16 Years On…….

I placed a protective hand over my ever-expanding bump. Never had I witnessed something as shocking and I hope I never will again.

I was 8 and half months pregnant when I watched on live tv the terror attack in New York. It may sound selfish, but my first thought wasn’t of the thousands of people who were caught up in the attack. My mothering instincts kicked in and I felt that fierce protectiveness for my child for the first time.

What sort of world was I bringing her into, had life as I had know it changed forever, did this mean war. I was worried for her, I wanted her to grow up in a world of peace not of terror and worry. I knew from that day that things would be different, we would feel different and even look at people differently.

16 years on…….. my fear about the world my daughter has grown up in have been realised. We have been attacked on many occasions, had to pick ourselves up and try to fight evil with love. I don’t just mean the UK, the world has lived with a constant threat of  terror. Just this week, London has been a target again.

But what can I do about it, I am one person in a small coastal town. I think we often ask this question about ourselves. The answer is simple, as parents, we have to teach our children different. Love, compassion and acceptance are key lessons we need to demonstrate to our children. If we want to change the tide of terror it needs to come from the next generation.

Love for the world and people, not just the ones who are close to us. Compassion for those in need and those who are not as fortunate as ourselves. Most importantly acceptance of our differences, religion, race and sexuality.  Throughout my daughter’s life, I have taught her these lessons and provided her with a role-model of the kind of person I want her to be.

When your children are young it is easy to protect them from the worries of the world. Having a teenage daughter who likes to keep up with the daily news, this is not so easy. Everytime I have put on the news and seen the breaking story, my heart sinks. I know that my girl will be full of questions, opinions and worry about what has happened. I can’t protect her from hearing the details or seeing the pictures that go with it but I can try to put a positive spin on it. We talk not of evil and terror but of love and hope. I focus her attention on all the people who go out of their way to support those affected without any regard for their safety. Those strangers who find comfort in each other, the emergency services who work tireless and those who continue to live their lives despite the horrors they have witnessed.

Am I worried about her going out into the world – Yes of course. But not because of the terror threat. Every parent is nervous when their chick flies the nest. I want her to explore and find her place, without looking over her shoulder. I know she will make the world a better place, just because she is who she is. Loving, compassionate and accepting – just like her mama taught her.

 

 

 

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The beginning of the end.

It must be in the hundreds of pounds – the total figure that I have payed out in school uniform over the years. Not to mention the school trips, lunches and stationary. But this week, I again took a deep breath and my bank card and went to kit her out for her last year at school. WHAT!!!! Did I just really write that. I remember my last year at school.

Time has accelerated at a speed that scientists haven’t even formulated an equation for yet.  It seems like yesterday. I dropped her off on her first day, pigtail plaits and Clarks shoes. Whilst I worried about the small details, would she ask for the toilet, what if she forgot which lunchbox was hers, she wandered in without even a look back, I on the other hand was trying to keep my tears in until she had disappeared out of view. She has never been over thrilled about school, even on her first day, when I asked her if she enjoyed herself, she replied “Yeah, it was ok, but I don’t want to go everyday.

Behaviour and attitude to learning has always been excellent. I am very proud of her for this. The correct attitude to learning has always been non-negotiable in my parenting manual. She has always liked a chat and is very interested in everything and everyone. This was a stumbling block for her in reception class, I was called in a few times because of her non-stop talking, often about the work but not always at the appropriate times. The day her teacher told me that my little 5 year old had informed her that her lessons were boring was a little embarrassing. But I could understand where she was coming from. She started school already knowing how to write her name, colours, shapes etc. She got bored waiting for the others to catch up.

Reading has always been a strength for her and is something we started doing from the day she was born. Every-night without fail, we would listen to her read and record it in her book. Her Year 3 teacher said it was the best reading record he had ever seen. Huge praise for this teen mum.

She also excelled at sports, particularly running. Sports day was one of the highlights of my year. She won every race and I cheered her on from the sidelines like she was running an Olympic final.

Secondary school has proven far more challenging. As she is not your average teenage girl, finding her place amongst the clones has taken some time and bravery. But we have got there and work ethic and attitude continue to be outstanding.

I feel emotional and nervous  about the year ahead. My girl is growing into a women before my eyes and I feel with have many battles coming our way. I, as always will be there every step of the way to support or guide her. I am very conscious not to push my 16 year old ambitious on to her. She needs to find her own path and what it is she wants to do. I remind her often through that the world is hers, she just needs to grab it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A taste of adventure.

