perfect were that even after we’d ordered our lunch it didn’t appear, and when we asked it turned out that they’d lost our order and had to start again from scratch, cue three very hungry and grumpy children. Then the 17 month old walked into a (unpadded!!) metal bar in the toddler soft play area and added another bruise to his already colourful little face. Poor little chap, he is so accident prone at the moment and every time he falls over and hurts himself I feel soooo guilty. We spent most of the day there and then after the older two had completed a challenge and collected two pumpkins on the way out, we left.
Back at the cottage the four year old suddenly went very pale and quiet and wasn’t himself at all. Thinking he was just worn out from the day we had early nights all round, however when he woke up on Saturday it was clear that he was poorly with a nasty high temperature. Turns out he picked a good day to make us all stay in as there was a storm outside. A massive, huge , horrible storm that was worse than we experienced last week in Bristol. Garden furniture was blown all over the place and the road outside became a river. Keeping our fingers crossed we didn’t have a power cut as there was only one candle in the cottage and no matches, we all huddled in the over crowded slightly unsafe lounge. I cooked a roast thinking that would cheer everyone up, but the toddler threw his on the floor and it wasn’t the happy family meal I’d envisaged with my husband and I having to take it in turns to look after him and eat our roast cold. I was in bed by seven that night as I was utterly exhausted.
And today, well today on the way home, we visited Caerphilly castle and froze our butts off walking around and exploring it for a few hours. Nice and fun…but freezing cold!!
I’m not entirely sure what the point, moral or message of this post is (I usually like to have one) but I guess writing about it has helped me as blogging usually does…putting the last few days in perspective has taught me not to expect anything when there are children around (and that I need to think carefully and write lists when packing!) I’d imagined us all walking up the mountains or around the beautiful reservoirs of the Brecon Beacons (which we couldn’t have done anyway because I’d forgot the blimmin sling) I’d imagined cosy nights in, laughter, rest and relaxation and I guess I came home slightly disappointed that there wasn’t really any of this, and that sadly, this weekend, the errors and mishaps didn’t make us share laughter, or rest, or relax….they just served to frustrate and exhaust my husband and I even more.
Yet ask the children if they’ve had a great time and the reply would be a resounding ‘YES!!’ For them there wasn’t a forgotten bed, but an opportunity for an exciting sleepover in big sister’s bedroom on a brand new bed! There wasn’t a dangerous storm, but a thrilling show through the window of magical moving furniture and blowing leaves. There weren’t banged heads, but adventures and places that had been explored. There were new experiences, new memories being stored, new things done; and even though my husband and I have come back exhausted, the children have come back energised (apart from the slightly ill one) A change for them it seems, really is as good as a rest….
Do you find family time away relaxing…or exhausting??
I’ve linked up with the lovely @PODcast ‘s What’s the Story? this week, luckily she let me tell this story with lots of photos! 😉
Memories: The mental faculty of retaining and recalling past experience. The act or an instance of remembering; recollection: spent the afternoon lost in memory. All that a person can remember. Something remembered: pleasant childhood memories.
Yet often apart.
Separated all day,
Joined by five hearts.
Goodbye in the morning,
Gone all the day.
Together at last.
Like my childhood past.
Same beach as then,
Twenty-five years on.
Father not here,
Fourteen years gone.
Memories built then,
Still vivid and clear.
Just like it was yesterday,
And he somehow near.
A family then,
When I was the child.
As the parent now,
New memories are filed.
Time away important,
A chance to rest.
Recharging spent batteries,
Time out with the best.
Laughter and love,
Five of us as one.
Living and loving,
Days on the beach,
Long, lazy nights.
Precious time together,
My family, my world.
Breathing in new memories,
My heart forever will hold.
Collaboration: Collaboration is working with each other to do a task. It is a recursive process where two or more people or organisations work together to realise shared goals, this is more than the intersection of common goals seen in co-operative ventures, but a deep, collective, determination to reach an identical objective.
So, yesterday was another day. And another debate that has divided Twitter into two camps….those who teach, and those who don’t.
Regularly teachers are criticised, condemned and blamed for everything from too much sex education to giving children chocolate. We are admonished for having too many holidays, too much time off and yes…of course we finish work at three fifteen every day!
Yesterday’s debate started with talk about taking holidays during term time. This is an argument for which I can see both sides. As a teacher it’s a sodding pain in the arse when one or two of your class aren’t there for a fortnight. They miss whole concepts. They miss precious bonding time. They miss routine, being part of a school community and so much more. However, I can also see it from the viewpoint of a parent, why should we have to pay extortionate amounts to take a holiday? Why should we be dictated to and only be allowed to go away at certain times of the year or risk a fine?
But what has got to me today, is that even though it is NOT teachers who have made up this ridiculous law, it is teachers who are being blamed and condemned for it. Being a teacher is endlessly frustrating and for every parent who thanks you for being an inspiration to their child there are a million others quick to criticise. We are criticised for working children too hard, for not working them hard enough, for being too firm, for being too lenient. It is a very very difficult job to meet the individual needs of 30 children, but it’s a hell of a lot harder meeting the needs of their parents.
And I know, I KNOW, that YOU are their parents and I can hear you screaming at me through my computer. But so many parents don’t trust us to do what is right for their children, they don’t listen. The media and Gove don’t bloody help either, but I can assure you that all we are ever trying to do is what is best for your child, each and every single one of them, every single day. I am very aware as a teacher that children get one shot at school and they deserve their shot to be the very best. Sadly though too many people don’t respect teachers, which in turn results in children not respecting teachers. If the parent doesn’t support the school, then naturally it feeds down.
Anyway, I digress. The debate was about holidays during term time. In my own personal opinion I think family holidays are so important. Time when you can be a family with no pressure of work, commitments or school. To explore other countries, learn new languages and immerse yourself in new cultures. And I would argue that travel firms, who I know are businesses and will therefore function like one, create divides by upping their prices dramatically during the holidays which sadly out prices holidays for many people. I should know, I don’t get a choice and can only go away in the school holidays! I think there are certain times in the year when a holiday in term time could, maybe be ok, at the end of term for example and I DON’t agree with schools fining parents if they take their children out unauthorised during term time or the new law one bit. And what frustrates me more than anything is that everyone blames schools when it’s the sodding government who are responsible for the half the shit we have to do anyway. It is not schools who are banning packed lunches, it is not schools who are banning holidays!! It is the government who are proposing all of these things.
I’m not saying that education is perfect at the moment, far far from it, (that’s another post!) but every single teacher I know could not be more passionate about their profession. Could not be more motivated and enthusiastic to provide children with the best possible education they can. Most teachers at my school get there at half past seven in the morning and have to be thrown out of the building by the caretaker at six o’clock, then only to take masses of work home and sit and do it all evening. And before someone comments that there are some rubbish teachers in the world then yes, you’re right, there are, we can’t all be perfect, but thankfully they are in the minority. Many, many teachers are parents themselves and do for every single child in their class what they would expect a teacher to do for their children. I have become so attached to the children I’ve taught in the past that at the end of the year I have been in tears at the thought of not teaching them everyday the following year.
I just wish for once that parents and schools could work as teams, we’ve all got children’s best interests at heart after all. The whole holiday in term time debate is just another angle for which teachers can be criticised from. It’s such a shame. If we all had a report card about collaboration I imagine it would say…..could do better.
I have also written a post about Gove’s proposed longer school days and shorter holidays which you can read here.