Karmic Retribution

We took the girls swimming this morning at our local leisure centre. The first time we’ve been there as a family of four and it was the first time our baby has infact been swimming, ever.

We got there early, in the hope of avoiding the half term crowds and because we had been up since 5.30am entertaining our two year old. Parking, paying, undressing, dressing, swimming nappies, it all takes its time but we had a bit more to kill then we realised. Only the main pool was open and the children’s pools wasn’t open for another 30 minutes.

Walking into the main pool it was hard to not notice how it was full of Sunday morning swimmers, quietly freestyling in their roped off lanes all catching sight of the young family that were about to intrude on their solitary time out. I suddenly felt very conspicuous and not because I was wearing my bathing suit.

The girls were quiet as we lead and carried them to the shallow end. Hoping we could just bob in the water for a bit until the children’s pool opened it was never going to work trying to entertain them, keep them fairly quiet whilst avoiding other swimmers particularly as the water was cold. They were having none of it.

We got out and limped our way back to the seating area offering apologetic looks to first the swimmers and then the life guards.

I don’t blame a single one of the swimmers for their looks of irritation which only 2 years ago I would have been as vociferous in my glare. I am ashamed to admit before having children i was particularly unforgiving about them being in public whether it be restaurants or public transport. Can’t you control them or remove them? was what my subconscious screamed.

Both my sensitivity & earth mother chip had yet to be installed.  I clearly didn’t have the first clue what it is to be a parent.

I can remember one particularly shameful incident that if I could go back in time I would change irrevocably. I often think of this when I am faced with unforgiving glances like i was this morning and think it’s karmic retribution. It has to be.

Aboard a flight bound from Cape Town to London, having just got married I was sat waiting for our long haul flight to depart in my Business Class seat when a woman with long auburn hair embarked carrying a baby strapped to her. The baby was crying and she was stressed trying to console it. I say it, i neither recall if it were a girl or boy. Her partner was busy carrying and moving their hand luggage.

Seated directly behind me I immediately felt irritation that i was in such close proximity to a baby and one which was crying. With a 12 hour flight ahead of me I selfishly pictured   those hours with a non stop wailing baby in my ear. I was incensed especially when I thought how much my seat had cost me.

And then, i committed a terrible sin as far as im concerned now when i loudly, purposefully loud enough for the stressed mother to hear said “I am not putting up with the crying child for my journey home” and beckoned my new husband to sort it.

I knew she heard me, i was deliberately loud enough so that she would. I didn’t see her immediate reaction, now i can only imagine through clenched teeth what it was, but many hours later, after take off and drinks i meandered back to the toilets and saw her sat in the galley, still trying to pacify her child. She avoided eye contact with me. I walked by without a second thought.

Even then I, without the first understanding of parenthood I felt bad for my insensitive comment, but it was too late. The damage was done.

The flight carried on, in peace and when we disembarked i remember neither the Mother or child. And yet now, as a mother myself i remember nothing but the mother and child and how i made a stressful situation so much worse.

To travel, long haul with a child is at best ambitious and at worse a necessity. No sane parent would intentionally choose to do it. When Belle was 10 months old we travelled to Cape Town First Class and she wasn’t very well, later diagnosed with Roseola (baby measles) hours after getting off our flight. I drugged her most of the way freestyling paracetamol & ibuprofen thinking that she was teething. I spent a huge proportion of that flight sat in the galley trying to keep her quiet. To say it was the longest 12 hours of my life would be an understatement and the whole time i got nothing but blank unforgiving looking faces watching me, willing me to shut my child up.

I have never felt so scared or so alone being 40,000 feet in the air and yet the kindness of a perfect stranger, preferably an experienced maternal one would have helped me so much.

I almost long to travel and meet another struggling parent so i can right my wrong as I knew no better then, obviously now I do but until such a time I believe i must suffer karmic retribution.