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I never expected to experience so many new things on a package holiday to Lanzarote. I envisaged more exotic, far-flung destinations for my travels. But this little spanish island was a good start. It confirmed to me even more that I want to spend the rest of my life experiencing and finding adventure.

It has been 7 years since we went on a family holiday, so expectation and excitement was high as we packed our suitcases and headed to the airport. I have passed through Gatwick Airport train station numerous times during our various day trips to London. Looking at all the people passing through green with envy. But this time it was my turn to get off at the station, pulling my suitcase and clutching my passport. I hope someone looked at us and wondered which country we would wake up in tomorrow. The buzz of the airport only added to the excitement, although having only flown once before both me and my daughter were a little nervous. The parent in me kicked in, and as I have tried to do all her life I displayed a calm exterior to soothe her nerves about getting into a huge, metal object and going up to heights of 54,000 feet. I am looking forward to flying becoming as much of a habit as getting into a car during my adventures.

Hot, is an understatement to describe the weather in Lanzarote. I don’t think we have ever felt temperatures like it. This presented me with a slight confidence battle. I have never managed to emulate the celebrity culture and snap back into shape after giving birth. In fact, I am heavier now then I was at 9 months pregnant. My weight and appearance has been a constant issue affecting my confidence in the last 15 years and the thought of swimwear terrified me before we had even got to the beach. I decided to not let it affect my holiday and I am always conscious of displaying a positive body image to my very impressionable daughter. So, I flaunted my bare arms and sun bathed in my bikini. Surprisingly, I felt quite good about myself and it was liberating. Maybe in my 30’s I have final called a truce with my body. After all, my body did grow, carry and give birth to  human.

I have never had a happy relationship with water, in fact I hated swimming, wouldnt step foot in the sea, despite living 30 seconds from it. But for some reason, I decided to jump in feet first (actually I waded in slowly from the shallow end) and cure my fear of water. It was great fun, experiencing something with my daughter that we have never done before. I even braved the sea and tried desperately to eradicate the Jaws theme tune from my head.

We planned two excursions, both which include water and swimming. Our first up was a boat trip to an uninhabited island. After about 10 minutes convinced I was going to embarrass myself by heaving over the side, I found my sea legs. I even sat on the nets at the front of the boat and could see the clear blue water rushing past underneath me. I hadn’t realised that we would have to leave the comfort of our relatively big boat and climb into a rowing boat to reach the beach. All I could think about was the Titanic (women and children only). Uncomfortable, nervous and worried, were all the emotions I felt as 15 people clambered into this small boat,  we made it and it was so worth it. We had reached paradise. I have never seen sand so white or a sea so clear and blue, dwarfed by a huge yellow mountain. The view wetted my appetite for the views and sights to come in the future. Husband and daughter decided to try snorkeling, having been brave just to get here, I thought I was content with a paddle and a sunbathe. Nope, that’s not going to be me, so I put on the goggles and under I went. It was an amazing sight and feeling, swimming amongst the fish. To top it off, I was the only I who could get the breathing right, I was pretending to be the Little Mermaid, whilst they tried to learn to breathe in and out through their mouths.

For our second trip, we went to a water park. Again this wouldn’t be a place of comfort for me, but off I went anyway. Again, I surprised myself, flying down slides, throwing myself round bends and forgetting to hold my nose when I made a splash landing.

This holiday has made me push through my insecurities and fears and it felt amazing. Who knows what I will overcome, encounter and experience in the future. I’m excited to find out.

 

Discovery

I have wrote my first few posts about my own discovery to becoming a grown – up. Deciding what it is I do and don’t like, who I want to be and finally accepting that person.

I never had the chance to explore my self discovery as a teenage, not just because of my early dive into parenthood but because of my upbringing. As I touched on briefly in my first post, my parents were useless and this is being kind. As teenagers we were not allowed to explore our likes, go through phases or change anything about our appearance. When I became a parent I was always insistent in my thinking that when the time came, I would allow my daughter the time to discover and explore. I think its vital to develop our individual personalities and opinions to make us all different.

