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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Survival and my Mum part one

As you know, I’ve been a bit sorry for myself lately – physically and emotionally. Okay. I’ve been having a massive pity party but you know sometimes it helps to get it all out. Sometimes it doesn’t and we need to work through it by ourselves and it’s good to know the difference.

I’m far from perfect though and can’t always tell the difference but writing helps me and it’s cheaper than therapy! I know I have a long way to go to work through all my crap but hey, I’m a work in progress and this work in progress needs to start thinking happy thoughts.

A lot of this had been because I miss my Mum. A lot. Like every day a lot. She was my best friend and she understood me and my baggage in the way that only a Mum can. She stuck by me through everything and I always knew she loved me no matter what dreadful shit I put her through.

I often spend too much time feeling sad because she isn’t here and because I don’t get to share all the new amazing things that happen every day with her. She isn’t here for me to ask for her always incredibly wise opinion. She isn’t here to ask about great recipe ideas when I have totally lost my cooking mojo. She isn’t here to ask for the parenting advice I desperately need. But most of all she isn’t here to be the Nana that she so dearly wanted to be to her Grandchildren.

But then I started to think the other day that actually she is here isn’t she? After all I am half her! I have all the memories of all the years she was here too! So I am going to try and remember all the fun and awesome stuff about my Mum so that I don’t forget because sometimes I feel her memory slipping away and it scares me. I find it harder and harder to hear her voice and the way she hugged me tight. I don’t want that to happen because she was a very special lady.

I will write about what happened when she died but I’m not ready yet, certainly not at the moment.

So here’s some stuff about my Mum, to help keep her alive, because sometimes I pretend she is and I pretend I could just pick up the phone and she’d be there. It’s not denial. I know I can’t really do that but it is survival and we all have to do that in whatever form it takes.

My Mum was Jennifer Susan Greenacre (nee Oakes) She liked to be called Jenny and this year she would have been 70 on the 25th September. We would have done something special for her I like to think because she did love to have fun.

I have a great memory of her headbanging to Queen at my wedding with my dear friend Sue who also sadly passed away after my Mum. I like to imagine that they are being drunk and disorderly somewhere together with gin and Freddy Mercury.

Mum loved Queen and she wanted ‘Don’t stop me now’ played at her funeral but I couldn’t pull that one off as my dear Dad just couldn’t. I still feel to this day that I let her down on that one and am still trying to think up a way to make up for it.

She also loved her red Audi TT roadster and she drove around very cautiously in it with Freddy blasting out very very loudly. She wanted to be buried in it but I couldn’t pull that one off either, sorry Mum.

She really liked gin. See? I take after her…

She was very very funny and had a dreadfully infectious laugh. Once she started that was that. I remember being in France with the whole family and we were a bit tipsy at a cafĂ© where a mariachi band were playing. The trumpet player was definitely wearing a wig which unfortunately for him seemed intent upon rotating around on his head as he enthusiastically jigged about. This caused Mum to shout ‘WIGGY’ at every possible break in the music and then promptly look around innocently. Naughty Mum.

I had an Art teacher in high school who’s name was Mr G Bennett. I told Mum his christian name was Gordon and she came home extremely red faced from parents’ evening. It was Graham. Sorry Mum, it was just too good to pass up! She was trying very hard not to laugh whilst pretending to be cross.

Talking of parents’ evenings there was one rather special one where I had drawn a lovely picture of Mum and written a piece about how great she was and that she didn’t even jump on chair when we got mice in the house. It was the same parents’ evening where my sister had drawn a picture of Mum and Dad holding what appeared to be martini glasses with the caption ‘My Mum likes to drink a lot’. I remember her saying “So your teachers now think we are alcoholics living in a vermin infested house!! Great!!”.

Once Mum and I got so drunk at a Christmas party in our village that Dad had to get the car to bring us home. We lived about 300 metres away. I blame a certain Mr B and the vodka. well that was our excuse anyway. I was 16 and thought it was just orange juice. Oops. Oh well it was the 80s, it wasn’t such a nanny state then!! Sorry Dad.

Mum loved parties. She also loved food and was an incredible cook who could always rustle something up out of nothing. Her Christmas dinners were especially legendary! She studied home economics and needlework at college despite going on to teach Special Needs later in life before she retired early. She wanted to help my husband look after me after my diagnosis of MS.

She told me that a college assignment she once had was to knit a pair of gloves. She and her classmates suspected that the teacher had her favourites so they decided to repeatedly submit the same pair of gloves as they didn’t have to be all handed in at the same time. They all got different grades. She was right. She hated injustice. She told me that when she left college she sprayed FUCK YOU in weed killer on the grass bank facing the main building. I hope that was true and knowing Mum it probably was!

