The Teaching Mum

A light-hearted look at parenting through the eyes of a very busy English Teacher.


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The Lock Down Diaries – Kiera

I like enclosed spaces.  Most people I know feel trapped when faced with four tall walls looming down on them, but not me.  I see them as my protector, my fortress and my giant knights in armour keeping the outside world at bay.  A locked door and four tall walls means he can’t reach me.

It’s been three hours since Mike hit me around the face so hard my glasses flew off my nose and smashed against one of those walls.  I don’t know what I had done to warrant this particular attack; I’ve searched my brain and I don’t think I have done anything wrong today.

It’s week six of the lockdown and I have yet to leave the house. I’m not shielding or self-isolating but I have been told that I mustn’t go out. I don’t need my daily exercise I am told because there’s “no reason for you to look good at the moment” and “no one’s gonna see that bikini bod this year, babe.” he sneers statements like this at me often. I want to tell him that I don’t exercise for anyone else but me. Running through fields alone allows me some partial freedom but it’s not worth the argument.  “You just want others to look at you”, I am told.  It’s not true; I would happily disappear in an instant.

It wasn’t always like this, I promise.  I met Mike online.  He had recently moved to the area having left his wife and two children. Alarm bells should have started ringing as soon as he told me that, that and the fact that he had very little contact with his ex-wife and children.  He wooed me though, he really did.  He wore suits to work, he took pride in his appearance, he was polite and others laughed in his presence.  He opened doors for me and brought me flowers. He brought me flowers the day after he shoved me into a wall after I suggested he gave the weekly pub quiz a miss because we were a little short on funds that month.

Six weeks without seeing my friends and family.  Six weeks of very little exercise or fresh air.  Six weeks of very little self care and was a mess both physically and mentally.  My skin was starting to look grey and my eye bags could carry a week’s worth of shopping. My hair hung limp at my shoulders and my eyes were bleak windows to a black hole.  What I needed was some sun.  My doctor regularly warns me about my vitamin D deficiency and frequently provides me with ‘pocket sunshine’ he calls it. But, the vitamin tablets have long since gone.  It was, apparently, going to be a scorcher today, so I decided to go any sit in the garden for an hour and soak up those rays.

I must have fallen asleep.  I was roused awake by a dark shadow blocking the sun and I could sense it beneath my closed eyelids.

“Two hours!” he said quietly yet there was a sternness to his voice. “You’ve been sat out here on your fat arse for two hours doing fuck all.”

I remained silent.

“Do you know what I have done?” He voice sounded low and guttural almost like it hurt to talk.

I shook my head slowly.

“A workout, a shower, a conference call and the weekly shop and you have done nothing.  Lockdown has made you lazy.  It’s made you fat and lazy and worthless.”

“I would have done the shop,” I protested. “But you said there was no need for us both to be out of the house.”

It was too late. He had already disappeared into the house and all that could be heard was the slamming of cupboards as he looked for something hard to drink.  Precariously packing up the sun lounger, I returned it to the shed and walked inside. The kitchen was empty and so was the living room. I noticed on the kitchen table a piece of paper with numbers and workings out written down in pencil; I then noticed the broken pencil next to the paper.  Something had happened during the conference call.  I heard a bang upstairs.  Cautiously, I took the first stair.

I found Mike in our bedroom rifling through our bedside drawers.

“Where is it?”

“Where’s what?” I asked.

“Your bank book.”

I explained that it was in the attic along with a few other precious items and heirlooms I kept up there.

“Well, it’s no fucking good up there is it? Go get it!”

“Why?”

“You’re gonna have to start contributing a little more. The company have gone into administration and I’m out of a job.”

My heart sank.

“My dad left me that money in his will, Mike.  It’s not to be frittered away. I’m saving it; I’m saving it for our future.” I tried to explain.

That was a lie.  I was saving it to escape.  Every month I had saved and added to the total and I had been just about ready to leave when lockdown happened.  And now, like an animal backed into a corner, I was trapped.  If he saw that the funds had substantially grown over the last year, I would be in trouble.

“The future is now. Go get it.”

It took all my strength but I refused.  I shook my head and took a step away from him. His long stride covered the room in an instant and his hands were around my neck. Grasping for air, I panicked and kicked out. It was a glorious kick, right on the money. His grip released as he reached down to hug his crotch.  I ran into the spare bedroom.  In the other room, I heard him splutter and clear his throat; he was righting himself and he was coming for me.  His eyes burned as he marched through the door almost knocking it from his hinges.  Once again, he grabbed me but this time his nails dug deep into the flesh of my shoulder.

“You’ll go into that attic and you’ll get that bank book.  Do you hear?  Otherwise you’ll spend the night locked up there on your own.”

I thought of my dad.  The physical pain of grief washed over me and the pain in my shoulder momentarily dulled.  If he could see me now, he would be so disappointed in me and the woman I had become.  A submissive mouse rather than the lioness he wanted me to be.  She had crawled back into her den the moment she prematurely lost the only man in her life she had ever truly loved.  I wasn’t going to lose his final gift to me.  I stood firm and shook my head once again.

