Conviction

I really do wonder at times whether I missed one of my ante-natal jabs with Blake. I had the flu-jab, I took supplements until I rattled, but I am quite convinced that I missed out on the dose of conviction that so many other first time Mums seem to possess.

They must hand this stuff out surely? Because I vividly remember the magnitude of having a tiny life resting quite literally in my hands hitting me full force shortly after we arrived home from hospital, and I have quietly doubted 92% of all of my parenting decisions ever since.

Is this the right way to wean? Probably not on reflection. How do I get this child to nap? How can I stop him sucking his fingers? Is this OK, should he be doing that, how do I stop him doing this? And on and on and on. It’s been a little better with Max, I am a little more prepared to trust my instincts and go with it but honestly, I think if you’d approached me in the first 12 months of Blake’s life and told me he needed exposure to elephants to round out his sensory development I’d have trotted off to Twycross Zoo. Even now, when talking about parenting decisions we have made for the boys I find myself verging on apologetic and often confused afterwards about whether the decision is, indeed, as right as i believed it to be 30 minutes before.

How can you not doubt yourself? No-one can prepare you for quite how crushing the responsibility of parenting is, no-one can make you see as you plough smugly through the Baby Whisperer, or Truly Happy Baby or  *mutter* Gina Ford, that when push comes to shove and colic comes to your house, you will have no clue what you are doing. That parenting is all about finding your way in the dark and stumbling upon the things that will work for your family.
So how is it that some new Mums have such conviction? Such utter confidence in the decisions they make?

I go to a Bumps and Babies group once a week with Max, and I’ve chatted to a Mum there a few times. She is utterly confident in the decisions she makes, and rightly so. Her baby is a beautiful, happy, content little thing. But really it is quite breathtaking this confidence. How is she so utterly assured? Yes, she tells me, baby likes this and she has done this and he has responded ever so well. Yes, she is going to give such and such a try at the weekend. Oh you’re doing that are you? I don’t think that will work for baby for these three entirely credible reasons.

HOW DO THESE MUMS DO IT? How do they believe so completely and confidently in themselves? It could be that behind the scenes they doubt themselves every bit as much as me but I am not sure that is the case. Some Mums just have this thing cracked.

If you are such a Mum, bravo! And if not, I’d like to quietly suggest that is probably alright too. I still have bugger all clue what I’m doing but Blake is 5, he is keeping his head above water at school, he communicates well, he eats a limited but fairly healthy range of food and he makes me frequently proud. And the baby is 7 months, smiles a lot and is having a good go at solids.

You can have all the conviction in the world (HOW DO YOU DO THIS?!) or very little (and I can assure you there is a Mum out there equally worried, equally unsure, equally adrift), but I would politely suggest that if you have your child’s best interests at heart and you teach them to be kind, little by little, conviction or no conviction, the rest falls into place.

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Home for Christmas

My parents have lived in their house for 20 years. It is my childhood home and tonight the boys and I are staying over whilst Daddy goes out for a ‘few’ Christmas drinks.

I hadn’t realised until today that it’s actually a lucky privilege that they are still safe and snug within this home that is so very different to our own home but is so very familiar and cosy and mine. Especially at Christmas, where memories are strong and walking into my parents’ lounge conjurs up peace.

I’m very lucky to have this. I know not everyone will. But I am grateful today for the ghosts of Christmas past in this house, my Mum and Dad merrily sozzled and watching the Queen’s speech, my great Aunt wearing a Christmas hat and telling me tales of her green Morris Minor, countless Christmas films watched on the TV, discarded wrapping paper piled high, Christmas candles burning.

And now, my own Children creating their own memories here, weaving a patchwork of their own traditions over ours. 5 month old Max entranced by my Mum’s Christmas tat – teddies that sing and twinkle and are wonderful in their crapness, Blake and I dancing to the same old Christmas CDs that we’ve played for years. Leafing through Christmas books that were once mine, singing a new selection of Christmas songs that have come home from school, watching a baby drink in the lights and sounds and smells. 

In my children I find hope against the backdrop of a tough year. I fear for them, the society they must enter is harder, grittier and crueler than the one I have faced so far, but at Christmas I see more than ever the way in which children default to light rather than dark and to love rather than fear or hate. They give me courage and they help me find hope.

I’m not really sure that there’s a point to this post other than to indulge in some corny festive sentiment. (Sorry if it’s not for you). I hope there is a nostalgia that reaches out to you over the next few days. I hope you create memories you can claim for your own. Merry Christmas. X

Take a breath

Today has been one of those days that is just downright overwhelming. No need for me to go into the ins and outs of it, you’re all human people (except if Nigel Turdage is reading this) and we all have these kinds of days. 

