Being the parent your child wants, versus the parent you want to be

The other day I asked my daughter what her very favourite thing to do is. She’s five so I was expecting something like eating all the ice-cream she can lay her hands on, or doing ‘Uptown Funk’ at her hilariously inept dance class. Her answer?

“I just like it when everyone leaves me to draw, alone and in peace.”

That’s an answer straight from The Little Introverts Big Book of Honesty. Her favourite thing is…being alone? For an extravert like me, that’s deeply strange to hear, and it made me wonder. Am I being the parent that she needs and wants, or am I parenting her the way that suits me?

I realised that I often desperately keep conversation going with her in the manner of a hyperactive children’s TV presenter. All I need is the wacky glasses and madly clashing outfit and I’d be a shoe-in for Cbeebies.

In the car, for example:

Me: How was your day, darling?

Her: Fine.

Me: Great! And what was the most exciting thing you did?

Her: I don’t know.

Me: Oh I bet you did loads of great things! Like drawing, painting, playing in the park…ooh swings, did you go on the swings? Really high? Wheeeeee! Like that?

Her: I can’t remember.

Me: It was an hour ago, you can remember. Did you play with Suzie? Is Suzie your best friend? She’s so nice. Remember when she came round to play and-

Her: I’m tired (stares out of the window)

She’s desperately trying to tell me that she is happy when we’re just quietly hanging out together, and I haven’t been listening. I’ve let myself be swayed by the uber-perfect mummy bloggers and the media’s reports of neglected children being damaged by high levels of cortisol. I’ve become an active, engaged, 21st century parent who needs to be constantly interacting with her children, lest they (gasp!) have to amuse themselves for a while. And that’s doing my daughter a massive disservice.

She is that rare and mythical thing – a child who is happy in her own company, who will take herself off for an hour to draw, lost in her own little world of rainbows and glitter. She’ll spend hours making birthday cards for her friends, all by herself, and she doesn’t need my input, or particularly welcome it.

So I wonder who all of this effort is for? I guess it’s partly for me, so I can end the day congratulating myself for all of the excellent involved parenting I’ve done. But I have to admit, it’s also partly for The World – the world is watching and I don’t want it to see a parent who is uninterested, not listening, dragging their child behind them as they do the weekly supermarket dash.

Parenting isn’t one size fits all and I’ve forgotten that in my effort to be judged A Good Parent by society. Being the parent of an introvert and an extravert, I need to adjust my approach for each of them. It’s only by doing so that I’ll truly be giving them what they need, rather than what I want.

So I’m going to stop all of this desperate interacting and watch for her cues. I love to talk to her, but I need to learn to wait until she instigates conversations. And if sometimes we hang out at the dining table, drawing in contented silence, well then, that’s good enough for me.

Thank you for mornings like these…

This morning I woke to the sound of tiptoeing feet padding down the hall. Cracking an eye, I could see that it was 6.23am. I sighed, then realised it was practically time to get up anyway. Closing my eyes for a blissful last few seconds, I waited for a small person to creep into my side (always my side) of the bed, cuddle up close, and put their freezing cold wee feet on me.

But, nobody appeared. And then I realised, Kate had crept past our room and into Innes’ room. ‘Innes, Innes. Can I come in for a cuddle?’ And despite his protests of ‘it’s too urly’ and ‘my still sleeping’ a cuddle is exactly what she got. I lay there, for maybe five minutes, listening to their chatter – I couldn’t hear much of what was said, just the sounds of their laughter and their early-morning conversation.

And then, they came. Innes came, inexplicably, with a wooden saw. Climbing into bed, he sawed my face. ‘My got a saw, my cut you in Mummy-half’ he said, in the most threatening voice a two year old can muster. He’s going to be one to watch when he’s older, I’m telling you. And then Kate clambered onto my pillow and said, in her cheeky-monkey voice ‘Mummy, you look like Pudsey Bear and you have the voice of a crow!’

By now, Dave and I are, like most mornings, crying with laughter and grinning. Waking up with small children is somewhere between completely exasperating and the best gift you’ve ever been given. Today was definitely at the very far end of the gift spectrum. We got ready, whilst Innes sawed us all in half and Kate sang made up songs to make us smile.

These are the small things. But they are very, very big things too. The nothing but everything moments that make you heart swoop and soar, and break a little bit too. Because time moves so slowly some days, when they are small, but then they grow, just a little, and you feel time begin to tilt, and speed up, and you realise you wished some of the boring, rainy, dreary, jigsaw-nappy-laundry days away.

And I don’t believe in God, or anything like him, but, to whoever is up there – thank you, oh thank you, for mornings like these.

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The weight of a lifetime of memories

Breaking the stillness that I’ve grown accustomed to, but wearied of, a door handle is suddenly turned. She is home!

But wait; the grasp on the handle is one I don’t recognise; it isn’t hers. Or rather, it reminds me of hers when she first arrived here: capable, with a hint of matriarch.