As the teenager years have rolled on, I have stayed true to my word and allowed my daughter the space and time (also most of my wages)  to support her journey of discovery. There have been many phases, some I have been more ok with then others. But whatever the latest fashion sense, belief or opinion I have tried to remain supportive and encouraging.

Growing up she was incredibly girlie, loved glitter, dolls and Disney films. As a young lady she has been anything but the average teenager and I love that about her.

Let me introduce you to the personality that is my daughter –

The Feminist – One Wednesday evening before P.E the next day she informed us in no uncertain terms that she was not going to shave her legs as she thought it was sexist. She is angry that women are expected to shave their body hair, wear make-up and are paid less then their male colleagues. God help anyone who calls her ‘love’ as this word does not exist in her vocabulary as a pet name.

The Goth – “I’m trying a new look”, was all the warning I got. Down the stairs she came with her hair looking like she had an electric shock, black eyes and lips. “You look nice” was all I could think of to say. She was testing us, how far could she push us before we reverted to typical parents. Loud music with explicit  lyrics came booming from her room. My husband found the song online and we jammed out to it in the front room when she came down.  “Why are you listening to this” she said puzzled, “We love this song, have you heard it” was our replay. We have never heard that song again, high five to parenting.

The Hippie – I also like to call this look homeless chic, layers of clothing (even in the summer months) that don’t particularly match with Dr Martens. She enjoys hugging tress and stinking the place out with different incense sticks that all smell the same. I think she has collected every crystal going and truly believes in their healing powers. Her knowledge of the moon and its phases is particularly impressive.

We have also explored an interest in Buddhism, skateboarding, playing the guitar, witches, elfs, wolves and this week’s idea that she wants to be an artist.

Throughout these years, I have stayed true to my thinking that children need to be able to discover who they are. These phases may come and go, but I can see elements of all of them in her. She is like a patchwork quilt, made up of different personality traits that ultimately make her who she is. I am sure there will be more appearance changes, opinions and ideas coming my way. She leaves school next year, we have already discussed rainbow coloured hair and a nose piercing.

I am enjoying my own journey of discovery, but to have the privilege to watch and assist my daughter in hers is amazing.

“I need adventure”

“I need adventure”, I made this comment yesterday during lunch with friends.

I have been thinking about this one-off, throw away comment ever since. I have always know that I want to explore, discover and grow. It’s been pretty much the one single thing I have been sure of all my life. Even before the responsibilities, restraints and commitment that parenthood has placed on my freedom, I yearned for adventure.

Now in my 30’s this is non negotiable. For some reason other people in my life can’t seem to understand why I am so desperate to experience the extraordinary, learn about different cultures and this amazing planet in which I have seen so little of to date.

Ever since the ink was dry on my marriage certificate, I have been asked the same question over and over again – ‘When are you going to have another baby?  The simple answer to this question is NEVER. But that doesn’t stop the endless talk of it by family, friends and work colleagues. I have had lots of words of wisdom – you will change your mind in your 30’s, your daughter can’t be an only child and doesn’t your husband want any of his own.

All of the above statements make me want to scream. I am nearly 34 and have no itch to add to the population, yes, my daughter is an only child but there are benefits to this as well and if you could see the love and affection between my husband and daughter you would understand why he has sacrificed a baby of his own for adventure with me.

Because at my age it is a choice between more children and adventure. I know I’m not exactly ready to claim my state pension but in order for me to be fulfilled and live the life of my dreams I cannot have any more children. I know first hand the time and dedication it takes to raise a child, I’ve done it. But soon it will be my time.

I love being a mum, it has been an adventure in itself. I look at my daughter and sometimes can’t believe that she is mine and we have found our way together to this point. For some women,  being a mother is all they desire from life and I can respect that. But for me, I need to be more, see more and experience more. Why can’t other women understand me.

At lunch yesterday, our friends had their 6 month old baby. Yes she is lovely but at no point did I feel broody or could even imagine my self with a baby again. The tired parents told us that the baby woke at 5.30am, they had a row about who was waking up with her and they were both trying to eat a meal whilst juggling the baby. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that this is the easy part. My life is so far from theres we might as well be on different planets, I don’t want nappies, sleepless nights and baby sick. I want travel, moments that take my breath away and unbelievable sights.

I need adventure and that’s what I am going to do. I can’t bloody wait.

First Day

So this week, I took a huge step towards becoming a ‘Grown Up’.