That was when he hit me.  The whack resounded off the four walls and reverberated around my head.  Blood spots and stars filled my vision as my legs gave out beneath me. I slumped to the floor as a trickle of blood fell from my nose and landed like a stray tear on the cream carpet.  I looked up and he stood over me with his fists clenched.

“I’ll go get it myself.”

He stormed off and slammed the door shut.

And that brings us to now.  I sit here with my back against one of my four walls for comfort.  I know I won’t see him for a few hours.  Not until he comes and drags me up into the attic.  I want him dead.  Leaving him is no longer enough.  I glance at my arms and see yellowing bruises.  The truth is that he doesn’t want me to leave the house because it means he doesn’t have to be careful anymore. No need for him to plan where on my body he can hit me.  I’m his canvas now: a canvas covered in purples, reds, faded greens and yellows.

I want him dead.

Silence fills the room.

I’m willing it.  Praying for it.

Outside the room I can hear the attic ladder being pulled from the ceiling.

More silence follows.

A splutter escapes his throat as he puts the ladders in place.  I hear the creak escape from the metal step as he shifts his weight onto it.

Silence.

I wish him death.

Why isn’t he ascending the steps?

Suddenly, the hallway erupts with a God awful sound.

He’s having a coughing fit and struggling to catch his breath…

 


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The Green Eyed Monster

Once upon a time in a land not so far away, there was a minuscule entity that existed deep within most residents that resided there. The entity was dark, twisted and fed off feelings of inferiority and fear. You may call it a parasite because when it latches on, it sucks and it feeds and it grows into something known only as The Green Eyed Monster.

A young princess lived in this faraway land and every day she attended school along with her fellow princes and princesses and she loved it. Now this princess was no angel and she had her flaws, much like all of us. She was known to answer back, sulk, leave her clothes on the floor of every room in the house and she drove her mother mad with her stubborn attitude towards reading. However, despite these imperfections, she knew what it meant to be kind and accepting (more to her school teachers and friends than to her parents) and it was these personality traits that caught the attention of a local King. The princess was told that she was a wonderful role model, someone who could be trusted to look after and care for others and she was offered the role of Town Representative. This important job meant that she would welcome visitors to her fairytale land and show, with pride, the place she called home. She would be a voice to talk to and an ear to listen if any of the town folk needed help, advice and a friend.

Rushing home from school that evening, and being careful not to trip on her dress train, the princess dashed into her mother’s arms as she shared with her the news she was so proud of. Tears welled in her mother’s eyes and she congratulated her daughter. The mother, seeing an opportunity, seized it and told her daughter to go upstairs and read her reading book because that’s what a good Town Representative would do.

“No!” was the princess’ reply.

See, I did tell you she was no angel.

The sense of pride inside the princess’ heart withered like a poisoned apple the following day. She was taunted by some other princes and princesses who weren’t given the Town Representative role this time round. One even threatened to tell the King about the princess’ imperfections so that the role would no longer be hers.

The parasite growing slowly inside the children’s bellies giggled. How it thrived on jealousy.

With the weight of the world laying heavy on her shoulders, the princess cried in her mother’s arms.

“They told me I didn’t deserve It, they said I would be rubbish.”

Now, the mother, knowing that there’s two sides to every story, (she is penning this masterpiece at the moment) simply responded with:

“They’re jealous, darling, that’s all.”

She explained about The Green Eyed Monster and how she too had suffered from it on more than one occasion. She once envied someone who was nominated for an award when she wasn’t; she once lusted after beauty and youth when hers were lacking and she was jealous of those with money who looked to be living their best lives every single day.

“How did you slay the monster, Mummy?” the princess asked.

“That’s easy, my dear. You simply kill it with kindness. You pay compliments, you acknowledge when someone has achieved something fantastic, you congratulate, you accept other’s beliefs and you truly believe everyone to be beautiful.”

The princess’ growing smile faltered a little.

“What if The Green Eyed Monster grows in me someday?”

“It may well try but as long as you accept that in this little far away land of ours, there will be someone who may be able to sing more melodious than you, dance more coordinated than you, solve maths equations quicker than you and achieve their dreams before you, you’ll be okay. If you welcome this, embrace this and tell others how freaking awesome they are, then I don’t think your monster will dare raise its ugly head.”

The princess smiled and told her mother that she couldn’t wait to be the Town Representative.”

“Now, go and read your book because you don’t want to have someone bragging that they’re a better reader than you.”

“Ha, Mum! Good try but no.”

Be kind and remind someone every day that they’re kickass.