The door opens, and suddenly there are sounds, unheard for so long. Footsteps, slow and heavy, boxes being set down in echoing rooms, and the urgent blether of feet as wee boys race to bagsy bedrooms ahead of their brothers. A new family has arrived.

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A Necessary Evil…….

Originally posted on Life as a MeCP2 Mummy:

Blog Number 2…..

This blog is about something that I HAVE to do. It is a huge aspect of my life  and I want people to understand what I do and why and I also want to encourage more people to help me in some way. So here goes….

I don’t want to fundraise.

I didn’t want my child to be born with profound and multiple disabilities.

I don’t like posting to ask for help, in fact, I actively DISLIKE it. I cringe at myself when I click on the “Post” button.

I worry (a lot) about annoying people or boring them senseless. I worry that people hide me or delete me from Facebook.

And I get hurt when I see someone has “unliked” Blake’s Facebook page.

I shouldn’t, but I do. I can be a bit sensitive at times (okay, most of the time!) and I get hurt easily.

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My boy turns 3.

Originally posted on Life as a MeCP2 Mummy:

I have considered writing a blog before. Purely because sometimes i have too much to say to put on one Facebook post. However, I am not the best at writing and some of my friends who blog are extremely articulate and I am perfectly aware that my blogs will be nowhere near as well written. However, I can guarantee they will be honest and from my heart. I am not expecting everyone to agree with my thoughts, but they are mine and I cannot change that. I am not too sure what I hope to achieve from writing things down….maybe it will be like a journal for me, a means to vent my frustrations and share my hopes, dreams and joy, but most importantly I hope that I can at least help someone in a similar situation to realise they are not alone, they are not bad people for having…

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Love is a verb

My Gran died. She had a large, loving family, a lifetime of memories and a tired old heart, and so she died. I already miss her, and the centrifugal force that held our family together. We congregated at her house at Christmas, on birthdays and almost every single Sunday of my life. On those Sundays you had to eat; soup, cake, ice cream, steak pie, strawberries, and sometimes, if you didn’t want anything at all, you’d get offered a brandy; but mostly, you had to eat, because that’s what families coming together is all about. Families eating together is a kind of communion, a celebration of being together for no good reason at all. So Sundays were special.

Here’s what my Gran taught me. She doesn’t know she taught me this. Just something else I wish I had thought to tell her.

Love is a verb

Words are easy. It’s a simple, small thing to say to someone ‘I love you’. It’s much, much harder to show someone that you love them, day in day out, for as long as you share a wee bit of the world.

I knew my Gran loved me because she proved it. When I was pregnant she spent weeks gathering stuff for the new babies’ arrival – vests, bibs, nappies, and dummies, all wrapped up in a cosy knitted blanket. Getting ‘the baby box’ from Gran was a big deal!

And when I had a two year old and a tiny baby, and I’m sure looked like I’d had far too many sleepless nights, she said to me she was just sorry she couldn’t be more help. She was 90! I told her that, as far as looking after babies went, her work was done, but in truth it bothered her not to be able to give help when someone she loved needed it.

Every week, when she was busy boosting supermarket profits sky-high (and don’t think there’s no connection between Tesco’s losses and my Gran no longer doing her weekly shop) she would buy me a pack or two of baby wipes or maybe some nappy bags. In fact, her nappy bag mountain is still going strong and will outlive her for some months yet!

It may sound trite, but that’s real love. The fact that my Gran had me in mind each week, that she spent her own money on wipes because she knows babies are expensive, that she kept the kid’s bankies filled with pennies, that she loved nothing more than sharing a cuppa and a sneaky cigarette and some stories from her past. Those little things, those small gestures that speak volumes; that’s real love.

Not words, not songs, not lofty proclamations without actions to back them up. Words crumble to dust in the face of solid, dependable, unswerving, unquestioning love. Love is a verb. I’m glad I’ve seen it done.

I’m not alright, Jack

Bedroom tax whilst big banks prosper

Nuclear weapons and pocket money

This country works for an elite monied few

Is that the best you think we can do?

You must have seen them;

The unemployed, the working poor, the foodbank posters

And still voted for the status quo

Is that what you think we’re worth?

The sheer I’m alright Jack-ness of it

Is making me sick and tired and sad

And I’m finding it hard to look my children in the eye today

Because now I know their future

And it’s dismal, disenfranchised and disappointing

And it didn’t have to be.

We’re about to find out what

Westminster really thinks of us

As if we didn’t already know

So I hope you feel your voice was heard

It will be decades before it’s truly heard once more

We vote, we hope, we wait…

So I stood in the polling booth this morning with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. I checked the box and stood looking at it for a minute, just trying to hold on to the feeling of it all meaning so very much.

