musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

Let Somebody Go… — May 18, 2022

Let Somebody Go…

This Friday Eldest is leaving school.

I am just leaving that there.

For me that sentence takes a while to settle. Like a heavy stone on my chest.

I seem to have been preparing for the big day for a long time. Sourcing school shorts big enough for him to wear on the last day as if he were still in the junior school (it’s an upper 6th Leavers Day tradition). Helping him apply to university. Providing food and support during the endless rounds of revision. Attending and supporting the ‘lasts’ of everything. Last Christmas concert, last Spring Concert, last rugby match, last hockey match, last cello lesson, last Monday…..

Throughout this process I would like to say that my overriding feeling is pride at the amazing young man he has become, which of course I am. Because he is.

But what I feel the most is unbearably sad.

“I called the mathematicians and asked them to explain. They said love is only equal to the pain”.

Coldplay ‘Let Somebody Go’

The Change (Part 2- The Revenge…) — April 10, 2022

The Change (Part 2- The Revenge…)

So regular readers may remember my post a while back about the menopause. I have just checked and I published it 4 years ago in 2018, when the world was a different place. The Change is still one of my most read blogs of all time. So I thought it time to revisit it.

So here is my first observation…. I wrote that blog 4 years ago. And here I still am waiting for the actual menopause to happen. For those not in the know to be classed as ‘through the menopause’ one has to stay period free for 12 months.

So in my case I have, a couple of times, reached the 9 or 10 month mark and then, well you guessed it, an emergency trip to the feminine hygiene aisle. Well actually that’s not true because a while back (about a month before my first nine month stint) I invested an horrendous amount of money in pairs of period pants. A relatively new invention which are truly life changing. And landfill saving. Well they would be if I had used them more than thrice.

Sorry I digress. So I still haven’t made it through. The clock restarted again for me last December. Its all rather annoying. If by annoying I mean fucking irritating.

I haven’t gone down the HRT route. Mainly because I can’t face trying to get a GP appointment. That’s a whole other blog but I have during the pandemic just rolled on ‘as nature intended’ or not…as I am redundant evolutionarily speaking and if nature was truly taking its course and doing what was intended I would be pushing up daisies. Well again not actually as I want to be cremated. Good cliche though.

Since the pandemic (or rather since we started ignoring the pandemic) primary care hasn’t got all that much easier to deal with so I have not yet summoned the requisite emotional energy to try to sort it out. That’s an ongoing symptom a lack of emotional energy. Or indeed energy.

Combine that with 3 teenagers, none of whom have yet learned to drive, and I just can’t seem to fit it in. And yes I know I should ‘prioritise my self care’. Prioritising self care is just another way to make people feel bad about their apathy… or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway what are my other new observations 4 years on?

In my last blog my main issues were cyclical. Not now. Now they are constant. Hot flushes, irritability, tiredness and yet also insomnia, cognitive decline (or ‘going upstairs to get something and standing at the top of the stairs at a complete loss after the 30 seconds it took you to get up the stairs’), lack of emotional energy, weepiness or extreme rage, much more swearing.

However the main change since last time has come as a quite horrific shock to me. For my entire life until about a year ago if I put on weight I did so on my hips and arse. In a reassuringly heart friendly way. And I was able to channel my inner Monroe until I could be bothered to reduce my kettle chip intake.

Over the last year, and due to a combination of pandemic, some tough issues we faced with Youngest, being peri menopausal and just generally not ‘prioritising my self care’ I have put on weight.

I am not alone in this… we are a nation slightly plumper as we dealt with all the deprivations of lockdown in that time honoured way of comfort eating. I guess some people got thinner, due to a combination of Joe Wicks and making the most of that one permitted walk a day, but my guess (and I have done absolutely no research here) is probably not many.

In times gone by (for instance in my first year at Uni, horribly home sick and with a bakery serving the best vanilla slice I have ever eaten on my route home to halls for lunch) any extra weight was easily dispatched by a double pronged attack of aerobics and sensible eating.