Absolutely 100% not based on a true story…)


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And That’s All I Have To Say About That

You died on a Friday afternoon – it was the 30th January 2009 and today marks ten years since you left us.  We are taught from a relatively young age that dying is a part of life, but I sure wish it wasn’t.  A couple of months ago I spotted a video being shared on line.  It was amateur footage of a man holding a teddy bear and in that teddy bear was a recording device of some kind and on that recording device was the voice of his mum who had passed away some years before.  It was an old answer phone message she had left him and after she died, he could not bring himself to delete the message.  A friend had managed to take the answerphone message, store it on a device and placed it inside the teddy bear.  Before watching the video, there was a little context given so I knew what was going to unfold and I was certain about my reaction.  The man in the video squeezed the teddy’s tummy and his mother’s voice rang out.  It’s the man’s body language that is etched into my mind now as I think about it again. He doubled over, as if in physical pain, and he hugged that teddy so tight.  I was an emotional wreck ten seconds into that video; the emotion in him was so raw.  It was beautiful but also painful to watch because after the initial exultation over the fact he was hearing his mother’s voice, the realisation that is was just her recorded voice set in and the man stayed doubled over because the pain of her not really being there was a little too much for him to handle and understandably so.

I don’t have a recording of your voice; I don’t have any videos of you stored on my phone. But, I also no longer double over in pain at the thought of you not being a part of my life. I don’t need that constant reminder of your voice to remind me what I no longer have. Just your absence is sizeable enough even after ten years.

And in the ten years that you have been away from us, I can say that we are doing just fine but this is what you’ve missed:

I became a mum. A role that should not but absolutely does define me and every thing I do. I don’t think I am mumsy especially when I turn up to my daughter’s gymnastics wearing biker boots, jeans, a leather jacket and a She-Ra t-shirt and the phrase ‘full time Mummy’ would not sit well both on my Facebook page and on my conscience but first and foremost I am a mum. All of my decisions and choices always come back to the two lives I am trying to raise right. My outlook on life has changed with the landscape constantly evolving; no longer do I dwell upon my dreams and ambitions – I appear to have lost them somewhere in my endless laundry pile – but I dwell upon Grace’s and Zach’s. What type of people will they become and how will they make their mark upon the world because I sure haven’t made mine? My own mortality hangs over me; there’s nothing like having children to remind you that one day you won’t be there for them. I think your illness makes me worry more. Every niggle and every pain that can’t be explained and I’m in the doctors’ surgery. I was asked once by a doctor if I had hit my head after complaining of a headache that had lasted more than a week. ‘Yes,’ I told him with a serious look upon my face. ‘Three years ago I fell off my bike and hit my head on the pavement.’ He scowled, told me it was a stress headache and sent me on my way. Parenting leaves me stressed, anxious and exhausted but also more vigilant, I hope.

It goes without saying that my biggest regret in life is not giving you grandchildren before you died.  I’ve often wondered what kind of grandfather you would be, but I struggle to picture it so I don’t try to.  Why force an image onto something that won’t ever happen?

Your granddaughter at seven appears to have more confidence than I ever did growing up.  Last year I made a decision to move her out of a school she loved and into a new one closer to home.  I cried when I dropped her off on her first day as I knew I had taken her away from her friends, however I also knew that I had made the right decision to move her.  When I picked her up after school, I saw her alone and walking towards one of the ladies from After School Club.  Immediately my heart dropped because she had no friends but as it turned out, she was just asking where the toilets were and she had had a great first day.  She started a gymnastics class alone and she loves it and only three weeks ago she started Brownies.  She walked into a room filled with children she didn’t know, handed me her coat and walked right on in.  She’s good at making friends.  Let’s just hope she keeps them for life, like you did.

Your grandson looks like his dad – there is no getting around that fact.  His ears though – I would say they are yours.  Whether that’s a good thing or not, you can decide for yourself.  He’s just started playing football and when I say playing football, I actually mean that he runs around a field, chases his friends, sits on footballs and doesn’t listen to instructions.  He does all this dressed in the Barnsley kit his dad bought him though so perhaps you wouldn’t be surprised at his footballing antics.  I couldn’t visit your grave yesterday – on your birthday – but your grandson did.

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You missed my wedding and didn’t see me finally walk down an aisle.  I didn’t particularly enjoy the run up to my wedding and in the weeks and months beforehand, I left most of the planning to my mum.  I thought I was going to find the day really difficult and felt incredibly anxious over walking down the aisle with my mum and not you.  As it turned out though, I was completely wrong.  Nerves were defeated by perhaps a little too much champagne as I was getting dressed and ready and the day was up there with one of the best.  Your picture hung from my bouquet, you were toasted and remembered and then I just danced and danced and danced.  There wasn’t a shadow hanging over me that day, only light.

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However, after the births and the weddings we are left with this: the every day – the normality and you have missed 3650 of those every days.  Age is creeping up on me and sometimes I don’t recognise myself in the mirror.  Granted it’s usually at 6am in the morning, in the harsh bathroom light and without makeup on but I can see the fine lines that no longer disappear when the smile (or grimace) leaves my face.  You saw me as an adult but not as one who carries responsibility around with her daily.  My actions and reactions can impact upon someone’s life whether it be one of my children’s or one of the countless other children who see me and rely on me (and probably moan about me) everyday.  I am accountable and sometimes I miss my younger care free self but at 28, she was a little lost and now despite some inevitable dark days, I do know my self worth.

