Monthly Archives: January 2015

Stop shouting Mummy!

Lately I have been shouting at my kids far too much, somehow it has become my default setting – shout first, think later. I don’t like it. I don’t want to be that sort of parent but somehow that is exactly the sort of parent I have become. Everything seems to annoy and irritate me. I have zero patience and virtually no tolerance. What has happened to me? More importantly when did this happen?

How the fuck I have I become such a grouchy parent?

Maybe if I write down the stuff that really triggers a cranky attack it will help me so here goes:

Having to repeat myself over and over again. For example (to Big Girl)

“In the morning will you please put your duvet back on your bed, turn your light off and shut your bedroom door.”

“Why?”

“Because you have eczema and asthma and if the cats sleep in your bed it will make it worse AND I have told you every day for the last 4 years and you get sad and grumpy when you are all itchy and sneezing.”

(To Small Boy)

“Please have a wee and brush your teeth”

“Nooooooooooo aarrrrgggghhhhhh nooooooooo I won’t you can’t make me!!!! I hate you!!!! Nooooooo!!!! Whyyyyyyyy??????”

“Because it is bedtime and we do this EVERY NIGHT!! IT IS THE SAME EVERY NIGHT!! BRUSH. YOUR. TEETH. OR THEY WILL GO BAD AND HURT AND FALL OUT!!!”

“Nooooooooo!!!!!”

You get the gist. It can go on for quite sometime. We use bribery, distraction but it always ends the same way – with one or both of us shouting.

And then there is just the kid stuff everywhere.

Bits of paper, sellotape, toys, bits of toys, stickers, half eaten food, sweaty socks, Lego, broken stuff, unidentifiable sticky stuff, pens with no lids leaking all over the carpet, underwear, dressing up clothes, clothes, books, junk modelling, sticks, more sellotape, CDs, bogies, snotty tissues, cuddly toys, drinks cups, magazines (oh that’s a whole other rant don’t get me started), the junk shit from the front of the magazines, loom bands, hair bands and so on….

Because it doesn’t matter how many times I ask them to put their shit away or put stuff in the bin they just don’t. And they don’t care. And then I start……

“Please tidy up, I can’t see the floor and it can’t be much fun in there for you.”

Then…

“I will give you pocket money if you tidy up”

And…

“If you don’t tidy up there will be consequences”

But it always ends with..

“TIDY UP YOUR RUBBISH OR I WILL PUT IT IN BIN BAGS AND TAKE IT TO THE TIP!!”

They still don’t do it and we all end up in tears – me because I have lost control yet again and them because I am scary.

So…I don’t want to go on like this because it doesn’t work and we all hate it and it is wrong. Ultimately it is wrong. I am not modelling good behaviour, I am not respecting them, I am choosing being right over being kind. I am choosing what other people think about my children and their behaviour and the state of my house over our wellbeing as a family. That is wrong.

They don’t need to be taught to do as they are told, they need to be loved. They don’t need harsh words, they need kindness and understanding and when did I stop realising that? When did I decide that it is okay to shout and bully my children into doing what I want because that is what fits in with my life?

When did I stop looking at them as the incredible miracles that they are and start seeing them as untidy, noisy little nuisances? Yes, I am cringing writing this because it isn’t true, it isn’t and I don’t believe that at all so WHY am I treating them as if that is exactly what they are?

It isn’t okay is it? There are no excuses. I chose to have them. It isn’t enough just to do that and hope for the best. I have battled through mental illness, grief and health issues so why am I not fighting as hard to be the parent that I know they deserve?

I have to try harder. So I am going to. A lovely friend posted a link to an article about stopping shouting. I know that is only part of it but it is something I can try to get better at. So thank you to my friend and to the writer of that post for the idea of becoming more accountable to your children. I have told mine that Daddy and Mummy are going to work harder at not shouting and that they can decide at the end of the day how we have done.

They are delighted and keep reminding us that we are not shouting anymore if they see a situation escalate. Yesterday we did pretty well. Today I am struggling, fighting emotions and feeling tearful. Perhaps I have become so used to shouting as a way of release that my emotions are spilling out of me in different ways now. I am trying to be kind to myself. I am trying to be a better me for my children. I am trying. I will keep on trying…

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Losing Mum. Part 2.