She loved Science fiction and read Asimov when it wasn’t cool and she went on to introduce me to Star Trek, Dune and Star Wars. I remember queuing in the pouring rain in Ambleside in the Lake District with her to watch The Empire Strikes back only to be turned away because the tiny cinema was full. We were devastated although still got to see it when we got home to Suffolk. I still remember both of us nearly in tears and so began my life long love of Star Wars which my children and thankfully my husband share with me.

She loved my husband and affectionately called him Big Chick much to his embarrassment and amusement. She often did it absentmindedly in restaurants for some reason and I remember when she died Ben saying broken heartedly between sobs “who’s going to say Big Chick pass the salt?”.

She made everything fun, especially Christmas. I remember feeling like all the fun had been sucked out of it as I realised that it was her that made Christmas fun. This was a few weeks after her death on the 7th of December 2006, barely 2 months after mine and Ben’s wedding. It took a long time and two children to help get that back. She always spent weeks choosing exactly the right gifts for everyone and she got it pretty perfect every time.

When I was in my twenties and had come home for Christmas one year, I woke up abruptly at 5am with her jumping on my bed. I asked her what the hell she was doing to which she replied “Revenge darling, revenge! For all the years you woke me on Christmas Day far too early!” whilst giggling.

So if you wonder where my refusal to grow old gracefully and my slightly strange sense of humour come from, as well as my love of gin, Sci Fi and the generally bizarre now you know….

She loved Monty Python, Spike Milligan, Billy Connolly and Only Fools and Horses. She loved my Dad so much she once said looking at him was like looking at a beautiful painting she could never tire of and she was fiercely but silently jealous of any woman who so much as glanced his way. She loved my sister and I more than her own life. She found life painful, rarely watched the news because she couldn’t bear the hatred and the hurt in the world. She was kind and gentle and couldn’t deal with conflict or disputes. She just wanted everyone to be happy.

She made us happy and for the time I got to spend with her I will forever be grateful. I wish that I had told her more often just how incredibly special she was and how I could never repay all the things that she gave up and did for me. I wish I could have said goodbye. I hope she knew just how much we loved her and still do.

I will try to remember her every day and for the memories to hurt less and make me smile more.

There is so much more but then isn’t that exactly how it should be?

Not how she died but how she lived. With joy and laughter and love and kindness.

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That little voice

I’ve been losing the plot a bit lately…huge confidence issues have been stirred up again and that little voice that tells me that I am not good enough and never will be has begun to get a little louder.

I am struggling.

I am under water, fighting for air and trying to get back to the surface and the little voice is there taunting me….

‘You thought you could run? You thought you could have a normal life? You thought you could beat all the demons and rise above the years of low self esteem and lack of confidence? You thought you could be a good parent, a good wife, a good friend? Really? You really thought you would get to have all that? You thought you wouldn’t get ill again? Silly girl…….’

I swallow down the hurt and the grief. I try not to listen to that little voice. I want my Mum. I want to be like everybody else. I want to run…….

…..because when I run it feels for a moment that I can run away from everything and silence that little voice with the pounding of my feet and the sound of my breathing and my heart beat that grows ever faster. When I brush the sweat from my face I am brushing away the years of illness, depression and grief at the loss of loved ones, good health and friends that once were.

I run from the hurt, the disappointment, the anger. I run from the tantrums, the tears, the constant demands. I run to fill myself back in where I have become hollow as what was once me has been sucked out over the years.

Who am I now?

Am I the girl who was bullied and told to be quiet, hush my smart mouth no one likes a too loud too clever child?Am I the girl committed in a relationship too young not knowing how to get out? Am I the girl that still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up? Am I the girl always playing the joker, always wanting to be loved by everyone?

That little voice thinks it knows…..and I can’t run to keep it quiet right now because I have hurt myself and I am scared that I might not get better and then I won’t be able to run so that it can’t catch me.

So I have to find a way to quiet it because yes, I am all those things but I am more than that too.

I am a woman who fought to birth her babies at home.

I am a woman who refuses to be beaten by illness because what is the alternative?

I am a woman who fights through everyday without her beautiful mother to help and guide her.

I am a woman who adores her incredible best friend of a husband who never stops believing.

I am a woman who despite her harsh and selfish ways loves her children really so much more than her own life and wants the world to be beautiful for them.

I am a woman who will give everything for her friends who have become family through choice and everything for her family because blood is strong.

I am a woman who makes mistakes and can’t always fix them but tries anyway.

I am a woman who tries every day to rise back up to the surface and hopes that that little voice stays under

That little voice tells me I can’t.

I tell it to be quiet…..

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Starting school and more poo news

Well it has finally happened. My smallest small boy at barely 4 years old has started school.

My smallest small boy who is barely potty trained and is still tantrumming and hitting if things don’t go his way.

My smallest small boy who sometimes smells of strawberries and sometimes of damp dog despite us not having one.

My smallest small boy who wraps his arms around me and squeezes me just that little bit too tight so that I can’t breathe and snuggles into my neck all soft, whispering “I love you to infinity and beyond Mumma”.