In the ten years since you have gone, I may not have travelled the world or lived the life I imagined, but I have become someone I think you would be proud of.  I have many, many faults but fundamentally, I am a good person.  Just as you were.

As turbulent and traumatic your final months were, I hope your final moments were anything but.  I miss you; I will always miss you.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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Teaching Mum’s Guide to Wellness

So, a fellow blogger and I were contacted last week by The Times magazine and were asked to write an article about wellness.

Hers started like this:

7.45am – I wake up having had, on average, seven hours and forty one minutes’ sleep – I have analysed my sleep over the past few years and I know this is the perfect amount for me.  I turn on the near-infrared light at the end of my bed and sit there for seven minutes meditating, to focus my mind for the day ahead. 

I take shots of probiotics and Quinton Isotonic, a supplement that comes from plankton and contains enzymes that help me stay hydrated, and a glass of water.

Mine, on the other hand…

5.37am – I start the morning filled to the brim with anxiety about the day ahead. I’ve had approximately five hours sleep. I blame this partially on the fact that I was playing on my children’s Nintendo Switch until midnight. The down side is that my eyelids feel like they have 20kg weights attached to them but the upside is that I have over 50 Pokemons in my bag and my Pikachu is at level 34 and almost undefeatable. I could go back to sleep as my alarm isn’t set to buzz until 6.15am but my head is already organising and reorganising my day: have I planned my lessons? Yes. Have I marked my books? Yes. Have I ironed the school uniforms? Yes. Did I pack my daughter’s PE bag before coming to bed last night? No. Sh*t, but I did bag myself a rare Pokemon instead so swings and roundabouts and all that. I pull my arm out from underneath my son; it is numb because he has laid on it all night, so my somewhat stealthy operation has failed before it has even begun as my arm is flopping around like Magikarp out of water. My son will wake and demand his morning kale Fruitshoot and wake the house. I sit in the darkness on the edge of the bed praying that I will one day win the lottery (that I don’t play) before early mornings get ups are the death of me.

I quietly nip downstairs where I take my daily dose of thyroxine, a tablet that is supposed to help my thyroid work properly because having children f*cked it up.  Silently creeping back upstairs, I step on a plastic Plankton from SpongeBob, cry out and wake the house.

8am – Take a shower using natural products, as the chemicals found in shampoo and shower gel can be toxic.  Weigh myself and use a litmus test to measure my urine pH levels.

6:23am – Take a shower in the company of 6547 Mashums and Smashers. Wash myself using a half empty Mr Matey and a unicorn sponge from B&M.  I worry that the chemicals in my hair are now toxic due to the fact that it hasn’t been washed since a week last Tuesday.  Residing myself to the fact that it won’t be washed again today, and feeling confident that perhaps in my dirty hair lies the cure for an underactive thyroid, I climb out, get dried and weigh myself. This is usually followed by crying, swearing or hopping back on the loo in the hope for a poo in order to lose a couple of pounds.

8.20 – I turn on my HumanCharger, a device that looks like an iPod with an ear piece that shines a light into my ear to give me energy, and make my bullet-proof coffee, using a table-spoon of coconut oil, some chaga mushroom powder – a little bit of potassium, colostrum and collagen.  I use a low-mycotoxins, toxic chemicals produced by moulds.

While I am having my coffee, I fill out a spreadsheet on my computer inputting my weight, my urine pH, my hydration and how well I’ve slept.  I then sync my Oura tracking ring, a sleeping and activity tracking device that I wear all day., with my phone and look at the data on how well I’ve slept and how much deep and REM sleep I’ve had.  I get dressed and stand on the balcony in my flat, which clears my mind.  I then feed my mind by reading for 20 minutes.

6:30 – I turn on every charger in the house because I have forgotten to charge tablets and phones the previous evening. In order to look more human than zombie for work, my children need some form of entertainment whilst I apply three layers of foundation and concealer. Unfortunately, and I’m ashamed to say, that the entertainment comes in the form of You Tube where my little ones watch other families acting out scenes from various retro films you used to love. I watch in awe at mums and dads acting out scenes from Ghostbusters – all with special effects and costumes – and all I can think is ‘Where do they find the time?’, ‘What the hell am I doing so wrong?’ and ‘I wonder if I can buy that Slimer on Amazon.’  My husband brings toast up stairs for the children to eat in bed; they attend Breakfast Club at school each morning so technically I’m paying for them to sit in a chair and watch other kids eat their breakfast.  My morning rant falls on deaf ears so I grab discarded crusts where I can and know that if there is a little Lurpak left on the crusts then it’s going to be a good day.  I haven’t had a drink of water in three days and my first cup of tea of the day will be at 11:05 during breaktime at school.  I wonder briefly if my insides look like a prune.

