The summer holidays. They’re a marathon. Not a sprint. Anyone who’s peaked on day one and done an ACTUAL day trip will know this (ME last year). And be regretting it right about now. Also. If you’re fed up of haemorrhaging money, here’s some stuff you can do for well under a fiver. This post is written in partnership with BT TV Kids.
Make slime. This is the latest craze and all my kids want to do. It’s super easy. Two ingredients and that’s it. PVA glue (250 ml per portion) and some Bio Washing Gel. Simply pour the glue in and add the Bio Gel a teaspoon at a time until you can knead it without it sticking to your fingers. You can add food colouring or even glitter to really bling it up. Cost: around £2
Go to the park. There are some amazing parks out there. You don’t have to stick to one on your doorstep. They’re free and I can wow my kids with all sorts of stuff (I don’t, incidentally; I’m definitely on the ‘underwhelming’ spectrum these days) but they are always happiest in the park on their bikes. Some park cafes charge a small fortune for lunches and ice creams (especially when you have to buy three of everything) so you could even take your own ice lollies in a freezer pack. It’s not like they’re going to wait until past 10.30 AM to eat them anyway, is it? Cost: food from your weekly shop
Film and TV afternoon. You don’t need to go to the cinema and remortgage your house to have a fab film and TV afternoon. Get the sofa prepped with your kids’ duvets and cushions (show me a kid who doesn’t love the novelty of this), a bowl of popcorn and cola bottles and sign up to BT TV Kids and get nine channels for just £4 a month. Plus over 2,000 episodes of on demand kids’ entertainment. They have all my kids’ favourite shows and more – Paw Patrol, Ben and Holly, Be Cool Scooby Doo, Spongebob Squarepants… Cost: £4 per month, sign up here
Harness their creative spirit. Usually, when we do anything creative together, it ends up with me wondering if I need to call a psychiatrist. I think you can see why. That said, I’ve recently realised that my kids love an organised creative activity – you know, a wordsearch or a join the dots or a maze. Something that’s a bit structured. Now they’re getting older, they’ll happily do this ALONE for hours (OK, that may be an exaggeration but definitely upwards of 25 minutes, which is a result in any parent’s book, right?). The lovely people at BT TV Kids have made this super easy for you. And created a FREE summer activity pack with 26 pages of stuff to do, whilst you put your feet up, have a well deserved cuppa (or gin), and coo the odd word of encouragement. The best bit? You won’t have to set foot near a sodding pipe cleaner. Phew. Also, BT TV has launched a competition that challenges children to get creative and design their own PAW Patrol character. Great for competitive siblings. Visit metro.co.uk/drawpatrol to enter (the deadline is Friday 11th August). Cost: A few pages of printing. FREE if you use someone else’s haha.
Make and eat pancakes. We do this a lot in our house. The kids help. Then I let them go wild and decorate them with whatever we have in the cupboard. Chocolate sauce. Strawberry sauce. Honey. Sprinkles. I’ll be honest. The pancakes look pretty vile by the time they’ve finished with them. And it takes me about three hours to ‘unsticky’ all the surfaces and all the errant flour that’s made its way into every crevice. But just look how happy it makes them. Cost: food from your weekly shop
Let your kids get bored. Someone recently gave me an amazing piece of advice. ‘Kids need to learn to amuse themselves.’ When they are allowed to be bored, they find stuff they want to do. So now? When one of my kids tells me they’re bored, I don’t feel guilty or that it’s my responsibility to relieve this instantly. I suggest lots of things they could do before leaving them to figure the rest out for themselves. Cost: Absolutely flipping FREE.
Hang out and (try and) enjoy being together. Because in a few weeks we’ll all be back to the daily grind and helping our kids remember what shoes are again (the biggest conundrum of all time). PS It’s totally fine if you don’t enjoy being together ALL of the time. There are points in the holidays where no matter how much fun you’ve been having, you just need a little space. Put the kids in a holiday club or ‘lend’ them to the grandparents. Set them up with their favourite shows from BT TV Kids. No guilt. You’ll all be better for it. You especially.