But safe to say that at about 2pm I felt like the walls were closing in and so I bolted for the park with Max for a quick walk to try and clear my head. Firm believer in the therapeutic walk me.

And as I looked down at this precious little guy who joined us three months ago, who beamed back up at me in his smiley way, I took a breath and gave myself a break. I realised I am bolder and braver and stronger than the daily grind often allows me to acknowledge.

I carried a child for 9 months whilst my body reacted fiercely against the process of doing so.

I’ve given birth, with all that entails, twice.

I manage the school run with a baby in tow.

I get clothes washed and dried and occasionally put away.

I feed my children.

I wake up each day and face its unknowns – the possibilities that open up, the hardships, the unexpected.

I could bleat on. You get the point. 

Brave, bold and strong. And so are you. Whether you are a parent or not, there is something deep down fierce and beautiful about the human spirit. So if you too are having a day akin to mine, please cut yourself some slack. You are remarkable – stronger, braver and bolder than you know. Lots of love x

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This is Blake

I know I am not alone in having received a form from school, asking me to provide details of my child’s ethnicity. This request, which asks for passport details if the child is not British, has bothered me more than I can say. It is a persistent itch in my brain that cannot be soothed. To me it smacks of something awful – of an attempt to catalogue our children by the nationality that a twist of fate picked for them, and I do not bloody like it.

This is Britain in 2016. Our country is a cultural melting pot and I’m convinced this is a good thing. My children are growing up in Birmingham. The accent is crap. The city is improving in looks. And it is hugely diverse. I want my kids to relish that – I want them to understand humanity is a rich tapestry underpinned by the fundamental fact that we are all people – nothing more or less. 

So let me tell you about Blake, Mr Local Authority or Tory Government or whoever is behind this bizarre, outdated request.

This is Blake.

He loves superheroes, castles, beaches, trucks and his Grandparents’ dogs.

He is obsessed with Lego. He constructs model after model from within the worlds in his mind – each one varied and with its own backstory.

He is a nightmare when hungry.

He adores his new Brother.

He is stubborn, stroppy and downright belligerent at times.

He knows his own mind and has more conviction in his views on the world than some adults I know.

He is fickle and funny and at his heart a kind, loyal friend.

He likes to sit on the sofa in his pants at the end of the school day.

He speaks at times like a 60 year old man, and is wise beyond his years.

He thinks farts are just about the funniest thing imaginable.

He wears his hood up, every day, whatever the weather.

He is every tone and shade and colour there is, to a greater or lesser degree, on any given day.

He is the coolest person I know. He cannot be defined or boxed or neatly packaged up. Just like every other child.

And so I will not be playing ball on this one, much as it goes against my intrinsic need to people-please. I’m going to keep losing that form until you stop asking for it, and I know I’m not the only one.

He is so much more than his ethnicity. 

This is a modern world, without barriers. Don’t catalogue children. Please respect them and allow them to be their own unique selves.

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To Blake, as you start school

Hi sweetheart,

The big day is nearly here. On Monday you start school. I’ve washed and ironed the uniform, name-tagged like there’s no tomorrow and packed up your pump bags with PE kit and mud kitchen worthy clothing.

I’d planned to write something thought out and articulate to mark the occasion, but the reality is life is hectic right now. Your brother is 5 weeks old, I get about 3 hours of sleep a night, the house is chaos and I’m pretty sure I called your Dad Hilda last night such is my zombied state.

So I will pen you this for posterity.

We are immensly, immeasurably proud of you Blake. 

You’re ready for school. I don’t know how next week will go because it’s a big deal starting school and you’re a worrier like your Mum. But you have a curiosity about the world and a desire to learn that is a joy to watch and I think (hope) that will triumph over nerves in the coming weeks.

We’ve asked a lot of you this Summer. Max arrived and turned our world upside down. Of course, there have been times you’ve been frustrated with me and your Dad, but reflecting on it you’ve navigated it like a pro and shown us how far your confidence has come, how adaptable and grown up you are at nearly five.

In truth, to me at least, you are a delight. You’re funny and inquisitive, thoughtful and caring, wise beyond your years (and parents) in so many ways. Above all you are kind and there’s so much kindness missing from the world that it’s beautiful to see you demonstrate it so consistently without agenda.

The fact that you are ready makes me as ready as I’ll ever be to wave you through those gates on Monday. I could list off all of my hopes and dreams for you, but they’re yours to define and chase, not mine. Whatever you love, whatever subjects you pursue, whatever those hopes and dreams are, we’ll be behind you cheering you on. (Unless you choose to hunt whales or support Nigel Farage in which case we’ll chat.) Despite what’s going on with the Government, an education is one of the great privileges gifted to you through virtue of being born in the UK in 2016 and I’m so excited for you for all the things you’ll discover over the next 7 years and beyond into Secondary.