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Losing at Winning

I joined Weightwatchers a few months ago to help shift the last of the baby weight and to get me back to my best and each week I’ve consistently lost weight by following their strategy. I’ve re-educated myself about portion sizes and now eat a far healthier diet and being home with the girls I am no longer tempted with lunches out and a few sharpeners after work. It’s made all the difference.

It’s lovely that for the first time in my life my weight is where i want it to be without any struggle. I am now a Gold Member of Weightwatchers and no longer have to pay a weekly membership. Providing I stay within 5lbs of my goal weight I can remain a member free of charge and pop back for weigh-in’s to ensure I stay on track.

So i popped back this week to be weighed 4 weeks after reaching my goal. Some days I had been really good, others days not so much. I was nervous what the scales would say, after all they won’t lie and having just had a bank holiday weekend and a family celebration I wasn’t hopeful to have maintained. I stepped back on to the scales and took a sharp intake of breath holding my belly in, like it would make a difference.

I had lost another 5lb off my goal weight. Just like that.

Now I’m confused. I didn’t set out to lose more weight and I wasn’t aware that I had. I am now the weight I was when i got married and whilst i feel slimmer I don’t feel thin. Yet the scales tell me I am. It’s like my brain hasn’t caught up with the fact I’ve dropped the poundage. I just can’t see it.

To be fair as any busy Mum will testify running around all day after a toddler and baby does help. I hardly sit down and when I do it’s not for long when I remember the never-ending to do list waiting for me. I also now use the few hours i get to myself during the week to do something solely for me, to run and swim and blow the cobwebs away listening to my iPod at my gym. Even our fridge & cupboards are stocked with ridiculously healthy food as I cook for our family and all this must be paying dividends.

Only last week after going for a swim in the morning I took the girls to Leeds Castle in the afternoon to feed the ducks. Pushing a double pram laden down with a huge changing bag anticipating every eventuality (change of clothes x2, change of nappy x6, calpol, snacks x2, water x2, toys x2) my toddler refused to stay in it.  So i pushed the pram carrying the baby with one hand whilst carrying my two and half stone toddler who refused to sit in it but couldn’t manage walking for too long in the other, for the best part of a 2 hour walk around the Castle grounds.  It was my unintentional second work out of the day and by the time I got back to our car I was glowing profusely (ladies don’t sweat so Debrett tell me).

It’s no wonder the weight has continued to fall away.

Leaving the weigh in I drove straight to my favourite coffee hang out and ordered myself a coconut jelly bean iced cupcake on the side. Getting back into my car and devouring my treat I can feel the sugar surge through my bloodstream when it dawns on me; once you start eating healthy and taking care of yourself going back to old habits are not what they once were. I genuinely didn’t enjoy it. It was too sweet and sickly for my overhauled palate. How disappointing, its one thing to win at losing but to lose at winning doesn’t hold the same pleasure, for now.

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Hard time

It must be hard being two years of age. Confusion reigns. You know what you want, but you don’t know what you want and you don’t know how to say what you think you might want.

I’m finding this with my eldest daughter who turned two a couple of months back. We have had an awful lot of tears lately, borne out of her confusing frustration.

Yesterday she cried because she wanted her water bottle. So i gave it to her. She cried when she took it and then threw it on the floor. She then cried because she wanted her water bottle back. Clearly I couldn’t win.

We have this with shoes, coats, toys, food, bath time. Most things actually. The only way to snap her out of it is by the power of distraction.

Have you seen the children’s film UP?,  where Dug the Golden Retriever can be distracted mid sentence by a ‘squirrel’. Well its like that with Belle.

Mid water bottle throwing rant i shout, look there’s a (fake imaginary) rabbit/dog/balloon/ball. I am fast becoming the Queen of distraction. Even my 8 month old has bought into it and started craning her neck trying to see what it is we are meant to be looking for.