A year ago today my husband and I separated. A strange anniversary to mark, perhaps. But it’s a notable one, nevertheless. Because, today, I am a million miles from where I was that day, last year, which was full of sadness and relief, confusion and inevitability. All at once. And I want to share where I am now, for anyone who is going through a separation, for anyone who is thinking about it and for everyone who is wondering if they will ever feel ok again. I AM ok. And I know that you will be ok, too. One day, you will laugh again.
A good year.
I cannot believe that 365 days have passed since my marriage ended.
I don’t want to make light of a situation that was a sad and difficult decision to make. Separation is painful and uncertain and no one would go into a marriage hoping it ends that way.
That said, the past year has been one of the best of my life. And I know that must sound really odd. But it has. Because it has been full of love, opportunities, amazing energy and personal development.
It has shown me, over and over again, that I am never alone.
And that I can pretty much do anything I set my mind to.
I don’t know that I would ever have realised this, otherwise.
Making peace with yourself.
I remember, a few days after separating, sitting in the garden with my sister.
I was confused more than sad. The end of my marriage had been inevitable for some time. I knew that, deep down. There was no way it could have gone on.
Yet there was a niggle that I couldn’t shake. Was it all my fault? Could I have done more? Would I ever feel ok again?
My sister was resolute on that. She told me that I had done everything I could. That she believed in my decision. And that the place to put my energies was in moving forward, not soul-searching something I would never find the answers to.
That conversation was the last time I ever let the doubts take over. I didn’t have them again, after that. I simply chose not to. I chose to believe in my decision. In what lay ahead.
And I kept moving forward.
Going it alone is liberating.
The thought of being alone can be scary. Especially after 15 years of being with someone and having three kids together.
I realised in the early months how our society is built for couples. To have a person by your side. To do ‘stuff’ with someone. There were so many things I hadn’t factored in that took me by surprise. The sinking feeling of going to parties on your own. Trying to get the sodding Christmas tree out of the house. Building my first fire. Most recently, doing my first BBQ. Having to do everything ON MY OWN.
And, for a girl who thought she was pretty independent, there were so many things I had simply never done. Because I had always had someone else to do them for me.
Suddenly, it was just me. And three kids. Suddenly, there was no one else.
And you know what? We survived. I managed.
I can now do a pretty kick arse BBQ (even if I did initially have to call a friend to talk me through it). As for the Christmas tree? Thanks to my Instagram followers, this year I know exactly how to get the b*stard out without first shedding all 13,457 needles in my hallway and just removing the carcass.
And in three weeks time, we are doing our first family holiday abroad to the amazing Club Letoonia in Turkey. Just me and my three kids. This is the ultimate milestone for me. Once I’ve done that, I’ll feel I’ve done it all. (Sort of).
So, being alone? Turns out, it can actually be really, really liberating and empowering.
THIS is a real family.
Of course. I am not naive. And I am sensitive to the situation I am in.
Because, as happy as I am, I know my kids would rather have their parents together than apart. Of course they would. It’s how we are conditioned. It’s how society tells us a family should operate.
And I do live with the knowledge, every day, that we have affected our kids’ lives. There are days where I feel terribly guilty about that. Where I internalise any of my kids’ struggles and wonder if our separation is the route cause. Did I put my happiness before my kids? Until a good friend said this:
‘You are teaching your kids something I can never. That leaving a man can be the most empowering thing in your life. Never stay with someone because society thinks you should. You’re the epitome of a strong woman. And your girls will thank you endlessly one day.’
In a rational state, the guilt doesn’t touch me. Because I can see how much better we all function. How much happier we are.
And I will always stick by what I said in my post on New Year’s Eve. That separation can be positive. That we will continue to do the best by our kids and show them that this is making their lives better. That they still have two parents who love them to the moon and back.
That we are still a ‘real family.’
Day by day. And then a year!
So, one year on, life is very different. I feel that we have come a long way.
And there are things that have happened, like The New Mum’s Notebook and my book deal with Penguin, that I don’t think would have happened if I’d stayed. Because the energy channels were so blocked with negativity and low self-esteem.