I had my first driving lesson. Yes, at the age of 33, I have decided to learn to drive. I must be mad. It’s one of the most important things on my to-do list and I had the revelation that in about 18 months my daughter can learn to drive. As with walking, talking and going to the toilet, I would like to play my part in helping her gain her pink license.

I was very nervous beforehand, nearly talked myself out of it. I mean I have been walking and using public transport all my life and I have managed. But then the ambitious me started to shout, the me that is determined to sit in my rocking chair when I am 80 and have no regrets about the things I didn’t do.

It was fine, I didn’t crash, cry or most importantly for me have any road rage episodes. I was able to start and stop, come out of junctions and change gear. I am feeling positive about my new venture and hoping it’s a skill I can pick up  without having to remortgage the house.

Also this week, my daughter had a taster day at college. How we have got to this stage in her life I will never understand. Time really does fly along.

The night before we had Year 10 parents evening. 15 years after becoming a parent, It still feels strange to introduce myself as someone’s mum. I often look around at the other serious, ageing parents and think it was a bad idea to wear my converse. It will never get boring to sit in front of a teacher while they say wonderful things about my daughter. YES, my daughter. I always walk out of the school beaming with pride and just want to tell everyone, ‘YES, she is MY daughter. I am sure every parent feels very proud of their off-spring, but for me its reassurance that I have done a good job despite the up hill struggle we both faced. I never want her to be a statistic of her birth.

On to the taster day, I was a bag of nerves. But as always I kept a calm exterior even though I wanted to throw up. We discussed an outfit for the day, having worn uniform since she was 5 this is a big deal. I sent her off with a packed lunch and money – better to be prepared for every situation. She planed to meet her friends and off she went, I think it was the first – first day she has had without me dropping her off, giving her a mum lick (we all do it) and checking her jumper for dog hairs. I realised that this is the beginning of me losing control, of knowing her every whereabouts and more importantly who she is with. Am I ready, tough, time is charging along.

All day at work I worried, went through different scenarios and texted her on my break. No response, although this is very normal for her. I often wonder why I am paying for a contract phone. But there was no need to stress, she loved it and can’t wait to go back. I was relived, happy and felt very emotional. Your child’s happiness will always trump your own.

So next time she has a first day, I will try to relax in the knowledge that I have taught her the skills she needs to be independent from me.

Actually who am I kidding, I will always worry, stress and be nervous for her because she is my baby, my only baby.

 

 

 

YOU

Love is something people write songs about – that was my mindset having seen endless marriages and relationships end in disaster. The only exception being my grandparents, but that was the old days and couples just don’t stick at things any more.

Then I met YOU.

I noticed YOU on an ordinary day where nothing extraordinary happened. I dreamt about YOU and just knew that if I had any hope of a Hollywood romance it was YOU. Something changed, I didn’t feel myself. This girl didn’t fall in love, didn’t believe in love, who was going to love me. Then there was YOU.

A friend gave you my number, we went for a drink. All the cliches that used to make me gag became reality. We felt like we were the only people in the pub amongst the drunks and the sticky floors, your hazel, blues eyes sucked me in and I knew I had fallen in the deep end. We sat on my door step talking for hours and then YOU went in for a kiss and the now legendary headbutt took place – we have spent many a day talking about our first encounter with the fondest of smiles. I realised I had been waiting for YOU.

My love for YOU consumed me, took over my thoughts, I couldn’t imagine a future where YOU were not at the centre of it. One thing troubled me, could YOU do it, were YOU up to the job – could YOU love my daughter.

I don’t know why I ever doubted YOU, of course you could, it was YOU. All of your 20’s you have spent supporting me in raising OUR beautiful, opinionated, empathetic daughter.

10 years on, 7 in which we have stayed true to our vows. We are more in love then ever and for that I am so thankful for YOU. To have you by my side through this journey is what has held me together, made me believe in myself and start to tick of my very long bucket list- YOU appreciate the weird and wonderful things this list contains.

Our future consists of endless time together, laughter and never ending love. OUR kid is nearly grown and I know that YOU will hold me up when she starts her life story without my constant presence. Only You understand the sacrifices I have made, the fierce love I feel for her and the worry of being a disappointment to her.

Our life beckons us, the world is ours and YOU are my world. My best friend, my companion and most importantly the love of my life — how lucky am I to have found YOU.