When it’s time to get dressed, I ask my children politely to grab their outfits for the day. Often I am ignored so this is followed by begging, pleading, shouting and the confiscation of all technology. I am then labelled the Worst Mum in the World but at least the cherubs are dressed. Me, however, I’m still in my dressing gown. I meander into my room and contemplate a life where I could stay in my dressing gown all day and yet still have a respectable career. Could I teach ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to my Year 10s via Skype, for example? Yes, I think so.  I feed my mind for 20 minutes with unachievable goals and unattainable wishes.  Then I realise I am running late. Sh*t.

9.15am – I leave the flat and fist bump the concierge.  I’ve fist bumped him every morning for the four years I’ve lived in that flat.  I like to make people smile and feel valued… I stopped reading the article here as I no longer believed the person writing it was a real human being. 

7.30am – I drop my children at Breakfast Club and on my way out through the school gates, I spot another mother – a kindred spirit.  We fist-bump each other and as we pass, I notice she is wearing pyjamas under her coat and Ugg style boots.  Perhaps she has mastered how to have a respectable career whilst staying in her dressing gown all day.  Perchance the dream really is attainable and I find myself both envious and in awe of her.

The definition of ‘well-being’ is ‘the state of being comfortable, happy and healthy’ and despite all of the above, I am.  Who wants to drink coffee made out of some weird mushroom anyway?

Always good for my well-being

**Please note that I wasn’t asked to write an article for The Time magazine, but my guess is that you have figured that out by now.**

Deny yourself nothing.

 

 


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The Fortunate Four

You’re twisting my hair as I type this. Twisting hair brings you comfort as it is something you have done since you were a baby. The hair twisting needs to stop because when I brush my hair, I pull out knot after knot after knot and it’s excruciating! However, right this second, as you twist while drinking your bedtime milk, it feels so relaxing. I’m sitting up in my bed wearing my pyjamas and you’re next to me. You’ve just got out of the bath and you’re in your pyjamas too (so is your sister, who is also in my bed.) It’s my favourite time of the day – together we lay reading, chatting, playing with tablets, watching Netflix or You Tube and you snuggle in next to me and lull me into a false state of relaxation with the hair twisting. In the back of my mind I know that in about twelve hours, when I am straightening my hair for work, I’ll be cursing the fifth knot yanked from my scalp. But, we’ll deal with that tomorrow.

Right now, let’s focus on you.

You LOVE opening presents and during the Christmas holidays you have ripped your way through your Dad’s birthday presents, your Christmas presents and my birthday presents. After every present opening session was complete you asked: “Is it MY birthday yet?” And we would reply with “Not yet, but soon.”

When you were born, you completed our little team of four; you’ll always be the baby of the family but tomorrow you turn four.

You’ve been a great three year old and these are the things you have enjoyed at three:

  • Fruitshoots
  • Hitting your sister
  • Running (‘From that day on, if I was goin’ somewhere, I was runnin’!’ – Your Daddy often quotes Forrest at you.)
  • Shouting ‘poo’, ‘wee’ or ‘butt butt’ at any given opportunity
  • Mooning and saying ‘look at my bum’ (that went down well in a beer garden this past summer…)
  • Transformers (although how they transform into a car has beaten us all.)
  • Gizzy and the Lemmings (you make us read out the title of each episode and if we don’t do it, you go beserk.)
  • Teen Titans Go (the Pee Pee Dance episode was repeated at least 3562 times back in August.)
  • Fruitshoots
  • Playing with your two best friends
  • Climbing on your Dad’s head
  • Cuddles
  • Hitting your sister
  • Ghostbusters 1, 2 and even the universally panned 2016 remake.
  • Smashers (we have at least 73 perched around the bath – you may have had 75 but then Mummy got in the bath and they were never seen again…)
  • Smelling my hair (you grab it and breathe the scent in – perhaps you learnt that from me because smelling your hair and breathing you in is my morning ritual.)
  • Cuddles
  • Fruitshoots

There was a cow at the birth of Jesus

You are, without a doubt, a Mummy’s Boy. and give me the best cuddles. Sometimes they are rough cuddles when you clamber all over me; sometimes they are sad cuddles when you’re hurt and sometimes they are mischievous cuddles when you know you have been naughty but you know you can soften the ‘blow’ by insisting on having a cuddle.

Your sister – from day one – was a Daddy’s girl so when you were born, you became my boy. Feeding you as a baby came so easily. I struggled with your sister and gave up breastfeeding after five months. But you? Well, you wouldn’t unclamp for fifteen months! But that’s enough on boobing as you might read this as a 21 year old and think Christ, Mum stop writing about your boobs on a public forum that your friends and colleagues read…😉 The subject, however, brings me perfectly to my next topic: co-sleeping. Oh, it’s a taboo subject and I have been told on a number of occasions: “Ooh *looks at me in a judging manner* you’ve made a rod for your own back there.” I can categorically say, hand on heart, that I do not have a rod in my back (I mean, I may one day because sleeping on the edge of a bed for the best part of seven years will probably have caused some critical damage) but metaphorically there is no rod because waking up next to you nestled in close brings me nothing but comfort. Waking in the dark winter mornings at 6am knowing I have a five lesson day, followed by boosters or a meeting, followed by a swimming lesson or Brownies, followed by umpiring or playing netball, followed by washing or ironing followed by…(oh, the list goes on and on), well that can make a person feel somewhat f*cked off overwhelmed but waking and feeling your body tucked into mine, smelling your hair and taking that moment to appreciate that you sleeping next to your Mummy makes both of us feel safe and loved and protected, well that just makes me happy. And for as long as I am happy and you’re happy, then I guess we’ll co-sleep. You’re little for such a short period of time so as long as you need me, I’m yours.