Since my separation, lots of you have got in touch. Sharing your stories. Your worries. Some of you have confided in me and asked me what you should do. That’s always a difficult one. Because do I advocate separation? No. Of course, I don’t. Do I think it’s an easy option? No. Of course, I don’t. It took me a long time to have the confidence to face up to what I needed to do. And then to do it.
What I do believe is trusting in yourself. In how you feel. And recognising that, sometimes, when you know you’re in the wrong relationship, the best thing you can do is make the break and have faith that everything will be as it should be, in the end.
The last year has shown me this over and over again.
I would just like to express my love and thanks to everyone who’s supported us this last year – I couldn’t have got here without you. And to anyone going through a separation, I will say this. It’s so hard. I know. And so uncertain. But, one day, you will laugh again. That I can certainly promise you. More of me over on Facebook and Instagram.
When I had my first baby, she slept quite well. So well, in fact, that I made Daddy Pig swear on his life never to tell ANYONE. He got to go to work during the day. But I needed other mums to hang out with. My second girl slept even better. ‘TELL NO ONE,’ I reminded him. Then I cocked it all up. And smug old ‘I’m so good at this baby making s***’ had to go and ruin it with a third child. Who frequently gets up at hideous o’clock and makes me want to stick pins in my eyes come bedtime. These are the main stages of our bedtime routine. Every. Painful. Night.
Stage One: Denial
ME: Ok, it’s time for bed now. In we go.
HIM: That’s not my bedroom.
ME: I’m sorry?
HIM: That’s not my bedroom! Look at it! THAT IS NOT MINE!
ME: (Under my breath) Good grief. Good f*cking grief. Where’s the gin?
Stage Two: Debate
ME: Time for sleep now. Lay down. That’s it. Put your pirate ship down too. Good boy.
HIM: But I want to touch it. I won’t play with it.
(He says, playing with it. Incidentally, this is the same conversation we have about his willy.)
ME: Well then you don’t need it there, do you? Let me put it on the side for the morning.
HIM: Are you going to take my sword too?
ME: Yes. Yes, I am.
HIM: No you’re not.
ME: Yes. I am.
HIM: You can’t take it if I don’t say that you can.
(Repeat the above conversation 2,378 times until I am literally thinking about stabbing myself with his sword whilst cursing it for being blunt and plastic.)
ME: (In that really happy/delirious/patronising/’I’m losing the f*cking will here’ voice) GIVE ME THE PIRATE SHIP. (And then I ruin it ALL. And lose every bit of control I never had). IF YOU DON’T GIVE IT TO ME I WILL SMASH IT INTO A MILLION PIECES AND PUT IT IN THE BIN.
HIM: Where’s your hammer, then?
ME: OMG. I am in actual, physical pain. Where’s the gin?
Stage Three: Remorse
HIM: I’m sorry, Mummy. I’ll put the pirate ship down.
(97 minutes have now elapsed since this whole sorry process started).
ME: OK. Great. Night then. (Turn to leave the room. FINALLY.)
HIM: Sleep with me, Mummy. And hold my hand, Mummy.
ME: (Under my breath) Oh dear God. No. I can’t bear it. I’m not getting out of here alive. Ever.
HIM: Can you pat me too?
ME: (Look at watch. 8.45 PM. He’ll be up again at 5.45 AM. I want to cry. I actually want to cry.) WHY ARE YOU RUINING MY LIFE LIKE THIS? WHY?
HIM: Can I have my pirate ship back?
ME: (Legging it out of the room) ARGHHHHHHHHHH! JUST GO TO F*CKING SLEEP!
As I write this, I can hear him. He’s still awake. Playing with the sodding pirate ship. I’m off to find my hammer… SERIOUSLY, THOUGH. WHY ISN’T HE TIRED? More of me on Facebook and Instagram.
How on earth have I been a mother for eight years, had three kids and NEVER written a post about threenagers? Well, finally, here it is. How to spot one.