And even at my heaviest (that year at Uni is still it remarkably) my stomach was flat and my waist trim. A fortuitous accident of genes I imagine. I always dressed for my waist.

And now as I hover dangerously close to that weight again I can tell you people that I no longer have a flat stomach or a trim waist.

Fuck.

Recently I read that the NHS may change how they measure fatness from BMI to waist to height ratio. I can guarantee you that any woman through or approaching menopause will fail. Unless they are that ‘haggard thin’ some women keep into old age.

No worries, I thought, I’ll go back on the Weight Watchers app and lose the excess. (Other diet apps are available. If you can find one with a more complicated ‘points system’ I’ll be amazed. My depleted cognitive function struggles I can tell you). And I’ll also do some exercise DVDs and stop pretending that a bit of light housework daily ‘counts’.

So I have. And let me tell you that stuff does not want to shift. I have stuck religiously to the diet. And almost killed myself 4 times a week and lost 1lb. Over 3 weeks. One measly pound. And none of it as far as I can tell from my waist.

Fuck.

So it’s depressing. I’ll be eating plain chicken and salad forever. Or I’ll be unhealthy. Take your pick.

Anyway I am soldiering on against all the odds. Until my weight, wherever it lands on the old bod, is at least comfortably in ‘normal’ BMI range although my waist to height may never get there, unless I grow, which seem unlikely.

So I have bought boot cut jeans and loose shirts and floaty cardigans. For the first time ever.

Fuck.

Witness — February 11, 2022

Witness

You small patch of uninspiring mud
And tangled shrubs and broken bricks and sporadic grass
Graveyard of deflated, lost spheres
from games long over
Revealed in winter’s barrenness
What witness you have borne

Zip wiring teddies hung by their ears,
Trebuchets of poles where once beans scrambled
Paint mixed from gravel, water daubed fences
Chalk emblazoned flag stones
And shelters of sheets.

Naked abandon in sprinkled water freezing
Tepid pools deserted after one day of sliding
(For bugs and grass and rain)
Sun hats (with flaps), sun suits (with reluctance)
Surprise cricket matches (with Grandmas)
Police cars, and red cars, and skateboards and diggers.

Hot wheels on hot days out of the window
Ping pong and croquet (wood worm still allowing)
Bouncing and flipping and screaming and laughing
Tap tap of sticks and off cuts of carpet
Records broken in ruined socks.

Snowflakes on sleeves in wonder and confusion
Food sprinkled for four hoofed sled pullers
Snowman delivered by hand to the door
Water in guns and frozen in balls
And countless battles amongst boulder strewn fields

Fights with the shiny hard orbs of autumn
Harvesting melons and raspberries and cucumbers
(And strawberries, yellow and black soldiers permitting)
Birds logged and counted and nest boxes mounted
Teaching and watering and digging and planting

Muddy circles on free flapping laundry
Lost spectacles found in peg bags
Stumps and posts and nets and bare patches
Paint on tables and dollies in baths
And photos and photos and photos and photos

You small patch of inspiring mud
And exciting shrubs and useful bricks and field of dreams
Collector of lost but now returned spheres
For games still to come
Rediscovered in winter’s barrenness
What witness you have borne

No news is good news… — January 12, 2022

No news is good news…

For a long time once my kids were born I paid absolutely zero attention to world affairs.

I became one of those people living in my own little bubble. There were many reasons. It was mostly down to time, which was in short supply, exhaustion, see time, and apathy.

Becoming a mother can shrink the world. Down to its ability to harm or hinder one’s carefully grown and expelled off spring.

The day is taken up with the survival, development and ultimately the flourishing of these small people. Well at least it was for me.

I retreated to a world of toddler groups and coffee mornings. PTA meetings and NCT groups. Soft play, zoos, woods, the playground. Teaching my kids to walk, get dressed, use the toilet, ride a bike, make friends. Everyday had a pattern. As did every week. And year.