I have waited and longed for this day, for the very difficult toddler years that I don’t cope well with to be over and for my freedom at last. How sad that sounds I know, it’s true though. I haven’t felt like a good parent this summer, shouting, controlling, trying to make order out of chaos, patience worn thin and feeling tattered and frayed around the edges.

I haven’t been very well this summer, my hypothyroidism spiralled out of control making me sure that the Multiple Sclerosis had taken a turn for the worst but it turns out that at best it was my thyroid and at worst it was a combination of the two. This isn’t an excuse for my shoddy parenting, just a contributory factor. One that I could do without though in the face of a new school year and a whole lot of new emotions to deal with!

We all tried extra hard over the holidays not to go on about “Big School” all the time as I know the pressure it can put on a small person who is already panicking about the unknown! I think I was just in denial though as I had just forgotten all the things that needed doing and all the uniform needed – jeeeeez!

Knowing what he is like I labelled everything and I mean everything including socks. Not pants though. Even I have a limit!! I just sat sewing labels into the smallest small shorts that even then looked far too big and just felt….I don’t know….scared. Excited too, don’t misunderstand me oh my god I knew I would be cheering with glee in the school car park the minute that I had dropped off my little darlings. But who would notice when he was hopping up and down needing the toilet but too engrossed in his current activity to realise? Who would cuddle him and rub his back to calm him down if he got upset and started lashing out? Hundreds of scenarios played themselves out in my mind as I calmly sewed the little name labels in, imagining him struggling to do up his buttons.

I sewed my love for him and my frustration at not being the parent that he so desperately needs at times into those labels, hoping that he would feel me with him in the moments he felt unsure and lost. Hoping that at least we had taught him kindness and compassion and that he would take with him all the things he had learnt from preschool where they loved and nurtured him in the safe environment he had grown to feel was a second home. I hope that he will grow to feel that about his new school in time.

I sewed my love for her into her labels, my strength to help her deal with the twists and turns of growing up as a girl, the challenges of friendships and emotional changes. She takes my breath away she is so beautiful and so smart and so courageous. She is everything that I would love to be, untarnished by grief and pain, new and shiny with all her life ahead of her. So excited and curious and questioning. I feel so full of love watching her on her journey.

The last few weeks leading up to the beginning of school term small boy’s poo problems returned. Probably a mixture of being in a less structured routine and his dawning realisation that things were changing. I tried to protect him from all of it but it is easy to forget that mentioning school can cause stress and hard to stop other well meaning people’s remarks of “Ooh you’re such a big boy now I bet you can’t wait to go to big school!” every single time we left the house.

He would have accidents and go off and hide his pants in the wash basket, get scared to use the toilet and start lashing out at us all again. We tried our very best to play it down, keep our cool and just pray every day that it would get easier for him. I had already pre-empted things with ‘Matron’ at school by explaining the ongoing situation and she was very supportive but I was still very scared.

The day arrived and he and his sister stood together in the kitchen in their new school uniforms. She, complaining because I had insisted on new dresses that had ‘growing room’. “Mumma I look like an idiot!!!” (okay she did look a bit like an orphan but I am a great believer in getting the most for your money) and he, with his feet so big in his school shoes that he looked like a puppy needing to grow into his feet and his unruly hair so short now.

I felt so proud of them whilst at the same time wishing so desperately that I could turn the clock back and do a much much better job than I have. Wishing that my Mum was alive to tell me that everything would be okay and that she had made all the mistakes that I had and see? it’s okay after all. God I missed her in that moment, I could barely speak as I felt my throat tighten with grief and pride and love all jumbled up together. I hope she’s watching all this somewhere I thought, I really could do with a hug right now. I know I look like I cope on the outside but it’s all a front a lot of the time, although less as time goes by. We’re doing okay all of us.

They both pottered into school with their bags, looking so smart. Big girl was thrilled to see her new classroom and looked so grown up it was untrue. Small boy skipped into his classroom and never looked back. I told him I was leaving and he said “Shush Mumma I’m building something!”. I spoke to his classroom assistant,who had also been big girl’s, about the toilet problems and she smiled and said “Oh don’t worry, lots of them have challenges and they all have accidents at some point! Some are still doing it when they leave us!!” she made light of it which was actually just what I needed. In that moment she made him just a normal little boy who sometimes has accidents just like everyone else and for that I will be forever grateful.

So, a week and a half in we are okay. I sent spare pants and we have had a few slightly wet pairs back but he has done all his poos on the toilet at home. He says that he doesn’t want to poo at school which inevitably means that he is holding a little but he is doing it at home, sometimes unprompted, which is amazing. I am not resting easy for one moment but for now I have 2 small people at school and they are tired but happy and that is all I want. For them to be happy. Although he made a sword out of cardboard yesterday and hit a poor girl in his class with it. I guess we need to work on impulse control a little.

Now what the fuck do I do with my life? Anyone want to offer me a job?

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