Disclaimer: I love my boy. More than anything. He is loving. And considerate. And sweet. He notices when I wear a new dress or do my hair. He sometimes puts his plate on the side after dinner. This is how I described him to our new au pair, the night she arrived. A GLOWING TESTIMONY OF HOW BLOODY LOVELY HE IS. Then, the next morning, he woke up, acted like a total s***bag and terrorised us both for 12 hours. She looked slightly horrified and, after he was in bed, I introduced her to my good mate, Ginny Gin Gin. Twice. Welcome to the life of a threenager. Here’s how to spot one.
Size. Threenagers are not really that different to toddlers with their illogical, irritating behaviour. And they look much the same. Still pint-sized. So how do you even tell them apart? Well, if you look a little closer, threenagers are getting a bit taller and leaner. They’ve got that, ‘Look at me, I’m cooler than you,’ vibe starting, in their skinny jeans that they haven’t been able to wear until now. And they’re not afraid to use it.
Vocabulary. Threenagers talk. A lot. Sometimes, all day long for 12 hours solid. Around this time, you wish you’d thrown that sodding ‘First 100 Words‘ book out, along with those equally annoying, ‘That’s not my… ARGGGHHHH PLEASE F*** OFF AND STOP WRITING THESE BOOKS‘ series. Because all you’ve done is arm them with the skills to torment you for 12 hours solid. Every single day.
Folded arms. When threenagers fold their arms, they mean business. When accompanied with the lowered head and ‘Death Stare,’ this basically means you’re screwed and you’re not going to do any of the things you wanted to do. For at least the next year. Or maybe ever again.
Hand on hips. Sometimes, threenagers alternate the folded arms and throw you off track with a hand on the hip. This is just another way of them telling you they’re not doing it. Any of it.
‘It wasn’t me.’ Threenagers say this A LOT. Ahhhhh. Welcome to their disillusioned world. You saw them hit their sister over the head/throw their crisp packet on the floor/take something that isn’t theirs WITH YOUR ACTUAL EYES. They swear blind it wasn’t them. ‘I saw you do it!‘ you say. Several times. They look at you with disgust. To them you are nothing but an idiot. And a lying one at that.
Bouts of joylessness. No one does joylessness better than a threenager. Their vocabulary completely fails them at this point and they have no idea why they are completely and utterly miserable. The only thing they do know? It’s definitely your fault.
Independence. Threenagers are all about doing stuff for themselves. Getting in and out of the car. Putting on their own shoes. Sadly for you, they don’t necessarily have the skills to do any of it. Meaning you’ll be even later for stuff you were never on time for anyway.
Attitude. Threenagers think they are cleverer than you. The End. (There is a distinct possibility that, after spending 12 hours with one, they are. Mainly because you have lost the will to live, several times over. And are a little drunk.)
Thanks to my boy for inspiring this post and providing me with the photographic evidence. More of me over on Instagram and Facebook.
Eight years ago this week, I became a mother. FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME. I look back now at photos of my younger mum self (not just that hilarious post-birth picture) and, beneath the love and contentment, I can still feel how green I was. How unsure I was. I remember that first night at home with her like it was yesterday. ‘What on earth do we do with her? Can we put her down, do you think?‘ Eight years, three kids and no nappies later (yes, new mums, it really does happen one day), this is what I’d tell my first-time mum self (if she’d have listened).
‘It’s going to be ok.’
Yesterday morning, I dropped the boy off at nursery, the nursery I will have been at for eight years by the time he starts school. (Don’t think about the money, don’t think about the money. Haha.)
Sarah, who co-owns the nursery, opened the door and we started talking about The New Mum’s Notebook. What the next Notebook is going to be. And she reminded me how far I’ve come as a mother. ‘Do you remember,‘ she said, ‘when you first started here and you told us that Beaver was a Gina Ford baby and had to nap at this exact time in complete darkness and silence? You left and we thought, how on earth are we going to do this in a nursery environment?’