There didn’t seem room in this existence for the cold reality of the outside world. The country was enjoying the last throes of a Labour government I had voted for. We were unaware of the problems being stored up. I didn’t care. I could see a GP when I needed to. The schools had cash.

Even once that hand cart started its slow trundle towards Hades I still didn’t much care. We had school events and parents evening and sports fixtures and the long school holidays full of adventures and trips. Life was mostly wonderful.

However it made me insular and woefully inadequate in any company where children were not the main focus. I was out of my depth at my husband’s work functions. I was uninformed.

But here is the thing. It helped me stay happy.

Since the start of the pandemic I have been reading a daily paper again. Looking at dashboards. Listening to round the clock news. Obsessing about the what ifs and what might have beens.

And whilst I am now very well informed I am also less happy.

For what started off as worry about the pandemic is now a worry about the environment, Russia, climate change, China, knife crime, Trumpism, the pandemic, the woeful state of our democracy, refugees, inequality etc etc.

The impotence I feel in nearly all these areas of world affairs is hard to live with. As is the indignation. The vitriol. The unfairness of mostly everything.

And although I am not advocating being wilfully uninformed about the world around us there is something to be said for the ‘head in the sand’ approach.

It’s tempting to retreat, ostrich like, to my bubble.

Free fall — December 14, 2021

Free fall

You know that bit on a roller coaster? The part of the ride when you have climbed at over 45 degrees up a slope for what seems like an eternity. The rack holding the cars is creaking alarmingly.

Your adrenaline is flowing and you are not really sure why you spent all those minutes standing in a queue inching your way painfully forwards until the point when you could work out how many revolutions remained until you were going to get to take your seat. Would you get the front seat. Or the back. Or be lost in the middle.

The only view you have is of the sky and your hands, clenched white on the safety bar.

There is a pause as you reach the summit. It feels long and pregnant with anticipation.

And then the plummet starts and your stomach is momentarily in free fall. You put all your faith in this mechanism to see you safely round. Back to where you began. But with a feeling of exhilaration.

I never liked that part of roller coasters.

And that is what every day feels like at the moment. Whilst we wait for the next wave to crash over us.

It’s just that at the end there won’t be exhilaration. Just death and pain and possibly more privations.

And I have no faith in the mechanism.

At all.

Deep breath everyone.

Dual control… — November 17, 2021

Dual control…

Over the last 17 odd years of parenthood there have been quite a few times I have felt totally out of my depth.

As soon as Eldest popped out (and that’s a kind way of putting it he didn’t really ‘pop’ more sort of extruded in a long and anguished battle of wills that, I cannot lie, felt at times personal) I was out of my depth. We couldn’t work the car seat, I had no idea how to ‘latch him on’, he cried for hours and I was totally unable to work out why.

It slowly dawned on me through my sleep deprived haze that there is no handbook for parenting. I had read books. They all said totally contradictory things. Yes there was no one way to do things and certainly no ‘right way’.

As a natural rule follower, list maker, control freak and fine detailer this was intensely terrifying.

The longer motherhood goes on the more you realise that the roles it involves are myriad and diverse. Some of them fit easily into one’s natural psyche (I for instance never miss a school letter, return a form late or fail to have the right child at the right place at the right time) but others…don’t.

In this last week I have been:

  • chef
  • maths/ English/ biology teacher
  • taxi driver
  • therapist
  • logistics manager
  • gaoler
  • confidant
  • baker
  • cheer leader
  • repairer
  • finder of lost treasures
  • cleaner
  • team manager
  • boss
  • tester
  • entertainer
  • party planner
  • butt of jokes

and that probably only scratches the surface. But there is one recent role that I absolutely loath and that is ‘driving instructor’.

Firstly I want to say that the mere fact that that child I extruded the blink of an eye ago can sit behind the steering wheel is unfathomable to me.

But leaving that aside (which I really can’t but that is another blog) being a driving instructor to one’s offspring is frankly terrifying.