I have wanted to write this for a very long time whilst at the same time really really not wanting to. It’s more of a need than a want I suppose. I need to write it down. I don’t want to because it will hurt but if I don’t then I will forget and that hurts more. It is an itch I need to scratch, a scab that must come off. A purely selfish act.

How someone dies isn’t who they were. It is the end of who they are but not the end of them entirely. They live on through us, through their deeds and actions and so in turn they are part of us. Not just genetically but through the connection that they made with us whilst we were here together. Their death hurts us. We feel their absence. They have been ripped away from our timeline. We grieve not for what we have lost but for what we can no longer have. For what we cannot share with them any more.

So this is what has taken me eight years to write down. It isn’t a perfect account but sometimes it is okay for things and people to be good enough. I hope it is good enough.

Jennifer Susan Greenacre (nee Oakes)

25th September 1944 – 7th December 2006

It was 10am ish and I was at home in Swindon, still lazing about in bed thinking about Christmas. So looking forward to going home to Northamptonshire to spend it with my parents, my sister and her husband and my husband Ben’s family. I was still so happy after our wedding that October and I had spoken to Mum the night before to tell her that Ben and I were trying for a baby.

It had been a funny phone call. Mum called me from her home in France (she and Dad lived there part of the year and Northants the rest) to tell me that she was having a 70s dinner party that night. She was ridiculously excited because she had managed to track down a Black Forest gateau which she felt was an essential for the evening and we laughed about it, reminiscing about 1970s food – prawn cocktails and cheese and pineapple hedgehogs. I told her we were trying for a baby, it would be her first grandchild. She was over the moon and I pictured her face and her reaction when I would tell her I was pregnant. I couldn’t wait!

At the end of the phone call she said “goodbye darling” which you might think normal. But it wasn’t. She phoned me and my sister almost daily and Vikki will vouch for me on this that she always ended her calls with “I love you! Speak soon!”. I know it’s easy to say with hindsight but it felt wrong. I rang her back with a made up excuse about a recipe I needed and made her say it. “I love you”.

Daydreaming about all the fun there was to come I suddenly snapped back to reality as I heard the front door open and close again just as suddenly with a bang. I froze, remembering that I was in bed not properly dressed, listening to the footsteps thundering up the stairs.

Suddenly my darling husband Ben appeared in the bedroom doorway. His face was grey and he had obviously been crying. I remember him saying “Your Dad rang me, it’s your Mum…..” His voice trailed off and in that moment I knew. I knew that he wasn’t going to say that there had been an accident or that Mum was in hospital. My beautiful, brave and wonderful man, my best friend in all the world, had come home to give me the most devastating news.

Before he could speak I said “Please don’t say it please. Please let me not know just for a minute longer please…” Then there was just silence and then the words came “Your Mum had a heart attack this morning…I’m so so sorry baby….she died this morning…..”

I don’t remember much then. Just beating his chest as he tried to comfort me and pushing him away as if somehow by saying it he had made it happen and that this was not real, it couldn’t be real and I could hear screaming over and over. It was a while before I realised it was me.

I don’t know how long it took before I could speak coherently. When I finally could though I remember saying that we had to drive to Northamptonshire immediately. In my grief I had forgotten entirely that they had been in France.

Finally I spoke to Dad. He had called Ben at work because he didn’t want to tell me whilst I was home alone. He could barely talk and when he did he said “I need you princess please come”.

I remember speaking to my sister, both of us sobbing down the phone, barely able to understand each other but knowing that we had to be together somehow. She and my brother in law drove from Milton Keynes whilst Ben silently booked flights and a hire car and I randomly threw things into a suitcase.

I went next door to see my neighbours and sobbed in my dressing gown and pyjamas whilst sitting on their sofa. I went back home and called my ex husband and we cried together as I knew he had kept in touch with her and that they were still very fond of each other. I rang my best friends and they listened with disbelief.

My sister finally arrived and I remember running outside in bare feet and we stood there on my driveway holding onto each other for dear life, crying in the pouring rain.