It made me laugh. Because I do remember that. Vividly. I remember my first-time mum self well. The one who was so scared of things going wrong. Who once shouted at her own mum for daring to look under the muslin whilst her baby was sleeping. The one who felt the need to control EVERYTHING (and foolishly thought she could).
I want to go back and give her a hug. Tell her that it will be ok. That the world won’t implode if things don’t go to plan. That there are NO PLANS when you have a small baby in tow.
There is love. And there is cake.
And that is all you need.
My first-time mum self did a good enough job, as good as she could. After all, she didn’t know any better.
But she missed out on some stuff along the way. She worried about spoiling her newborn. She could have cuddled her more. Indulged herself in that intense and beautiful feeling of a new baby on her chest. And forgotten about the ridiculous things she’d picked up elsewhere, like needing to stimulate a tiny person who already had all the stimulation she needed. The warmth and security of her mum.
The thing is, my first-time mum self was lucky. Really lucky. Because she got to do it all again. Twice. To have another two children, who mellowed her a little more each time they came.
The second baby reminded her that she could do this. Because she’d already done it once before.
But, it wasn’t until the third baby that the penny really dropped. Maybe it was the knowledge that this baby was her last and that made him more precious. Maybe it was the frailty of her mental health and her need to feel that newborn on her chest. To feel that closeness, that warmth, those two hearts beating as if they were one.
Because when she felt that, she felt less desperate and alone.
And the crazy thing is that, despite being unwell for so much of those early months, her third time was a charm, indeed.
The fear of going out and the safety she felt when she was tucked up in bed with her new baby and a boxset made her slow down for the first time in years. For the first time in her life as a mother.
In that respect, PND was both a curse and a blessing. Because, when she started to get well again, she had learned a lesson, albeit the hard way.
She had learned to slow down. To catch the moment. That it would be ok. All of it. That the world wouldn’t implode if things didn’t go to plan. Because things hadn’t gone to plan. They had veered so far from any plan a new mum would ever make.
‘It’s a good job then, that there are no plans when you have a small baby in tow,‘ she thought.
The other day, my NCT girls, who I have known for eight years, gave me a present for my 40th birthday. It was a beautiful framed print. ‘She believed she could. So she did.‘ A phrase that many of us will be familiar with. It’s meant as much to me as anything could, at this stage in my life. Because it’s how I’ve slowly started to live in the past year and how I intend to approach the next 10. That said, whilst self-belief is something we can (and should) have more of, the belief in you from others, alongside your own self-belief, cannot be underestimated. Having friends and family by your side, and all the love they encompass, makes your ability to ‘believe’ in yourself a real possibility.
Keeping the magic.
When we are really small, the concept of believing largely relies on magic.
In Father Christmas. In (unreliable, often gin-soaked) Tooth Fairies. In the Easter Bunny (who often eats all the chocolate several times before Easter Sunday actually arrives).
In fact, from the moment we are born, ‘believing’ is instinctive. Like breathing. We don’t question it. Then, somewhere along the line, we discover ‘the truth.’ Father Christmas doesn’t exist. Our parents were the Tooth Fairy (when they remembered). And the Easter Bunny was a big, giant fraud too.
Suddenly, that magic is gone. And often, in the process, our natural instinct to believe.
As we grow, we are told, continually, to believe in ourselves. It’s certainly a buzz phrase, these days. BELIEVE.
Yet, at this point, most of us don’t even know ourselves. We don’t know who we are, what we value, what we desire. ‘Believe in yourself‘ can feel like empty words.
They don’t make a difference to the bills that need paying, the relationship that isn’t working or the job that isn’t progressing as we’d hoped.
Or do they?
Doubt or Believe.
Then. One day. The s*** hits the fan. Maybe, we lose someone we loved. Our job. Our home. Our relationship. Our security. And we are as naked as the day we were born.
We’re presented with a choice. Sink or swim. Doubt or believe.
Suddenly, there is no fear in daring to believe. We are at our most vulnerable. What can be worse than this? And, what if, just what if, there is something to believe in, after all?
What if WE are the thing we were supposed to believe in, all along.
ME. YOU. US. EACH OTHER.
On good days and bad.