There is something that your Dad and I worry about.  You’re obsessed – some might say even an addict.  You cannot make it through the day without a Fruitshoot (or three).  Each morning your first words to me aren’t ‘I love you, Mummy’ or ‘Mummy, you look at least five years younger than your real age of 38’ No, your first words are ‘Fruitshoot’ and heaven help us all if your Dad has forgotten to put a Fruitshoot next to my side of the bed.  You have been known to punch bottles of Evian because we – God forbid – denied you that devil in a little orange bottle and told you that you needed drink more water.  Did you know that Evian spells naïve backwards?  Your Dad and I were certainly that when we thought we could end your addiction to Robinsons with a bottle of clear liquid that tastes like nothing, smells like nothing and yet costs twice as much.

Are you looking at him or shaking your head at all the Fruitshoots in the background?

Sometimes I have days when I feel that no one is pleased to see me; perhaps I have had a challenging class, maybe I have had an argument with your Dad or possibly your sister has told me that I am the worst mum in the world.  Whatever the reason, there are days when I don’t feel my self-worth but then I pick you up from after school club or Grandma drops you off at my school after a long day and I see your eyes light up when you see me – you ignite my light that occasionally doesn’t shine as bright as it should. No one loves me like you love me and no one will ever reciprocate that love one hundred times over quite like your Mummy does.

Happy Birthday, son.

I didn’t choose the kit…


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An Ode to the Parent & Child Parking Space

An ode to the Parent Child Parking Space. 🚗

I’ll admit, once it wasn’t important to me,

Not when driving round Gran, who aged 93, 👵

Insisted on going to Morrisons to do her big shop,

Into the car she would climb and I would hop,

Off we would go to her favourite place,

And I would park in a parent/child space.

I know, I know, it’s totally shocking,

I’m one of those trolls you should be blocking,

But allow me to try to explain my madness,

You might feel empathy or even sadness,

Gran was frail, weak and rickety,

Stubborn, forthright and a little pernickety,

Walking far was not her forte,

Because at 4ft 10 she was a little shorty,

We searched high and low for a parking spot up close,

A blue badge holder? We were not one of those,

So without looking anyone straight in the face,

I pulled up into a parent child space. 😱

Now I’m am a Mum, I have to apologise for this huge error, 🙋‍♀️

Because plucking children neatly from my car fills me with anxiety and terror, 👩‍👧‍👦

What if they slam into another car door?

Scratch some new paintwork and I’m hauled in by the law? 👮‍♀️

So imagine my anger, imagine my surprise,

When a huge Mercedes parked up by my side,

I glanced over to greet a kindred spirit – another stressed mum, 💆‍♀️

What glanced back was a guy struggling to see over his rather rotund tum,

The back seat was empty – in fact it was pristine,

That leather upholstery, a child’s hand it had never seen, 🍫 🍭

Despicable, disgusting a down right disgrace,

This man had pulled into a parent/child space,

Out he climbed and the Merc gave a sigh of relief,

So we decided to the chase the space-stealing thief,

Confidenly, he strode straight into the shop,

While we followed shouting: “Hey! How many kids have you got?”

Our shrieks and demands he chose to ignore,

While he perused the shelves of the grocery store, 🍅 🥓🍞

“Right that’s it,” I said. “We’ll give it all we’ve got”,

Later on he would find his Merc covered in my son’s snot,

So next time you’re out in your car kid free,

Take some advice and listen to me,

Most people prefer their vehicles polished and clean,

Park in a parent/child space and you might find that your car mysteriously ‘turns’ green!


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Girl Code

G I R L C O D E

(Basically, you’re a dick if you don’t follow it! 😳)

There used to be this thing, you see,

This disgusting trait called jealousy;

In younger years – I admit – I’d experience it some,

But less I feel (I hope) now I’m a Mum,

Beauty was something I longed for and saw it in everyone but me,

Spiteful words, twisted comments only made me more ugly,

Then I grew up and matured in every way,

And now I admire and praise the beauty I see each day,

I tell my pupils that in this life there will always be someone who is better at something than you,

And how they choose to accept this will reflect in all they do,

Coveting, we are taught, is a most evil sin,

If you want what others have, then the problem is deep within,

Take my girl – she’s beautiful, talented and smart,

She’s MY picture, perfect work of art,

But a day will come where she won’t feel good enough,

When perhaps school work just gets too tough,

But I don’t want her to desire the life of her peers,

She will be taught to face her fears,

You see, there’s this moral I have now learnt,

If you live by it, you won’t get burnt,

Motherhood: for seven years how I have glowed,

Because I fully live by the rules of the GIRL CODE,

Simple acts of kindness; compliments here and there,

‘Amazing outfit today and even better hair’,

Praise your sisters when they’re winning at life,

Doesn’t it feel better than twisting the knife?

