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Sunday, 29 June 2014

Cancer - the biggest heartbreaker

I really want to talk to my Gran today, desperately. So much it hurts.

I need my Gran today because only she could offer the words of comfort and reassurance that I so desperately need.

But, despite the fact that I could talk to her in person, it wouldn't be her there anymore.

You see, she's dying very slowly of cancer. And little by little this vile scourge is eating painfully away at every part of her and the Gran I once knew is no longer there.

Now in its final stages, this cruel and wicked disease has finally moved onto her brain. She doesn't really know who we are anymore and drifts in and out of consciousness with an air of quiet inevitability and acceptance of what is to come.

This was a woman who I could talk to about anything. If something or someone hurt me, she would have my back, no matter what.

I love the way she would apply reasoning from her own experiences and expectations, like people still acted and behaved in the way they did sixty years ago.

To start with I felt selfish getting so upset that I couldn't have my Gran there for me anymore. After all, I'm not the one who is dying slowly and painfully, losing every dignity I once held dear.

But then I realised, we all have to go eventually, one way or another. My Gran is 94 years old and has had a long and happy life.

She truly believes it won't be long before she meets my Grandpa and her parents again and I think that's beautiful.

When it happens though, a piece of me will be missing forever. A comfort and support that I won't ever get again. Call me selfish, but that's what hurts the most.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

When is it ok to be a mummy to all?

Gosh it's an age old question isn't it?

You're friends with someone, really close friends actually.

But when comes the point that it's ok to tell your friend's kids off when they're being naughty?

When is it ok to take those kids only a few feet away to play on a climbing frame with your own children when their mum's got her hands full?

Do you know what? Today I found out there's no formula, it's all down to the individual.

You see, I've made loads of friends at my son's pre school and while we all parent in different ways, there's a kind of an unspoken bond.

Sometimes as a mum, you just instinctively do things to help other mums out, because it's a tough job, let's face it!

Other mums are the only people in the world who know just how much hard work it is to do what we do.

So we all kind of muck in together. Or that's what I've found.

Just the other day, for instance, one of my friends, who is a mum to two boys like me, suggested that she take the two older boys into pre school while I kept an eye on the younger ones.

That worked really well. The older two enjoyed going in together and the younger two didn't feel the need to kick off because they couldn't join in. Great!

But then, at a school fete today, with a friend who was running a stall there, I let her kids step a couple of feet away to play with mine for a minute, thinking she'd appreciate it while she was busy.

You'd think I'd committed mass genocide!

I suppose that because we were so close by and she could see us - and because we were such good friends - I just assumed she be grateful that I was trying to keep them entertained and that she'd appreciate it. But apparently not.

Fact is, you can never second guess people and you can never generalise about the way people think.

They do say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so maybe I just need to be a bit more selfish in future?

After all we don't live in a commune do we? Why should we look out for each other?

Actually, I think we should. But, I guess that's just what makes me an individual.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Eeeeeks! It's finally happened!

Just like the film Freaky Friday (the Jodie Foster version) I have officially turned into my mother and my mother has turned into me!

Here I am about to go to bed on a Sunday night at 10pm, tutting away to myself,  because the people opposite are having a banging, boozy house party!

There was a time when I would have been gutted that I didn't get an invite.

Now all I can think of is how selfish they are playing music so loud at this time, with people having to work in the morning and how it had better not wake the children up!

My mother, on the other hand, would have preferred to be over there joining in, I'm sure!

What on earth has happened?

I can only deduce that with parenthood comes a certain air of responsibility and the relief of giving up the "children still at home" stage of parenthood brings about some sort of sense of freedom.

Now enjoying their retirement, my mother has informed me that her and my father would like to buy a holiday home in Brighton, because they like the buzz of the place!

Ok, Brighton is a really lively and lovely place to be, but SAGA it ain't! Maybe a bit further up the coast in Eastbourne, but hey ho, who am I to judge?

After all, it was only five years ago I was trotting up and down the stunning, but very steep, Amalfi coast - now holidays have to be all about family friendly fun time!

It all reminds me of a phrase my beautiful but mischievous 94-year-old gran told me once about starting life as a child and ending it as a child.

Because with childhood comes a sense of freedom, fun and irresponsibility and at the end of your life, when you've done everything you're supposed to, why not have a little fun?