If you’re lucky, you might reach this point, without something huge happening to you. But I doubt it’s the case for most.
I can’t describe the exact moment it happened to me. It happened very gradually after my separation. An evening doing a mood board with two good friends about how we wanted our lives to look (a mood board, which has already manifested several, pretty amazing things). Another friend, unintentionally, taking me under her wing and showing me what can happen when you just choose to believe.
And that is pretty much how I live now. Every, single day. I choose to believe. ALWAYS. In everything around me. In myself. In the love extended to me so generously by friends and family. Even when things feel rubbish (which they still occasionally do, of course). I have decided that I can just trust in ALL of it. In the Universe.
That thing that is SO much bigger than me.
The power of human connection.
But. I am no fool. I know how I am here. And it is not down to me, alone.
I look at the people around me now and I know they are a big part of it. That it is down to the brilliant friends, real and virtual, who said, ‘It’s going to be ok. You’re going to figure this s*** out. Good things are coming. We believe in you. And we have your back.’ The brilliant friends that made me believe I could dare to believe in myself.
And my 40th birthday has humbled me, way beyond the celebrations and champagne. The love and thoughtfulness from others has been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. On Monday, a beautiful friend left balloons attached to my letterbox with a card, ‘In case you’re feeling flat after your many days of celebrating, I love you.’
So, yes. ‘She believed she could. So she did.‘ But, that’s not the whole story. We can totally believe in ourselves. And we absolutely should. But we must also believe in one another. Connect with one another. And radiate that positivity and faith that we all have within us, even if we haven’t seen it for a while.
Because, what greater gift can you give someone else than helping them believe that they can dare to believe in themselves?
(From experience, I can tell you. There is none.)
All the love to each of you wonderful human beings.
A year ago the thought of turning 40 made me recoil a little. (A lot.) Today, on the last day of my 30s, I don’t think I have ever been as excited or grateful about having a birthday. THIS birthday. Here’s why.
My 30s, bar a year or two, have been ALL about raising kids. Three of them. As my sister pointed out, I have been changing nappies, continually, for eight years. As of last week the boy is potty trained (with the odd poo in his pants). And whilst I realise I still have a lot of ‘raising’ to do, they are not the dependent beings they were. There are no more babies in my future. And I have slowly been sneaking in a little more time for ME. They say the 30s are about your kids and your 40s are more about you. BRING. IT. ON.
Getting older is a blessing. If recent events have shown me anything, it’s that getting older is the most precious gift we’re ever given. I am grateful. SO grateful. Getting older gives you experience and that experience reminds you that you can a) get through anything b) do anything you put your mind to and c) light your first proper BBQ at 39 years of age (me, last night. Seriously, I feel as proud of this as anything I’ve achieved in the past year. Haha).
Things don’t turn out the way you thought, and that’s MORE than ok. My plan at 40 was not to be separated. But, we are all doing ok. Daddy and I are finding our way, more peacefully. The kids are settled. And there is something REALLY invigorating about starting my 40s in a new, fresh place with a lot of the turmoil behind me. Things weren’t working, we have dared to change them and that motivates me every single day.
A lot of stuff has fallen into place, just by chilling the F*** out. I am a completely different person to the highly strung 29 year old, who turned 30. Obviously. Three kids have mellowed me, beyond belief and made me realise that actually? The best things happen when you swim downstream, not up. When you accept things AS THEY ARE. And you choose to have a little faith in everything you do, rather than forcefully try and influence it. It will happen when it happens. And, if it doesn’t, it was probably never meant to.
I have the career I always wanted, but it didn’t happen until now. I used to think if you weren’t sorted in your career by aged 25, it was game over. I couldn’t seem to get my writing gig off the ground. Traditional journalism didn’t suit me, for many reasons. But what I failed to see then was that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And, sometimes, you need life’s rich tapestry to give you something worthwhile to write about. This has certainly been the case for me. At the ripe ‘not so old’ age of 39 I have a book deal. 39! Which says to me, it ISN’T over until the OLD lady sings. And it’s NEVER too late.