Feeling fantastic and wearing that smile,

We’ll return that compliment and go an extra mile,

Stand by your girls; offer them support,

Make sure they don’t fall; ensure they’re caught,

Real girls won’t tear you apart or watch you break,

And the ones who do – it can’t be nice living in such hate,

Girl code means we love your family as much as we love you,

Follow our code and feel empowered in all you do,

Choosing not to listen and following the darker path,

And you’ll feel our collective wrath,

Stealing a kiss will turn you into a toad,

A perfect punishment for breaking our GIRL CODE!


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Life’s a Mountain

Life is a mountain we have been tasked to climb,

The battle though is where do we find the time?

You see, today I have washed three loads of washing,

ironed our clothes, marked 32 books,

wiped and wiped and wiped my son’s runny nose,

I’ve vacuumed twice, I’ve cleaned the loo,

Washed the dishes and dried them too,

But failure is written all over my face,

The mountain – I didn’t even reach the base,

Today I didn’t sit down and enjoy time with my children,

Their eyes were glued to screens too small,

Me at my laptop, I am even there at all?

I planned five lessons, wrote 60 reports

And then there was the other 32 books…

I teach a love of reading; ‘it’s my passion’, I claim,

But when my daughter wants to read with me,

My answer is always the same,

‘Soon, my dear’, ‘tomorrow perhaps’ and

‘I just don’t have the time, my love’

And the mountain’s top grows and shifts from above,

I feel so small because my children

haven’t seen their mother at all,

And so I start to wash and dry the dishes,

Feed the cat and clean the fishes,

It’s my job, my role to keep things ticking over,

Ensure to keep my house, my home, us alive,

Then the thoughts creep in,

Would anyone notice, notice if I…

This rhyme isn’t one I wish to finish,

My light, I won’t let it diminish,

And on I fight to make it through another day,

I text my mum and ‘sorry’ I say,

‘Sorry I came over feeling so stressed,

I don’t think I’m at my best’,

There’s no money left in the pot,

My housework has taken a back seat,

There’s just too many deadlines I have to meet,

I’m middle class, white, with a degree,

Our government takes no pity upon the likes of me,

With no pay rise in sight, my money fears grow,

Will I be able to provide for my family, I’ll never know,

It’s okay to talk and it’s okay to admit defeat,

It’s fine that you might not ever reach the mountain’s peak

Don’t stress about the unreachable summit,

Ask for help and please don’t plummet.

 


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I Am Woman

I am woman, hear me roar,

You call it nagging, but it’s so much more,

We can change the world with our coalesce voices,

We’ve fought, protested and died to get our own choices,

I am woman, hear me roar,

The louder we are, the harder to ignore,

Be vigilant, they warn, for an incoming attack,

But a woman will always have another woman’s back,

I am woman, hear me roar,

Can you see us up here, up here as we soar?

Mothers, wives, friends, sisters, aunts and teachers,

We’re not not impenetrable though, fear and grief – it can reach us,

We are women, hear us roar,

I’m not here to preach, just to implore,

You call us subversive, renegades, rebels and try to drag us down,

But you can watch from the sidelines as I wear my crown 👑

Some inspiration found in Parliament Square


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I Left My Tears in the Ocean

Cala Mondrego Beach wasn’t the beach I had been picturing in my mind on the journey in the taxi. It was considerably smaller than I imagined and wanted, but the view out into the sea was rather breath-taking. Situated in a cove, the small beach invited both holiday makers and exotic yachts to anchor down and appreciate their rather beautiful surroundings.

Only I didn’t do that – not straightaway anyway.

It took a simple act of unadulterated love to pull me out of whatever self absorbed hole I was in danger of being sucked into to make me look up and see the world as it should be seen: right here, right now and most certainly unfiltered.

When we arrived the beach, it was already filling up with couples and families both local and from father a field and an array of languages could be heard floating along in the warm breeze. We made a beeline for a couple of sun-beds only for us to be told that they were already taken. Eventually, we found two that were residing in the shade. We paid our 15 Euros and they were ours for the day. And when I say ‘ours’ I specifically mean my daughter and son because they immediately chose a bed each leaving both my husband and me laying out our towels in the sand. Within minutes, no, actually it was seconds, my daughter wanted her tablet and she cried (actual tears) when I informed her that she would only be able to watch the programmes we had pre-planned and downloaded for her. Yes! We preconceived that something like this would occur and downloaded a number of her favourite programmes. How awful of us!

“There’s no WiFi at the beach,” I informed her.

“No WiFi! But that’s impossible,” she wailed.