Friday, 13 June 2014

The travel bug has hit!

This beautiful sunshine really is fabulous isn't it!

I flipping love the summer and one thing that sunshine makes me dream of is travelling to far flung climes for a lovely relaxing break or the chance to do some exploring!

Thing is, with most of us feeling the pinch these days, that dream holiday really needs to be right first time doesn't it...  And cheap!

After all, once we've raided the poor piggy bank for the umpteenth time, who knows when we'll get the chance again?

So I've put together my wish list for a perfect holiday:

Leg room on the plane - it's nice to make friends, but those seats really are crammed into the plane aren't they? I think shorter people must feel cramped, but, being of the giraffe variety myself, enough space is a must!

Kiddy friendly passengers on the plane and in the hotel as well as understanding staff... Whole new ball game when you have children isn't it? Say no more..!

Clean and functional hotel - I really don't want to travel to somewhere that's like a dirtier version of home. I want some luxury and to feel pampered when I'm on holiday.. High maintenance? Moi?

Everything done for you - look, I'm not talking about helping me wash and dress here, just having someone else do the cooking and clearing up would be AMAZING!

Safe spaces for children to play - as mentioned above, it is a different ball game when travelling with little ones, but if you do get a chance to relax for five minutes you want to know they can't go far and get into any danger.

Happy children.. make for happy mummies and daddies.

No massive queues - made all the worse by doing it in the stifling heat. Go on, open up another counter, pleeeease!

And finally... I spend much of my mummy life craving it... Peace!

(So no holidays next to building sites or banging nightclubs please!)

If you can find me all of this for the price of a bus ticket, couple of receipts, a few moths and the rest of the fluff in my handbag, I'll be happy!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Parent or best bud?

It's good to be a dad, it's better to be a friend?

A recent advert made this bold statement. It was about a dad showing his son all the fun things he used to do as a child, which was lovely to see.

We often bemoan the fact that our children are not getting the childhoods we had, spending too much time in front of computers and too little climbing trees.

But, because of that strapline, the advert instantly had me asking the question, do parents try too hard to be their children's friends these days and by doing so, neglect the role of parent and mentor?

I know the advert was meant to be nostalgic for all of us who, born in the seventies and eighties, spent most of our childhood playing outside.

Back in the days before cbeebies and nick jr, when it was always hot in the summer and snowed in the winter (at least that's how I rose tintedly remember it)….

When a Saturday morning show was about all we got. Remember Going Live, Swapshop, Get Fresh, even Tiswas?

But now we are the adults. So, while parents are busily 'fraping' their children on Facebook and trying to be cool, are they forgetting that the real job is to teach our children right from wrong?

When entirely frustrated with my three year old the other day and pulling my hair out at his naughty antics, it occurred to me, kids aren't born knowing what to do.

They push the boundaries and that is their way of finding out what is allowed and what is not.

We bring them into the world. Instead of sticking them in front of xboxes and leaving it to the schools to show them the way, it is our job to guide them from the start.

It is good to be friend. To love and cherish your child, to build their confidence and to try and be understanding where you can. But it is more important, I believe, to be a parent.

First published on iamintothis.co.uk

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Mummy comes from the heart, not the head

An episode of the US drama, House, starring Hugh Laurie, really got me thinking recently.

In the episode ("Parents" season eight), Laurie's character made the statement that all parents f#ck their kids up, with no exception.

He later went on to explain that it's because, as parents you act with your heart and not your head.

I found this incredibly interesting.

Actions of the heart are normally associated with love, but actually this is only a part of the whole picture.

Any feelings that aren't premeditated, that involve emotion, can be seen to come from the heart, whether it's love, hate, anger, fear, passion or whatever.

This was illustrated well to me in another episode of the same drama when it portrayed a brilliant example of a psychopath female ("Remorse" season six).

An article I read by William Hirstein in Psycology Today, pointed to findings that the brains of psychopaths have weak connections among the components of the brain’s emotional systems. These disconnects are responsible for the psychopath’s inability to feel emotions deeply.

As parents, we are so easily judged by all around us. You probably find yourself doing it - looking at a stressed out mum shouting at her children as she struggles wearily to get on with what she's doing.