I am not a good car passenger. Over the last 17 odd years the amount of driving I have done has been astronomical. I am the main driver now (partially due to my ‘bad passenger’ vibes but also because I do not drink) and as such my ability to tolerate others’ (and here I mean Husband’s) driving is probably somewhere below zero. I am a terrible passenger. I squeak at late braking, I grab the handle above the door on corners, I get stressed and tense and I offer ‘advice’. All of which are intensely annoying.

So when Eldest asks to go out in his car with me to practise my heart literally sinks. Probably how he feels when he hears me say ‘lets have a family board game evening’.

When I learnt to drive my parents never took me out driving. It took me a year of lessons to finally pass. Eldest does not want to wait a year. Frankly neither do we. We need him to take up some of the logistics slack. Leaving aside the eye watering cost.

So although I agree that I should take him out to practise I still do not really want to. It’s scary. He is not a terrible driver. Just not me. So he does things when and how I would not. It takes all my will power not to let out little shrieks of distress when he pulls out into a gap I would not. I breathe in when he passes parked cars. We fall out. I undermine his confidence.

So this morning at 7.10am (I kid you not) we went to the local village car park to practise manoeuvers and I determined not to speak/ shriek/ offer advice/ breathe in.

It went quite well. I think.

I am not sure teenagers really understand what it is like to just have to assume these roles, for which there is no training, which you would never do as an actual job, and for which you are totally ill equipped. No I am absolutely sure they have no idea. And why should they?

Still a little understanding wouldn’t hurt. Or a dual control car.

How was Saturday? — November 10, 2021

How was Saturday?

So Youngest plays football and this year got signed on a training contract with a big league girls academy.

It’s an amazing opportunity one that is sometimes quite tough to deal with. All that pressure to do well and make the most of it.

It is also tough because the contrast between where she is playing her matches (grassroots boys) and where she is training (girls academy) could not be starker.

For instance at training last night the head coach asked her how her match on Saturday had gone.

I was quite interested in her response because this is what Saturday went like….

Her U15 side played an U16 side in the County Cup. She rocked up to take her place on the field with a bunch of 14, 15 and 16 year old lads. She does this every week, usually without the 16 year olds.

The parents were mouthy. Afterwards she said that when she had won a free kick near the opposition parents there had been quite a lot of, how shall I put this politely, scepticism.

At one point our goal keeper was taking flack from an opposition player. Boys rushed in to defend their mate. It got quite lary. A punch was thrown. Cards were shown. One team went down to 10 men.

The opposition persistently referred to her as the ‘little girl’ and mimcked her shouting. ‘The little girl says she has 3, poor her’ etc etc.

At one point 2 of them tackled her at once and she won another free kick. One of them told her that’s why she should be playing with the little girls. She told him to f*** off.

During the contratend two spectators stormed onto the pitch and had to be ordered off again.

They drew 3 all in full time and went to pens. They then lost in sudden death. To be honest I just wanted it all to end.

I asked her what she told her coach when he asked her how it had gone. Her answer?

Fine…

Not sure it really did it justice.

School run — September 10, 2021

School run

On Monday all three of mine went back to school for the first day of a new year.

I forced them to have the obligatory ‘first day back’ photo which has happened every first day back since 2008 when Eldest started in reception.

Actually I lie there was one year when I forgot. That came up on my FB memories recently. I did a second day back shot instead.

This year’s shot had the same poignancy as that first ever photo in Sept 2008. And that is because it is the last time all three of them will go back to school for the start of a new year.

Somehow those 13 years since that little boy set out into the academic world in his grey shorts and with his shy smile have trickled away.

When you have a baby and the days seem interminable, one long round of feeds and nappies and crying, older and wiser parents tell you to cherish the moments as the years will fly by.

Of course no new parent takes this advice on board. We all rush for the next steps. The weaning, the crawling the standing, those precious words, using toilets. The first question is always ‘Is he crawling yet?’ or ‘How much weight did she put on last week?’. Wishing away the time, striving for the next milestone. Worrying about any perceived delay. As if it matters. Which it doesn’t.