Wrapping herself up in a towel, she plugged her headphones in, laid back on the bed and ignored my plea for her to allow me to lather her in Nivea factor 50. My son, on the other hand, had already grown tired of the bed and was now lying in the sand and scooping it up onto the bed. He, bless him, had unknowingly placed himself a little too close to the childless couple on the beds next to us. Seasoned sunbathers, the couple had already moved their beds towards the burning ball of fire in the sky and had the factor two oil lathered on. The Earth must have tilted slightly in its orbit as the lady jumped up from where she lay and moved her bed onto my boy innocently playing in the sand. With her territory clearly marked out, she resumed her place back on her bed without even acknowledging the fact that she had placed her bed millimetres away from being directly on top of a three year old boy.

“Arseholes!” my husband shouted as he picked up his sand laden towel and shook it vigorously in their direction.

Our next task was one we had come to dread: applying sun-cream to children who don’t understand the importance of rigorous sun-cream application. By this time we were quite seasoned at this job and while one of us caused a simple diversion (usually using sweets), the other approached the first child from behind, jumped, grabbed any flailing limbs and lathered and lathered until they resembled a melting white Magnum ice-cream. We would then simply repeat this action with the second child and there you have it – two children ready to stay safe in the sun.

It was finally time to lay down and have a rest, but not before I hounded the husband to take a picture of me in my bikini as I was feeling surprisingly confident having spent the best part of two weeks running before the holiday in a last minute attempt to tone the ‘mumbod’.

“You’re so vain!” he laughed at me before grabbing his mini Magnum ice-creams by the hand and running off towards the ocean thus leaving me to try to take a selfie in the sun which proved impossible with the glare of the sun on my screen and factor 50 dripping from my fingers. How would all the people on my social media accounts know that I was having a wonderful time on holiday if I didn’t post regularly?

Having given up on the selfie, I had just finished applying my sun cream – factor 30 on my burnt bits and 15 on my legs – when I heard the familiar war cry of my children. They were salty and sandy as they launched their little bodies into my arms where they demanded snacks and pop. One visit to the beach shop later and they were munching on the famous Spanish dish we know as Salt and Vinegar Pringles and supping down orange Fanta. My job as this was all happening was batting away the wasps that were intent on getting their fill of the Fanta. As the wasps descended, I may or may not have been screaming and running around the beds much to the annoyance of the childless couple who were wasp-free and sunbathing on sand that was definitely on our territory. (Perhaps I should have scooched on down and had a wee around our beds.)

Since arriving at the beach, I had not spent one minute of my time at the beach laid down so I decided to go in the sea. I’m not a huge fan of the ocean if I am being honest. I like to admire it from afar; preferably from a sun-bed with my Kindle in one hand and a lager in the other but those delicacies were now ancient relics from other holidays past when we were the childless couple lapping up the sun’s rays and staring down the couples who had had the audacity to procreate. The sea at Calamondrego Beach however, was really nothing short of wonderful. The cold didn’t bite at your toes as you entered and the waves didn’t threaten to knock you down. Amiable water lapped up over my toes and the waves were lulling me. They forced me to stop and take a minute. I breathed in and out and in and out as I felt the warmth of the sun hitting my back. I noticed with clarity that my children had left the confinement of their towels and beds and had rushed to be in the ocean with me; their father followed close behind.

Then something in my periphery vision makes me turn around slightly and that’s the moment when I begin to appreciate where I am.

A mother is carrying her child across the beach and they are heading towards the sea. He is laid across her and she is carrying him like he’s a baby, holding him under his legs and supporting his body. Only this child is not a baby – far from it. I guess his age at about eleven or twelve and yet she carries him without burden as though he is as light as a feather. There is a vacant look in his eyes and yet a smile is etched across his face because he knows where he is going. I become acutely aware of the fact that I am staring but I can not tear my eyes away from this woman carrying her disabled child into the ocean. Everything I have complained about in the last few hours hangs around me like the albatross on the ancient mariner and I am a little ashamed of myself for not being there in the present unlike the mother who’s now passing me and entering the ocean. She isn’t deterred by the initial coldness of the sea splashing up against her legs and she continues without hesitation as the water rises up against the boy in her arms. Delicately and with one arm she scoops up water to gently wet his hair and as she does this, his smile grows. I sit in the sand and allow the sea to wrap its arms around me just as this mother is wrapping her arms around her boy and I continue to watch. I can hear my own children shrieking and laughing as their father swims with them in the sea. My admiration for her is great and I see a strength in her that I just don’t see in myself at that moment. Here I am sulking over the fact that I haven’t been able to lie down and top up my tan and filter the hell out of ‘a perfect family moment’ to share online and yet here is this woman whose sole intention is to give her son the best day at the beach. I realise that my eyes are filling with salty tears and they fall down my cheeks and into the water; they join the ocean where they will stay forever. Unintentionally, this mother has given me a small wisdom that I hope to live my life by.

This mother is in the now; she’s living in the moment, as his her son and they are loving every second of it.

I turn my attention back to my own children laughing, playing and splashing in the sea and I stride towards them scooping my son up in my arms as I reach him. My phone is discarded somewhere, the iPad is turned off and my Kindle is sitting unread on the sun-bed.

I’m in the now and it’s right where I should be.