We are also having problems at night time where before there were none. She cries out for Mamma 1-4 times a night usually on the pretence of having lost her comfort blanket. It’s most often right beside her. As soon as I go to her and are in her room, stroke her brow, she’s quietens down and goes back to sleep.

Clearly its reassurance she needs so for now i am loathe to let her cry it out in the hope she settles herself.

The other week she woke five times in one night and kept saying ‘mamma, man’ and was pointing at the wall. After the second time of this happening, she started to scare me but i tried desperately to not show it. For a moment I was worried she could see dead people.

Clearly being two comes with a whole new level of maturity. Her brain is slowly shaping and making sense of the world around her and as she is not able to communicate as effectively as either of us would like, life for us is still very much like a game of Charades in this house.

I would love to tell her that it gets better, the frustration that is. Of course it does in the short term but then another age appropriate hurdle life will throw her to overcome. What I really need to teach her (and remind myself) is that the only constant in life is change.

If she can find peace and acceptance in that, her life will be a breeze.

For now, we’ll no doubt continue to have tantrums because I wont let her wear shoes that are two sizes too small and try to explain why she cant have biscuits instead of the sandwich i made her for lunch (its a valid question i think to myself) or why she cant wear her swimsuit to the shops when the weather is barely above double digits. I really try to say Yes to as many of her requests each day as possible whilst walking the tightrope of not spoiling and indulging her too much. Its a tricky balancing act and only hindsight will tell whether I get it right.  I just don’t want to wind up being the one who constantly tells her no and giving her a hard time, there is plenty of time for life to do that to her.

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Look for the Helpers

This week has been such a busy one for me. I’ve crammed so much in. Yet it all stopped silently still when I learned late Wednesday evening of the horrendous and barbaric murder in Woolwich. A British soldier hacked to death on the streets of London by two alleged defiant Islamist Extremists who courted publicity in the aftermath, with blood on their hands and no fear of opprobrium.

Like everyone else I was so sad to hear of a family’s loss. The hurt they must feel in losing their own and in such brutal unexpected circumstances is too hard to imagine. The next morning with the news still weighing heavily in my thoughts we quietly drank our tea and milk in bed. I picked up my phone and scrolled onto Facebook where I saw one of the many inspirational quotes that people seem to be sharing and liking which then appear on my newsfeed.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Reading this stopped me in my tracks and dare I say made me feel a little better about how depraved society has become with a constant ticker tape of depressingly awful news being relayed to us, Ohio hostages, Oklahoma tornado’s, middle east bombings, attempted plane hijackings…it goes on and on…. and I genuinely fear what world I have brought my daughters into.  The helpers in the Woolwich story, the women who stayed with the soldier in his final moments and remonstrated with the murderers were there, through instinct and  compassion in the face of such darkness. I can not help but feel enthused by this.

I looked this quote up to see who it was attributed to and I believe it to be The late Fred Rogers an American Presbyterian and presenter of a children’s programme ‘Mister Rogers Neighborhood’ who died in 2002.

His quote apparently went viral on social media in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings and comes from his book published only a year before his death ‘Mr Rogers Parenting Book’ which encourages children to cope with tragedy by reassuring them that no matter the disaster there are always good people responding selflessly. That in itself is worth sharing and remembering. Where there is bad there is good; just look for the helpers.

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Funny how it all falls away

My Grandfather died two years ago and I often think of his final days in hospital being lovingly treated and cared for by the staff and our family. I visited a few times, knowing that the outcome wouldn’t be what we all ultimately wanted, him home again.

I was scared to see him like that and scared to think of what was coming next for him. I didn’t know how to help other than being there with him. I think that was all i was meant to do.  I sat quietly at the foot of his bed watching him being tended to. Lovingly being cared for and held. It was an arresting sight.