To be honest I did find the early months of Eldest’s life long and tedious. The days were cold and the nights long and dark. I was bored and tired. I didn’t enjoy his babyhood. He was hard work as a baby (and I only knew this once I had his siblings) or maybe I made hard work of it. Probably the latter.

But once Middlest and then Youngest came along life sped up. I enjoyed their toddler hoods and their preschool years. We were a tight knit foursome and had a great social life.

But then the treadmill of school kicked in. The years suddenly became punctuated by half terms and reports and parents evenings and the holidays rushed towards me at hurtling speed.

And then the move to secondary school sees time hit the turbo button. The tests and assessments. The week full of clubs and sport and music lessons and driving. The endless driving. The holidays offered some respite but were still full of activity.

Even a pandemic didn’t seem to slow it down much. Those terms with them learning at home, which I secretly enjoyed, still whipped by. Even when only allowed out once a day.

And then you suddenly find that you are at the end. You paste on a happy face whilst discussing unis and being treated almost as an irrelevance by your teens, except for that endless driving (which of course you are doing all wrong) and food and cash.

I dropped mine off this morning as I have done every day for years. I remembered the countless days of discussing homework and teachers and mates in the car. Singing along to disney hits. Cursing the traffic. And it hit me that those countless days weren’t countless at all. They were finite and precious.

And although I have made the most of them I know that many have been done unconsciously, almost carelessly. With rush and stress and hurry.

And I think it will be those moments I miss the most. The little gems of conversation and humour. And also the rows and annoyance that dragging 3 kids to school entails.

Even though I will still have one year left with Middlest and another couple after that with Youngest, once Eldest leaves that dynamic will change.

And so almost too late one realises that all those older and wiser parents were right.

Time really flies.

Positive thinking — July 16, 2021

Positive thinking

So in the 16ish months since the pandemic took real hold in the UK my family has done really quite well isolation wise.

None of us have been ‘pinged’. None of us have been called to self isolate by track and trace.

The kids have managed all their in person school without coming into close contact with a case.

it is probably mostly luck but there is also an element of me being a raving, anal control freak and (mostly) making us all stick to the rules. I am not sure anyone can hand on heart say they have never broken a COVID guideline but we have been pretty compliant. In the very early days some of us may have left the house for a walk more than once a day. But generally we have done as we were told.

As a result my older teen has missed out on an awful lot. Many an illicit get together, too large a party or a sneaky meet up with friends. I even banned him from meeting up with one mate last summer and ‘accidentally’ bumping into another pair of mates ‘who happened to be in the same park at the same time’….

To be honest I have got a bit sick of being the bad guy. All the time.

On Monday everyone will be free to do what the hell they want. As terrifying as that seems.

Both my husband and I have been double vaccinated and so I have got more relaxed about my pneumonia history.

So when Eldest asked to go to a party (well he didn’t really ask he just said he was) I decided to be a more ‘chill’ mum. I remembered back to being 17 and the summer between lower and upper sixth which I spent nearly exclusively with my boyfriend or mates and decided we could risk it.

In any event the guest list was limited to 30 and the party outside which was all in line with government guidelines although I severely doubted the 2m social distancing rule would be followed. Especially with the alcohol flowing.

Now both he and in turn me have COVID. And so my attempts at being ‘cool’ mum have spectacularly backfired. We are all locked up until Thursday (him and the others) and a week on Sunday for me and both he and I are locked in our rooms bored stupid. Middlest and Youngest are running the house and Youngest has forfeited her 14th birthday tomorrow as even to open presents will mean a Zoom call between us all or a massively socially distanced garden event.

And that’s if I feel up to wrapping her gifts which I haven’t done yet. I feel rough in the extreme and pray it doesn’t get much worse. And that that claim that both vaccines are a panacea (which clearly they are not) and will prevent me ending up in a hospital pan out.

In a month’s time I would have been gaily walking around free from isolation as a double vaccinated individual for those days between Eldest getting it and my symptoms (c 4 days) spreading it on.