We all drove together to Bristol airport. Queued to get on the plane with tears streaming down our faces. Once on board I had to explain to the air stewards that we weren’t terrified fliers but that our Mum had just died. They left us alone and we drank gin to dull the pain.

Somehow Ben and Pete found the hire car in the dark and managed to navigate us to La Pistoule, Mum’s beautiful home in France.

Dad was waiting for us on the steps, his hands clamped tightly over his mouth as he tried to hold in the grief that threatened to burst forth at the loss of his dearest Jenny, his best friend and love of his life. His wife was gone and so was our Mum. Forever.

Then he told us.

It had been 10 hours since Ben came home to tell me she had died and Mum’s body was laid out in their bedroom upstairs. She would be there overnight. They would collect her in the morning. He thought that we would want to say goodbye.

We didn’t want to see her like that. We wanted to remember her how she was. She didn’t look like her. They had already embalmed her and she looked like a waxwork. I couldn’t even look at her properly. I wanted to kiss her, to touch her but I couldn’t. I was paralysed with fear and grief and I knew that she would feel cold and wrong and dead.

My sister collapsed sobbing in the doorway. I knelt at Mum’s bedside unable to touch her or look at her.

I barely slept that night knowing she was only a wall apart from me and Dad slept on the sofa in the upstairs lounge outside their room.

The next morning Stephanie, Mum’s friend, their gardener, came in to see Mum with me and talked quietly to me in French and held me whilst we cried together. She had seen the bodies of her relatives laid out before when they had passed away but we hadn’t and we were unprepared and it scared us in our grief. I regret not holding her hand one last time and not kissing her goodbye but I couldn’t and I didn’t know what was wrong with me.

It was years later when I finally got help for my second lot of Post Natal Illness that I discovered that I was also suffering from untreated PTSD. The two combined meant a misdiagnosis of Bipolar disorder which has since been revoked but not before I struggled through weeks of taking anti-psychotics and anti-depressants whilst trying to look after a 3 year old and a baby. This was no-one’s fault and I don’t blame my Dad at all. He was grief stricken and was coping in the only way he knew how. He thought it was the right thing to do.

The coroners came to take Mum away down the steps that led from her bedroom to the gravelled side garden. Vikki and I hid until they had done it. We couldn’t bear it.

Afterwards we went to clear up in their bedroom. We found her nightdress cut to shreds and the empty adrenaline needles and packets in the waste paper bin. We had to try to piece together in our minds exactly what had happened as Dad wouldn’t tell us much at all. He still can’t talk about it even now, eight years later. We wish he would, he thinks he is protecting us but not knowing is worse. We have to respect his choice though and his right to privacy no matter how hard it is not knowing the full story of Mum’s final moments.

We stayed at the house for over a week in the end I think, maybe two. There were tears and fights and dark times. I smoked too much and couldn’t eat properly. It was December and so cold and the only slippers Vikki and I could find to buy were giant blue monster ones which looked wrongly comical starkly contrasted with our pale, heartbroken faces. Dad, Vikki and I divided a long list of family and friends between us and took turns calling them all to tell them Mum had died. It was horrible, reliving our pain through them and hearing them unable to speak and some, like us, screaming in shock.

We arranged for Mum’s body to be repatriated back to England with the help of a wonderful English lady who dealt with that sort of thing but the airline lost the paperwork and everything was made all the more difficult.

Dad initially wanted her cremated but we couldn’t bear that as we knew she had always wanted to be buried in the Lake District, in the Langdale valley with her parents. In the mountains that she loved. So we pushed for the funeral there which it finally was but not until the 23rd of December. And not until after we had re identified her body at the hospital in Kendal where they had to do a post mortem examination to determine the cause of death. I remember my sister crying and saying in a very small voice “Dad why won’t she wake up, why can’t my Mummy wake up”. It was devastating all over again.

Mum had died of a fatal heart attack. She had severe sclerosis of the arteries of her heart. She had smoked up until 2 years before her death and she drank and ate what she liked and never exercised in later years. She knew she wasn’t well, she couldn’t walk far. We all begged her to go to the doctors about it especially as she’d had two minor strokes (TIAs). She wouldn’t. She didn’t want to know. She used to say “I don’t want to get old and dribbly and if I go mad just stick me in a home, I won’t know after all will I?” So congratulations Mum, you did it your way in the end as you always did. At home, in your own bed, in your sleep.