‘It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to.’ Historically, I am a dreadful birthday girl. Just ask my mum. I used to cry at my own parties because I was sad when I didn’t win Pass the Parcel or get a party bag (yes, I was THAT child). As an adult, I (unfairly) expected my other half to orchestrate the perfect birthday and, then, when he got the gift/plan/whole thing wrong, I would be a bit, erm, p***ed off. And interpret this as some sign that he clearly didn’t know/love me at all. Just me? This year? I’ve bought my own present – something I’ve wanted since I was 30. I’ve planned a week of celebrations – so many that my friends are starting to drop eye contact when they see me, in case I invite them to ANOTHER one. (Yawn.) And it feels really good to know what I want and just do it, myself. I will probably still cry, at some point. When I’ve had too much gin. Leopard, spots and all that.
I am surrounded by the nicest bunch of people I could ever hope for. When you’re separated, your family and friendships become EVEN more important. I’ve made effort this past year to reignite friendships, make new friends and I have been blessed with people who I can count on, who lift me just with their smiles and make me realise my pelvic floor hasn’t reached 40 in the same positive way as the rest of me.
I may fall in love again. Right now, this isn’t on my radar. But the possibility and hope is there. And it’s a different thought to falling in love in your 20s, when so much of your future rests on it. I have my kids. I have my work. So the next time I do this romance lark, it’s going to be for no other reason than me. And him.
I am happy on my own. Let’s face it, no parent is ever on their own THAT often. But, as our separation has settled, I now find myself with regular weekly occasions where the kids are with Daddy and I am on my own. Although I’ve always been happy with my own company, it took me a while to adjust to this way of life, after so long of NOT having time. To enjoy it rather than work or clean my way through it. The past month, I have got myself back out there again. I have made plans. Socialised. And what I’ve realised? It’s pretty fun ‘back out there.’
I’m not 50. But you can bet your life that, by the time I get there, I will find 10 positive things to say about that. Never look back. Always look forward. Because if you’re not looking where you’re going, you’re going to trip over.
Much love to everyone who has supported me this past year. And to my mum, dad and sister who have put up with me for 40 of them!
How am I STILL so crap at this potty training lark, THIRD time around? In my defence, it’s my first time ‘doing’ a boy. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Dazzling him with a variety of pants (like I once did his fashion conscious sisters) has done nothing to convince him this is a brilliant idea. He couldn’t care less whether he’s p***ing all over Superman or Batman.
Apparently, ‘Only girls use the toilet. Boys don’t.‘ His actual words. Which is kind of true in our house, given that he’s surrounded by females.
Being the third child means Mummy is far less consistent about the whole process. Forget the reward charts and bag of goodies for each wee, there is mention of a stale old chocolate biscuit if he does one. That Mummy then eats under the stress of it all.
After two hours of a COMPLETE lack of interest, Mummy caves and puts on a nappy. Because she doesn’t want to force him before he’s ready. (Official story: she wants to watch Mad Men).
Doing this the day after an 11 DAY half term holiday is stoopid.
Doing this at all is stoopid.
Listening to his sisters giving him tips whilst gyrating their hips wildly, showing him how to ‘shake it off’ further convinces you that this is something Daddy should be undertaking. Because now he’s just utterly confused. Do we want him to do a wee or a Taylor Swift routine?
Then, just when I’ve resolved to try again in two to three years (five), he takes himself off, sits on the potty and does a wee.
And it turns out that all he actually needed was a giant sword.
Tonight, I had the most invigorating run I can remember having in a long time. The wind was howling, the trees were reaching out to one another far above my head and the sky felt big. So big and vast and dominant. The rain was falling lightly and the combination of all these sensations made me feel alive. Properly alive. It was one of those rare moments of pure and utter joy that you can feel in every cell of your body. That make you realise how often you’re sleeping through the rest of your life.
In the wake of tragedies like Saturday’s terror attack at London Bridge, on the street I used to work on and walk every day, it is totally normal to feel desperately sad, confused, scared, reflective and out of sorts. It hit me as much as ever, perhaps more so, knowing the area intimately and being just up the road having drinks in Soho when it happened.