When the local council called to check we were all isolating she asked if anyone had had the vaccine and I said I had and yet I had still caught it and she said ‘we are hearing that a lot especially when kids bring it home’.

So a word to the wise people.

I will be going back to anal, control freak mum. Eldest may have hated me if I had put my foot down last week. But if I had we’d be sitting here now (or actually walking around freely now) watching all his mates fall like flies (at least 10 have tested positive since) smug and healthy. Instead of which we are in this COVID hell.

Trying to be something you aren’t hardly ever pays off does it?

Break a leg…. — July 4, 2021

Break a leg….


So a year last December when we were all taking our daily lives for granted Middlest decided to audition for the school production.

This came hot on the heels of his appearance as one half of the Fool in Twelfth Night.

This sudden interest in treading the boards took me by surprise. He had never shown any interest in theatrical endeavours up to that point despite a few of his closest friends being school production stalwarts.

He had a small but funny part in his Year 6 Christmas show as the gadget man Q in their remake of James Bond (the title character played by Luke’s oldest friend, a flaming red head hence the reinvention of the character as James Strawberry Blonde) and had a blast.

But once the compulsory nature of such shows waned Middlest lost interest.

I am not really sure what drove him to audition for a musical production. Middlest never sings in public to my knowledge. I like to think it was my repeated stories about the fun I had taking part in Oliver Twist in Year 10 that had finally sunk in but I think it was more about mucking around with his mates.

Anyway over Christmas 2019 Middlest practised and practised his audition song for the part he wanted to go for. He auditioned (the scariest thing he has ever done apparently ) and faced call backs and disappointments.

But in the out turn he landed a small part with a couple of solo bits and a spot in the chorus. And rehearsals duly began in Jan 2020 which he mostly enjoyed despite being slightly bamboozled by the theatrical terminology and failing completely to learn the chorus dances.

Then we hit, well, you know what and the whole shebang came to a grinding halt.

Late that summer after a period of relative freedom and with the return of school beckoning I got a call from the Director. We were in Edinburgh castle at the time. She was calling all Year 11s to see if they wanted to carry on in the show which they hoped to put on in late autumn.

I signed him up. He was furious, worried about fitting rehearsing in with studies for his GCSEs. He accused me of interfering and not letting him make his own decisions. Bad mum….

Well in any event rehearsals never really got going as the pandemic resurfaced with avengance and I thought the show was dead in the water.

This spring with the exact nature and timing of Middlest’s GCSE replacement assessments unknown we got the letter asking him to recommit for a summer showing. Dealing with a lot of uncertainty Middlest’s immediate reaction was to decline.

I tried to back away and not ‘force’ him into something. I tried to let him make his own decision despite my disappointment after all the work he had put in up to that point. But then a chance encounter in the school car park with the drama teacher/ Director saw him recommit to his part and drop the chorus to allow more revision time.

And so rehearsals began again carefully planned around the Year 11 not GCSE GCSE assessments, year 8 activity weeks, self isolations, sports fixtures, internal year 10 and 9 exams and bubbles.

Middlest has just finished a 4 day run of the show. With actual PHE approved socially distanced audiences.

I picked him up after his last night and he was on a complete high.

We saw the show on Friday evening and it was a total triumph. An uplifting story, stunning sets, carefully planned costumes (many of which had to be altered several times over the 18 months) and truly breathtaking performances from these children.

His siblings and harshest critics were blown away by the whole experience. Middlest himself was brilliant if I say so myself.

The effort, time and dedication put in by not only the cast and band but also the staff is staggering. The whole show epitomised the very definition of resilience.

Middlest wants to do it all over again next year and I am overjoyed he has finally found something I knew he would love. The fact that he can do it with his mates (some of whom are immensely talented) is an added bonus. And he has made many new friends and forged great relationships with the staff of a whole new school department.

Massive congratulations to everyone involved in Wind in the Willows my new favourite musical. What an uplifting experience for all involved. Including the audience. Bravo indeed!

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