In the months that have since passed i’ve thought back to my final moments with him, I think I understand what happened in that room and what it was all about. The inevitability of death will come to us all that is for sure and for those of us like my beloved Grandfather who are lucky to have lived a long and fruitful life, die surrounded by those that love you, telling you how much you are loved is all we can really hope for at the end of our day. I learned a valuable lesson by witnessing the great ritual of life in death; that to care for our aged, is to teach our young how to be when our time comes and to prepare each other for the parting. It’s an education of the cycle of life.

When the time comes for me to care for my parents, as it will if the natural order is observed,  I hope my children will bear witness to such love and kindness with nature at its most raw.

On that day he passed back in 2011 my Grandmother was left to mourn his absence after a lifetime loving each other, I feel her loneliness without him. He was all she really knows.

It was with all this in mind when I discovered a local Charity advertising for Volunteer Befrienders by pure chance. People wishing to volunteer their free time to spend chatting over a cup of tea with the elderly and those who are isolated or lonely. Listening to them and being with them.

I really want to be a part of this so I called the number and offered my services. With the girls in nursery for a few hours each week I have a little time I could put to better use. I met with the co-ordinator. A tired middle-aged looking woman with a warmth and compassion for her role that enthused me. She explained all that was involved and expected. I suddenly felt scared committing to something I know nothing about,  but I’m forging ahead and awaiting my approval to become a bona fide Befriender. I will be matched up with someone locally they think I will get along with.

Obviously a confidentiality pact is put in place but I look forward to sharing with you how this new adventure of mine develops. I am positive it can only be a wonderful experience and one that I will find a great deal of meaning to, the elderly are generally an untapped resource when it comes to learning about life, and ourselves.

My charitable cause won’t change the world, but it may change someone’s world and that is good enough for me in trying to make a difference. No one deserves to feel isolated or alone in this age where we are suffocated with news and social media yet from listening to the co-ordinator of this charity it happens all to often. As the repeated lyric in the Brit Pop Band Pulp’s song ‘Help the Aged’ says, it’s not ‘funny how it all falls away’.

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The Prophet

Before i had my eldest daughter I read extensively all things related to children. I read parenting manuals, I read fictional stories and I read poetry. I wanted to absorb as much of what being a parent would entail. Most of the things I read just heightened my anxiety, particularly the parenting manuals. There was one thing i read, which was given to me in a book by my husband as his very first gift to me many moons ago, it was a book of Poetry by the Lebanon born writer Kahlil Gibran.

He was revered as a literary and political rebel in the Arab world. He is most famous for his 1923 book of prose poetry called The Prophet. Beautifully written philosophical works. I read his book when it was first given to me, but i happened to read it again when i were pregnant and the works ‘On Children’ became especially poetic. I try to remember this always when it comes to raising my children and wanted to share with you:

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

 

Do you have a poem that speaks to you ? Please share with me……

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When it’s quiet

From the moment I am woken at sunrise by a child I am catapulted into the day with one eye continually on the time and the other on what needs to be done now and next. It’s a hamster wheel of chores and demands being levelled at me until bed time when the house is restored to quiet and calm and soft lighting.

My girls are my world, they literally rock it and have brought with them a meaning that I doubt would have been felt without their presence. I love them separately and individually but the same. Smiles can make my heart burst and tears can break it.

What works for us is a routine, we know what is coming next. The good thing about a routine, is that we are in a routine. The bad thing about a routine, is that we are in routine.

By the time 7pm strikes in our house, pyjamas are on, warm milk is being drunk and sleepy heads are being lifted into their beds. It’s that time of the day I look to knowing calm and peace will be restored. Toys are put away, cushions put back and my space is tidy.

I eat my dinner in peace, I watch my programmes and i read online articles without distraction. In the three hours each night I have to myself while my babies are in bed I can feel the restorative work doing its magic. I’m like a battery on charge.

Sometimes my mind will think back over the days events and irrationally dwell on any moments I should have been a better parent. I always think i can do better and will try harder tomorrow. I think this is what people refer to as Mummy Guilt. Doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, you feel it. You want the very best for them.