But this is not a post about terror. Or fear. Or death. It is a post about being alive. And breathing life into our own lives. Not only in the days that follow, when we are so grateful for everything we have, before it becomes a memory and we resume our lives again, because we can.
But in ALL the days of our lives.
Every single, precious one.
In two weeks’ time, I turn 40.
This is a milestone I was afraid of a year ago. The thought of getting older and hitting another decade horrified me. How did that even happen?
But that reaction makes no sense. Because getting older is exciting. And we are so fortunate to have the opportunity to do it. To have more experiences under our belts. More wisdom. More days.
Why would we ever resist that in favour of not growing older at all?
Possibility is everywhere.
My life is probably more uncertain, more unmapped at 40 than I’d ever expected it to be. If I’d ever let myself think about turning 40, of course.
Mostly, this doesn’t scare me. The sense of possibility actually invigorates me. But in the wake of Saturday (and the Sunday and Monday that followed), I felt alone. I missed having a strong person by my side. To reassure me that it would be ok. To share, equally, the responsibility of raising three kids in an uncertain world.
Then, this evening, I went for my run. I was alone in the wind, the rain and that expansive, limitless sky, putting one foot in front of the other. My body felt strong. The universe felt stronger. And the sense of loneliness just vanished. I knew right then and there what I needed to do.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Moments of clarity.
If we’re too busy, we can miss these moments of clarity. But they are there, begging us to take notice.
They are in every experience we have. The good. And the not so good. Sometimes, it is the experiences that initially make us feel sad, desperate or that we’ve lost our way, that light our paths the brightest.
Because every experience, good and bad, are ours to own. They are part of one of our precious days. And our stepping stone to the next.
We haven’t lost our way at all.
The way just looks a little different than we’d imagined.
Third time around, toddlerhood is like labour. You know it’s going to hurt. But you always forget just how much until you’re doing it again. Today, I spent the day p***ing my toddler off. This was HIS interpretation, I should add. Here’s 8 ways in which I ruined his life today, according to him.
I made his porridge too hot. Sorry, Goldilocks.
I suggested he wear sandals. It being THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR and all. Nope. He wouldn’t have it. Rubber Spiderman wellies. That’s what he insisted on wearing. ALL DAY. Like, HOW hot must his feet have been?
I wouldn’t pick him up and carry him. It being THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR. But he couldn’t walk, he just couldn’t. His words. I think I made it worse when I pointed out that maybe the hot, sweaty wellies weren’t helping.
I stopped him from killing himself. Always a spoilsport, that’s me. Stopped him from playing by the road. Stopped him from climbing a ladder. Stopped him from trying to amputate his fingers on the bifold doors. None of which he thanked me for. No siree. I’m just that irritating woman who ruins ALL his fun.
I shouted at him. At this point, I’d like to resort to his level and say that I DID NOT SHOUT FIRST. He shouted at me. At which point I may have raised my voice by way of response. *May.*
I looked at him. Sometimes, I’m not allowed to look at him. I think a stroppy, slightly psychotic toddler may have inspired that saying, ‘If looks could kill.‘
I gave his dinner to his sister. He didn’t want to eat his dinner. And because I’m well over the ‘Eat your dinner,‘ game, tonight when he refused to eat it, I gave it to his hungry sister. 10 minutes later he decided he wanted it and was HORRIFIED when I mentioned where it now was.
I asked him to go to bed. We had a totally new reason why he couldn’t go to bed, tonight. Apparently, his bedroom was NOT his bedroom. He denied all knowledge of ever having seen it or been in it. ‘That’s not my bedroom,’ he said convincingly. ‘Look at it! IT’S NOT MINE.‘ I didn’t quite know how to answer that one. Maybe that excruciatingly painful series of ‘That’s Not My…‘ books could write a book on THAT.
I can’t wait for tomorrow. I bet I can triple this list without even trying, if he’s in the same mood he was in today. Yippee! More of me over on Facebook and Instagram.