I wrote the eulogy with Dad’s help, he couldn’t face it and I stood up with Ben supporting me and read it in the Church in Chapel Stile. I felt like I was floating a over my body watching myself speak whilst praying that my body wouldn’t fail me, I knew an MS attack was imminent. I still couldn’t believe it was happening.

I still can’t.

I just kept thinking that she wanted Queen’s “Don’t stop me now” played at her funeral and that Vikki and I had promised her and we didn’t do it because Dad didn’t want to. I still feel that I let her down.

I remember us all trying to have Christmas together at their house in Northamptonshire, ironically now only 15 minutes from where we live. It was an awful time, like we were actors in a very very bad play. I remember standing at the kitchen sink with Ben’s Mum and asking her “when will it stop hurting so much?” As her Mum had died only a few years previously. She looked away and replied “you really don’t want me to answer that”.

I realised that the reason we all loved Christmas so much was Mum. She was our Christmas. She loved it so much. It was a long time before I did again.

Mum was 62 when she died.

She never met her Grandchildren – my children Isobel Jennifer Rose, Jack Alfred Roger and my Sister’s son Mason. She never saw them take their first steps or in their uniforms ready for their first days at school.

She didn’t see me run the Race for Life 10k twice last year after my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis 14 years ago. She didn’t see my Sister train to work at the preschool she is currently at after finishing all her qualifications. She never saw me finally pass my driving test. She never saw me and my sister finally come through the worst of our years fighting mental illness. She never saw us become Mums.

She did see us both marry our loves though and I know that she died believing we were safe and cherished.

We miss her and we always will.

Mum, I am so sorry you never got to spend your retirement years with Dad as you planned with your Grandchildren around you. I wish you were here to guide me and comfort me. I wish I had been given the chance to repay everything that your gave to me and sacrificed for me. I wish that I had said thank you more. I wish that I had said goodbye….you did say goodbye though didn’t you? I just wasn’t ready to hear it…..

Goodbye Mum.

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Grown ups

I made a comment in a recent blog post about not feeling like a grown up. As I wrote it I thought – more on that later – because in all honesty, I really need to know that I’m not the only one out there who genuinely thought that once they got past 40 that they would somehow transform into a proper, fully fledged grown up.

I do believe I actually thought that I would no longer feel like I was “faking it” and that by the power of whatever I would magically transform into a bonafide adult who knew exactly what she was doing, had a purpose, a calling and felt entirely satisfied with herself.

Um…

Isn’t happening….

I am sure that someone promised me that this would happen.

Someone asked me the other day what I wanted to be when I grew up. I couldn’t answer and the reason that I couldn’t answer was because I still don’t know for sure. I thought that one day I would know, the mists would clear, that there would be that “thing” that would make my heart sing. But I am still waiting for it. I vaguely remember thinking about being an artist and then not thinking that I would be good enough. I think that I thought that about being a writer too and possibly lots of other things.

So I didn’t.

I was waiting to feel like a grown up so that I could make the right decision. I realise whilst writing this that I am still waiting.

So what do I do now? I am hit with the realisation that grown ups don’t actually appear to exist and no one seems to really know what they are doing apart from world leaders and maybe even they are bluffing which is REALLY scary.

I do a fair bit of voluntary work but even that I just sort of fell in to because someone asked me if I would be interested. Maybe they thought I looked like I knew what I was doing or perhaps they just wanted to give me a chance. I think the latter probably. I love what I do there, I get to share my experiences sometimes in the hope that they might give others clarity and learn so much from all the amazing people I meet. Very inspiring.

But I still don’t feel like a grown up!!!

AND I still want to…..

stay in bed all day, go to festivals, dance until I can’t stand up, drink too much, get stoned and laugh until it hurts, dress inappropriately, get lots of tattoos (I am going to get one I’m just indecisive), stay up all night talking crap to friends and random strangers, go on crazy adventures, back pack around the world, live in a commune…..