And then on a particularly bad day, which follows a night of little sleep, you find yourself doing the same thing and that's when the guilt sets in.

The thing is, it's easy to judge when we're thinking with our heads, but not so easy to control our feelings when we're thinking with our hearts.

That's why we need to forgive ourselves more. Because the majority of us are good mums and we would die to protect our children, shouty stress head or no shouty stress head.

And I'm glad I parent with my heart and not my head. Because it means that I love my children so deeply it hurts. I comfort them when they fall and cuddle them when they cry.

Yes, I might shout at them the odd time, when they're being particularly hard work, but that's what makes me human.

And that's just fine with me.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Food fight!

Unlike Eastenders' Biaaanca, I am not a fan of feeding my children chicken nuggets for their dinner every night.

Nor will I put fish fingers and spaghetti in front of them all the time, which is the one thing my three year old will eat up, no questions asked.

Yes, there could be food a lot less nutritious and there's certainly nothing wrong with a bit of what you like (hey, at least he's eating), but I have always liked them to try different things.

My toddler, bless his little pot belly, will wolf down whatever you give him, but it seems my older child has discovered the option of not eating.

And so, this he does ... Every. Single. Breakfast, lunch and dinner time ad nauseam...

I sometimes wonder how many more times I'll have to tell him he can't have breakfast from the treat cupboard, until it finally sinks in.

Obviously, he's just testing boundaries and is at that blessed age where he will try and see what he can get away with. How else do they learn right from wrong?

But gone are the days of force feeding (thank God) or children going to bed hungry.

To be honest, I'm up enough through the night; the last thing I need is a hungry little boy to add to the trips to the loo, dropped dummies and ejected bed sheets.

So, what to do with a child who is a bit too young to empathise with the starving children in Africa or understand that if he doesn't eat, he will soon leave this mortal coil?

Believe me, the phrase "you'll sit there until you've eaten it" is long dead. My little man's record so far is three hours sat at the breakfast table. Unfortunately there's not enough hours in the day for that!

My stepdaughter even trumped that by falling asleep at the dinner table! What can you do then but put them to bed?

I know stricter parents would probably have served it up for her breakfast the next day, but that's just not me!

One great idea from a nanny friend of mine is based on the reward chart system, where you sit down together and create a special place mat.

When they have enough stickers on their place mat, they get a reward.

It's a lovely chance to do something arty and creative together and actually, because it's visible throughout mealtimes it seems to be working really well so far... Let's just see how we get on!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Life, love and loss

This is a hard one to write.

This year I will lose from my life the two people who have unfailingly supported me and given me the small amount of self confidence and self esteem that I have.

One, my grandmother, to liver cancer, the other, my godmother, to motor neurone disease. Both have very little time left and both will leave a massive gaping hole in my life where they once were.

You see, I was a very awkward teenager. No one ever really understood me or understood why I never fitted in.

There was a lot of anger and hurt inside me that I just didn't know how to deal with, and depression was a looming spectre ever since I could remember. But these two ladies saw through that.

They always made me feel special and loved. Always focussed on my good points, instead of putting me down and more importantly they believed in me.

As a result of this I was able to believe in myself. That I could do something good with my life. For this I will be forever grateful.

By the end of this year, I won't have them anymore and while I'm keeping a brave face on for my children, inside I'm devastated.

I know death happens, it's a fact of life, and I know I'm a big girl now, with my own family to look after.

But, as I held my dying gran's hand and watched her drift in and out of consciousness this weekend, I thought, how on earth am I going to be able to explain it to my three year old, when I'm struggling to come to terms with it myself?

So I sat him down and talked to him about the flowers in the garden and how they will all get tired and eventually die.

I explained that this was the same for people. I told him great gran was very poorly and just like the flowers she would soon die too, but that we'd always remember her and love her.

I think he understood; hopefully more than I do. It's so black and white for children.

I made the decision not to take him to see her because I wanted him to remember her how she was, not the ravaged figure that cancer has left behind.

I haven't been able to cry about it yet, but it's always there hiding behind my brave face. Hopefully I'll get a chance to let it out soon, maybe when my boys aren't around to see it.

Life is cruel and cold. Make the most of every moment and be kind to each other, because you never know when it's going to be taken away.