So I’ll sign off with this – I hope for nothing but the best for you, just as I have done since I first set eyes on you and just as I’ll always do.

Here we go then sweetheart. Let’s do this!

All my love,

Your shattered, hormonal, daft old Mummy

X

The final days of just us three

I got a little choked at bedtime tonight. Blake; my generally affectionate, sweet little boy, lavished on me a cuddle of such magnitude even for him that it totally bowled me over physically and emotionally.

I am 39 weeks pregnant today. This means there are maximum of three weeks to go before we go from a family of three to four, and we are on high alert countdown to my due date next Friday. Pretty soon, bedtime is going to be somewhat different.

I am extremely conscious at the moment that the days of Blake-and-Me are drawing to a close. Things are going to change. Not my feelings obviously – I will adore Blake forever, and I very much hope he will continue to tell me, unprompted, that he loves me too.

But I would be a fool to think things won’t change. After all, I have done this before (albeit a while ago), I know exactly how demanding a baby can be, how relentless a vortex those first few weeks are, how life contracts for a little while. And I need to balance that with continuing to care for my four year old, with making him feel that he is every bit as loved as he is right now even with a little brother on the scene.

I’m sure it’s perfectly natural to be feeling this way, but bugger me it’s daunting. I know, just as I know each day that I won’t get it spot on with Blake, I won’t always (often?) get the balance right between the two of them. I’ve got to learn how to be a mum-of-two just as Blake learns to be a big brother after four and a half years of being the absolute centre of our world. And so I am a little teary and a little frightened as we stand on the edge of this brave new world.

And don’t even get me started on finding the space inside me to love two children. Of course I know this will happen, but I imagine I might just need to forgo a vital organ or two to give my heart space to double in size.

My biggest solace right now, in addition to the reassurance offered by every other Mum who has already made and survived this leap, is Blake himself. 

Blake desperately wants a sibling and a key element of our decision to try for a second baby, a key factor in anchoring my sanity through these hard 39 weeks has been how much Blake wants and needs another child around. 

He asks on a daily basis when the baby will arrive. He has little chats with my stomach. He likes to put his cheek against my bump and feel the baby kick him. His words tonight were ‘I love you Mummy. I love you more than ten. I actually love you 15. And I love the baby 15 too.’ 

This is a child much wanted by all three of us, and yes you can remind me of these words when the two of them are scrapping on the living room floor and screeching at each other. 

I know there will be tricky times to navigate ahead, I know we’ll all need to adjust, but what I hope most of all is that exactly as James has with his brother Jon, Blake will have an ally. These two boys of mine will have someone by their sides when we cannot be, someone to turn to when Mum and Dad won’t do, a companion for their days. With what’s going on in the world at the moment precious little else feels more important than this.

And so as an invisible clock somewhere counts down to a date and time I don’t know (that will really pissing hurt) I hope the transition is not too tough and that the love between us all will always be at least a 15.

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This child was made of you and me

My observation for the day is that at times your child can reveal in quite startling fashion the deep extent to which they share their parents’ DNA.

Blake, for example, has just had an uncharacteristic lunchtime nap on the sofa (looking forward to that biting me squarely on the arse at about 9pm).

And upon rousing himself from said nap he stretched, yawned and blew out the windows with the force of the gigantic fart that ripped out of his rear.

Just like his Father.

And then opened his eyes and began to snarl and swipe widely at anything within touching distance before bursting into tears.

Just like his Mother.

Proof if ever it were needed that he is squarely ours.

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Public Service Announcement

If you are a new or expectant parent of a baby boy, this announcement is for you. I’m sorry if I offend anyone’s sensibilities with this, but this blog is nothing if not honest and here is a warts ‘n’ all part of parenting a boy child that I do feel it is important you are made aware of early.

ERECTIONS.

Little boys get them.  FAR EARLIER THAN YOU WILL HAVE BEEN PREPARED FOR.

You have to accept with a boy that there will most likely be a fairly grubby early-to-mid teen period where you won’t be wanting to dig through their bedside drawers or pick up any dirty laundry without wearing surgical gloves. But what you should know is that early on in their little life, probably whilst changing a nappy, you will find yourself face-to-flipping-face with a tiny erection.

Just get  your head around it now. They have been popping up (literally) here for well over 2 years I reckon, and if someone had warned me I suspect I would have reacted slightly better than I did.

Because here is the second part of this PSA.

JUST. DON’T. FREAK. OUT.