Be Wonder Woman!!

That’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. Wonder Woman. I remember now…the hair, the outfit, the fabulous gold rope. I won a fancy dress competition dressed as her when I was about 7 years old despite having blond her and pink NHS glasses. I was fabulous. I felt like I could do anything, be anything, the world was my oyster and I was invincible.

Maybe I don’t want to be a grown up. Maybe I just want to be a 7 year old dressed up as Wonder Woman. Can anyone see a career opportunity here?

Anyone?

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Friends

I have always struggled a bit with friendships and female friendships in particular. I’m not great at letting people get close to me. I look on the surface as though I give a lot away as I am pretty open and outgoing but actually that’s not really the whole truth.

I say enough so that people think they know me when in fact there is so much more going on that I wouldn’t ever share. And if I do it is with those very very close to me that I trust with my life. I keep my very personal stuff to myself, it is too much of me to share with others. I don’t want to be that exposed. I don’t want to be judged and I don’t want to be given all the well meaning advice in the world all of the time. Even if it is from the best of the best people.

So sometimes I make friends and they get a little too close, things are a little too much for me and the wall goes up and I back off. Sometimes I even turn tail and run for the hills. I am scared of being hurt. I have been hurt in the past and I don’t want to let anyone in because I can’t handle the rejection.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have very close friends who have known me for a long time and they really do know me but that has taken time and even then……Sometimes I just get scared of it all you know?

Women especially are scary. We are. We can be loving and passionate, caring and empathetic, strong and fierce. But we don’t forget. Not ever. One wrong move, one word said in the heat of the moment, one mistake and we remember it forever.

I find that hard to cope with because I make mistakes frequently. My mouth runs away with me more often than it should and I sometimes make bad choices. When I do let someone in I give my heart away too much and I often get caught up in other people’s business and I have always found it very hard to say no.

I think we all struggle with friendships in our own way though don’t we? It never stops being ever so slightly a bit like school and the older I get the worse the realisation is that there is no such thing as a “grown up”. I am most certainly still winging it….

So to now…

I started this post a good few months ago when I had some difficult stuff happening with friends and just couldn’t finish writing it. I understand why now as I actually had some real changes in how I thought about myself and my friendships with other people. I am feeling a whole lot more optimistic about everything now but it has taken time.

I am trying to protect myself by saying no when it is the right thing to do whilst at the same time saying yes to the things that scare me that are right for me. Because I can’t keep running away and shutting people out forever. It is hard letting people in. It is worse keeping them out. I am trying to set good boundaries so that I can keep those friendships. Because they matter to me. A lot.

Last year I reconnected with some amazing old friends and made some awesome new ones too. It was really scary, I was terrified of being judged for past mistakes and not being good enough, funny enough, attractive enough, smart enough. All those old fears came rushing back in. I nearly didn’t do it but ohhhhh I am so glad I did!!!

It was really wonderful to be with people that had either known me from old or were finding me for the first time. It was exciting and fun and I really liked being me. As one of my dear friends said after we had seen each other “I feel really content”. I felt like my heart had healed a bit more and that a part of me that I had lost had returned. I felt less disjointed and rootless.

I hadn’t realised how much I had missed that and as another old friend said to me “We must not let those that we love out of our lives so easily. I won’t let that happen again.” We were talking about the sad death of a mutual friend who I hadn’t seen for many years. My friend that I was catching up with also hadn’t seen me for 13 years despite not living far from each other. Life just gets in the way sometimes.

We need these connections – old and new. They are part of us and our experiences together have made us who we are. We know each other. Especially those that we have been through so much with, marriages, divorce, birth,bereavement, mental illness and tragedy. Joyful times as well as the saddest of times.

So to those wonderful people who have known me for the longest time, those who I have joyfully just found and those who I am very excited to meet. Thank you for being my friends. I do need you in my life even if I don’t show it well enough.

And to those lost friends who I have let go through stupidity, mistakes, heartbreak and choice – thank you too for being in my life, for however long it was. I am glad we shared the times we did together.

So here’s to friends. Old and new. Thank you for putting up with me. I owe you one!

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