By the time I check on them in their beds and I hear their warm breath in the quiet I find myself marvelling at them in wonder. They look so peaceful, so still. I’m tempted to pick them up and cradle them, shower them with kisses. I’m tempted to wake them to tell them how much i love them, to read and play with them.

I will stroke their faces and touch their warm hands, should they stir and look like they might actually wake I freeze. I don’t make a move. I even stop breathing to lessen the quiet. I back out of their rooms slowly, terrified I might actually wake them because as much as I adore my girls, I need those few hours each night to listen to the ephemeral quiet.

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False Advertising

I’ve now lost 19lbs and reached my goal weight with the help of Weightwatchers. It’s been relatively painless I’ve just practiced the art of moderation which they advocate. The real test comes with maintaining my new, old weight.

What appears to have been sacrificed as a conspiracy between pregnancy and weight-loss is the filling of my brassiere with my bust being the noticeable casualty.

What happened ? Where did it go ? I ask myself each morning as I dress myself.

Obviously like every woman who has undergone the metamorphosis of procreation the body is never the same. It’s usually left softer and more rounded, especially in the tummy region where skin has stretched to a 40 inch girth and then some. Once the contents have been shed it often resembles an empty shopping carrier bag, all wrinkly and saggy.

These changes to the female form are a badge of honour which should be worshipped at the altar of giving life. I remind myself of this when I am standing in the changing room of my local H&M trying on a garment that makes me look like an overstuffed sausage. It’s inconsequential and the hessian sack look can always be relied on, with a few bright accessories added as distraction aids.

Now able to fit back into old pre pregnancy clothes, until I can prove I am able to  maintain my old slim self I am holding off buying anything new. That wasn’t my initial plan but after a recent shopping trip and uncertain weather pattern I really have no idea where I belong in the fashion world. No longer needing the full back safety of smart suits and tailoring for a job in the City, my daily uniform seems to most appropriately be jeans and t-shirts which are hard-wearing and practical. It’s just I was hoping for something more now I no longer need stretchy waist bands…..

Yet when it came to my underwear I really had to do something and clear out the ill fitting brassieres I am holding onto in the hope that one day, they might fit well enough to be needed.

I turned to the trusty highstreet matriarch M&S. Their underwear department could have  won wars they are so reliable and ingrained into our hearts for serving the United Kingdom’s female décolletage and those men who like to dress that way too.

I arranged a bra fitting appointment with an experienced consultant, an older lady who had in the last two months become a Grandmother for the first time. On arriving at the fitting room desk I was told to take a look around and pick up any bra’s that I liked the look of. I was told to disregard size, they would sort that out during the fitting.

Taking up residence in the larger changing room with a red curtain dividing the space I was asked to try on one of the bra’s I had chosen. As advised I had completely disregarded size and had with me D’s, DD’s and A’s….I fit somewhere in between this alphabet system and unsure whether to pour or swamp my own into those selected, I stayed standing in my own bra. A years old, M&S nude, loved bobbly number.

Pulling back the red curtain, the bra fitting lady looked perplexed at my bobbly number. None of them will fit I explained, I had disregarded size as I was told.

During the consultation not once did she produce a tape measure. It was all trial and error. She asked me what size i thought I was, fetched one in that size, i tried it on and was told it was the perfect fit. Really ? Isn’t it meant to have a little more science to it then that ?

I can’t fault her logic, the bra did fit well and actually she met my requirements of it being pretty and not leaving me with the silhouette of a man. It’s just it was rather padded and what they call plunge. In answer to my earlier question, where are they? I now knew, sitting right under my chin.

I can’t help thinking this is false advertising I said to the assistant. She laughed and giving me a wink explained that everyone does it, except the old girls, they give up by then. Plunge, Padded, Chicken Fillets, wire, mesh. No one does natural these days apparently, and certainly not as you get older and once having kids has taken its toll.

It might be False Advertising my dear, but it’s what dreams are made of”.

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