The chances are that if you do any or all of the following – shriek  / squeak / swat frantically at it with a baby wipe / bellow with laughter, you will do that thing that we all know we shouldn’t do as parents. You will reinforce it. You will lay all the foundations for the lesson that an erection is a thing your boy child should celebrate. And you will have no-one but yourself to blame for the fact that your child will quite regularly waddle into a room with their trousers and pants around their ankles, wiggling their hips and pointing animatedly at their bits whilst howling like a wolf. Admittedly the wolf thing may just be my child, and it is not just reserved for celebrating his erectile function but is used regularly and with glee throughout the day. He’ll love reading this when he’s older I’m sure.

So prepare yourself now, parents of boys. Erections are on the horizon for you. Be cool. Don’t be an idiot like me.

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Pre-schooler life lessons. Part 1.

I feel this is probably particularly relevant for parents of boys, but do correct me if I am mistaken parents of girls.

Today’s life lesson…

Mastering control of your bodily functions to such an extent as to allow you to sit on your Mother’s head and then break wind. Violently. And repeatedly.

Mastered age 4 years, 5 months.

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This time in September

And so the countdown is on to Monday. Parents like us, who procreated 5 or so years ago, are quietly working up a sweat about the big reveal. D-day. The announcement of whichever primary school the big old admin machine has selected for our children.

Here it comes. Reception Year. Bloody hell.

I am really not dealing very well with all of this.

I know some of you will not be phased by it at all. Your children are recognisably ready for school and you are ready to send them off in their baggy jumpers and polo shirts. You’re cool with it. Well done.

I imagine some of you are shitting yourselves (sorry Mum) about which school will have been selected for your child. You have your heart set on your first choice and it is almost unbearable to think you have the weekend to wait until you know whether it’s a yes or no, and what-the-pencil-case will you do if it is choice two or even three?

And then I hope that some of you will be facing the same mental barrier that I am. You are not ready to let go. You cannot possibly conceive how it is almost time to be sending a child who was, last time you checked, a tiny baby, to school.

Actual school, with actual classrooms and teachers and pencils and pens and learning. How can this possibly be happening?

God, I hope I’m not alone in feeling this. Of the three schools we listed on our application, I have a preference for Blake, but actually there wasn’t much between the three of them and I’m fairly sure each of them would provide him with a happy, stable environment for the next TOO MANY years. The fact of the matter is I just really really do not want him to be going to school yet.

Some of you probably think I am insane. One of those types who watches over their child while they sleep crooning NO-ONE WILL EVER BE GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU and quietly embedding the mantra that NO-ONE LOVES YOU MORE THAN MUMMY in their little mind. I promise I am not. I decided long ago that I will not be the mother who grasps on to her boy. I will not stand in the way of whatever makes him happy (unless it’s something awful and illegal but you catch my drift). I will try to never allow the weight of my emotions to sit on his shoulders. I want him to be his own person, know his own mind and have conviction in his decisions. So I will back off and let him be.

But here’s the truth. These four years have been the most joyful of my life. Yes, they have been hard. I have been exhausted, I have been confused and at times I have been at my wits end. I am not a woman who believes that you must have a child to validate your life or experience true love or any such nonsense. What I do know is that for me, Blake is an utter blessing and my life is infinitely better for having him in it.

We are not a family with a whole heap of disposable income, so it has been a steady four years of visiting the park, reading together, charging around National Trust properties, soft play, garden centres, In the bloody Night Garden, digging in the flower bed, riding bikes, ploughing round the supermarket, swimming, visiting grandparents, ice-creams, hugs, kisses, museums, zoos and the odd holiday thrown in. A very regular childhood. But bugger me, it’s been magical.

It meant the world to me to be able to spend Blake’s first nine months with him, and since then we have been able to make it work on a three-day working week for me. My four-day weekends with him have been precious. I’m sure I’ve written before about the fact that when we decided we’d like to be parents, I couldn’t see past having a baby. I saw nothing beyond a tiny bundle in tiny clothes that needed to be fed and rocked and winded and nurtured. I couldn’t have imagined what an utter privilege it would be to see that baby change into a toddler and on to a little individual in their own right. Nothing prepared me for quite how amazing it has been to watch our Blake emerge over these four years.

They have passed so quickly. I cannot believe we are mere months away from the school gates. I’m sure it will all be fine. I hope he will love school. I think he is ready for the stretch of it, I think he is ready for something new. But I am not. It feels like an ending of sorts, the beginning of letting him go. A thing I know I must do, but not something I want to be confronted with or have to start to do yet.

And so I’ll be giving myself a stern talking to on Monday as I sit pressing refresh on my inbox. This was always going to come around. I won’t let Blake know or see that I feel this way. Whichever school is on that email will be part of our future for the next 7 years. But if you too feel the way that I do, join me this weekend in eating a lot of cake, have a Gin for me and hug your child a little longer at bedtime. Good luck for Monday x
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