For starters, it’s as well I walked to the polling station, because the streets around are thronged with cars and there’s no way I’d have got anywhere near. It’s not like that on local election day, let me tell you! But as I left, and walked slowly home, I passed a lot of people; we all said hi to each other as if it was Christmas Eve – brimming over with emotion, not being indecent enough to ask how we each voted but knowing by a silent gleam in the eye that we’re hoping for a yes.

And, for the record, my vote is very definitely not to do with how I feel about English people, as I keep reading everywhere. How I feel about English people is no different to how I feel about Scottish people, Arabian people, Mexican people or anyone else. We’re all just ordinary people, doing our best, hoping for better, working for our families and our futures.

And that, my friends, is why I had to vote yes. As I work hard for my family, I want the government I elected to be doing the same thing. As I pay my taxes, I want the government I elected to be spending them with people like me in mind. Doesn’t seem too much to ask, really.

For the last decade, England’s gaze has turned inward upon itself, and there has been fretting over immigration, the rise of UKIP, and a Tory government who has instituted such a hateful, evil policy as the Bedroom Tax. And that’s out of step with the rest of the world; as we look outward to Europe, to making friends, alliances, and enjoying being part of the world, England is taking it’s ball back and going home.

I tell my children that you stand up to bullies, and that’s what we’re doing today. Nobody is going to tell us that we must be governed by people who have no interest in our welfare, least of all insanely wealthy bosses of big banks who brought the whole thing crashing down in the first place.

And so, my vote made, I drink coffee, I think, I hope, I wait. It’s going to be a long night.

Why I changed from a ‘No’ to a ‘Yes.’

Originally posted on kevsherry:

I despise nationalism. I despise patriotism. I hate bagpipes, I hate kilts and tartan and I hate the cringe inducing shouts of “wha’s like us” in bars across the nation at closing time on drunken Saturday nights. I love the other countries we share this little island with. I am not what you could ever call a patriot or a nationalist and I would call myself European long before I’d ever call myself Scottish. I believe in cultural and ethnic integration. I believe in a world where nationalities blur into one another rather than divide on tribal lines. I have been, until fairly recently, a staunch ‘No’ voter. However, all things considered, I now feel I am left with no choice but to vote Yes in the forthcoming referendum.

There are economists on both sides of the argument saying wildly different things. I’m not an economist, and neither are the…

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My inner core is made of 5am feeds and pudgy little hands

Sometimes, sometimes, in the early morning quiet of my office, I sit down and begin writing, the clicks of the keyboard dropping like pebbles into the inky stillness. I’m not really thinking about anything in particular, thoughts pass me by in subconscious flashes and glimpses – how do you spell judicious, should I stop for breakfast, my fingers look eager poised above the keyboard like that.

And in those moments, where my mind is quiet but my hands inexplicably seem to be working without any mental input, that’s where interesting things come out.

Things like…for some reason that I don’t understand, since having children I can sense more of an inner core inside myself, something that isn’t physically there, but to be honest if I looked inside myself and saw a strong core, like a tree trunk, holding me up straight, I wouldn’t be surprised. Before, when I was only myself, my core, if it was there at all, was weak and able to be swayed by new ideas and stronger personalities than mine. But now that I am simply one of three, there it is.

It has grown in me, as I have grown as a mother whilst my children grew from babies into actual people. I think it must be made of a thousand early morning feeds, of holding tiny hands, warm and soft, at 2am, of whispering words into the tops of their heads as they flip through primary-coloured books about talking penguins and dancing giraffes. I suppose it must be made of me, I guess it must have always been there, waiting for children to come along and breathe life into it, the way they breathe life into me.

Things like…I have a sense of my own self, rising to the top of me, like bubbles rocketing to the top of a glass of champagne, hovering on the surface until they burst. As if the real me was in hiding during the teenage years that still, in my mind, smell of Marlboro and Doc Martens; of being a student, forever asked to prove my cleverness (or ability to memorise) in exams; or in my twenties as I tentatively tried to work out how I would spend my thirties.

And now that my thirties are here, and my babies are not quite babies any more, and I have space again in my brain for my own thoughts, what my thoughts really want, it seems, is to be written down. Maybe to be read by other people, but then again, perhaps not. Maybe I’ll find these pages again when I’m fifty or sixty and smile wryly at them, or be pained at my lack of understanding that difficult times are yet to come. Like looking at antique maps, which my house is full of, boundaries will be different, perspectives will have shifted, and what looms so large in my life now might be small then. For starters, changing nappies, once a huge intractable landmass that I had to cross every day, will have shrunk to a tiny archipelago named ‘Future Grandchildren’,

And so my mind is filled with stuff like this; early in the morning my thoughts unfurl, without noise of colleagues, kettles or phonecalls to distract me. Sometimes looping in lazy circles like cigarette smoke above my head, as I try to find a way to set down on paper what is inside, sometimes darting above like shooting stars, barely able to keep pace with my fingers as, for once, it seems, there is, in fact, a director inside of me calling the shots.