Tag Archives: Parenting

happy family jumping together on the beach

Have I been a good enough Mum?

What does it take to be a good mum? Mother With Teenage Son Sitting On Sofa At Home

Who decides if you are a good or bad mother?

Am I doing a good enough job raising my boys and how will I know if I succeed?

All the above and more have been hurriedly circling my brain since last Thursday when we got the great news that our eldest secured his place at Warwick University.

From the moment he walked into our room at a little after 6:15 in the morning with a mooted expression I got 2 A* and a B. Great yes but!

He needed an A in German as part of the condition of entry, would these results be good enough? Surely yes, said my inner me but the vocal me couldn’t help but say why the hell do you have to make it complicated.

We waited for what seemed like an eternity for UCAS to confirm his offer of acceptance and in that time I went through every single conceivable emotion, elation, worry, anxiety and relief.

When I heard shouting, ‘yes, get in there’ I didn’t register what this meant.

happy family jumping together on the beachI ran up the stairs, two at a time into the bathroom, where my son sat proudly on the throne he showed me his phone and there was the offer of acceptance.

How I wept with joy I ran up and down the stairs, hyperventilating with excitement and sheer bloody relief.

It was at that moment I realised that I had been carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders for the last six months probably longer.

Worrying, supporting, caring, managing my eldest to ensure that everything was right for him for these most important exams.

Why worry so much?

It is hardly the end of the world if a kid misses the mark, they can re-sit, re-do, take a year out, no one ever died because they didn’t get the grades.

And yet here I was relieved that all had come to pass. That the last two years were all about this moment, this one moment that can change the path of a person’s future.

After deep breaths and a quiet moment later I reflected on the last eighteen years and asked myself have I been good enough?

A huge A+ with a red circle on a paper

Did I get it right?

Often critical and tough, very much the way I was brought up I hope that my children have learnt the important lessons of life.

For each parent they may well be different ideals but for me it has always been:

  • Never giving up
  • Listening and understanding
  • Be gracious even when you believe it should have been you
  • Thankfulness and politeness
  • Be steadfast in your decisions

Being a mother has been a job and challenge borne out of love and tenderness. Just when you think you’ve nailed it the tide shifts and you feel out of control with only the prevailing wind keeping you on course.

Parents Helping Children With Homework At Kitchen TableBut parenting skills are not learn’t overnight, it takes time and experience and gut instinct to ensure you are getting it right and even the most hardy of mothers can find her teen very testy to say the least.

 

His idea of timekeeping is usually at least 40 minutes after the designated time. He spends more time in the bathroom than I do and he has an answer for ‘everything’. 

Am I describing anything new?

No, of course not, because all teens go through this phase.

I call it the proving to the world I’m here and I want to be seen and heard phase.

My eldest has become the best ‘how to get out of doing something’ expert, he could right a book on listing excuses on how to get out of doing jobs around the house.

But deep down I know he cares and this is his way of forging his own views and developing independence.

His forthrightness and his ability to stand up for himself are proof that he has strength of character.

Like most teenagers who are solely into themselves, I wondered whether he really cares about anything at all?

Does he love his parents, his brother, will he miss any of us when he goes off to University?

When we left school on Thursday morning, A level results day, congratulatory celebrations in the air, we walked to the car.

He took my hand and said thank you for everything mum, for your love, support, I do love you, you know.

And with tears in my eyes I looked at him, a young man in his prime, a new chapter about to begin, pride and love swelled in my heart, tears in my eyes.

“Yes, I do believe I have done a good job”.

Enough said.

 

empty nest syndrome

Letter to my eighteen year old son

My darling son

So, here we are, another year, another birthday except this time it is the big 1 8.

It only seemed like yesterday that you came into our world like a ray of sunshine, yet cold and blue having left the warmth and cosiness of the womb in which you grew.

Mom and baby lying in the bed home

For those first few hours I could not keep my eyes off you, a gorgeous bundle of love and fun.

I held you close and vowed that no one or anything would ever hurt you.

The enormity of what I had created, a new life a living breathing person wasn’t lost on me and I knew that becoming a mother is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon a woman.

On the second day you gave me your first smile I looked lovingly into your brown eyes and I knew there and then there was a connection, you knew I was your mummy and that I was here to love and cherish you.

I loved you beyond the realms of explanation, it was a love that I had never felt for anyone else, completely different to the love and feelings I have for your dad.

From that day forth, my love like a carefully tendered flower has bloomed for you.

As a toddler you delighted in trying out different things and like your mum, you always needed plenty of sleep. You loved your food especially cake and there wasn’t anything you wouldn’t try.

From toddler to young boy you were reserved, shy and reluctant to push yourself forward.

Getting your kids to readYour shyness often held you back from doing the things you wanted to do and it wasn’t until you became a teenager that you began to show your true colours.

There have been difficult times for you and that is part of growing up,  often overlooked and without the recognition you deserve your frustrations would sometimes spill over.

For the past two years you have achieved many successes and proved to the onlookers who doubted you just how good you truly are and that is down to your hard work and commitment.

Despite setbacks, you continued to work hard; to be resilient, and, as a result you have grown into a fine young man, one that I am proud to say is my son.

Intelligent, articulate, strong and feisty, you always want to have the last word and like every teenager you are of course, never wrong!

I have always known that there was a superstar waiting to burst out and you haven’t proved me wrong.

Every parent thinks their kids are the best and I have been guilty of believing that you were better at things than perhaps you really were.

Family happiness! Happy mother tenderly embracing his two sons iBut, because I pushed and encouraged you, you are now strong and more resilient ready to face life’s ups and downs.

You are beginning to find your place in life’s rich tapestry and, as you learn and acquire knowledge coupled with life experience, you will learn to cope with life’s ups and downs because you are ready.

It is important to live by the values, morals and discipline that dad and I have taught you.

That you don’t forget the importance of family, friends and especially your brothers.

Be considerate and always respectful of others, even in the face of hostility, aggression and rejection. To be patient, kind and be civil are important human virtues.

Be mindful of others, always listen and be respectful when someone asks about you.African-American single-parent family

Learn to step back and breathe once in awhile and remember that you only pass this way once.

Make the most of your life by having fun and joy with loved ones and is more important than valueless items.

There will be many temptations along the road, be careful and earnest about the life choices you make.

And so it is my darling son that my job as a mother is almost done.

My heart is slowly breaking as I know that we have reached the end of our journey together for it is hard being a mother and a parent.

We will always be here for you and support you whenever you need us.

But you are a young man and it is time for you to make decisions and choose your own way.

Being a mother is emotionally tough as you watch your son grow and leave the family to form new friendships and relationships and there is the realisation that you are no longer the “one”.

It is incredibly hard to let go because I can see that little blonde haired and brown eyed one year old giggling as he puts a fistful of donald duck cake into his mouth.

The love of a mother runs deep and wide and I would sacrifice my life for you in whatever the circumstances.

One day when you become a father you will understand those words, loving a child is an act of selflessness, our love is infinite.

When all is said and done we can look back with satisfaction, share wonderful and beautiful memories of great times spent together.

We must look forward now with excitement and opportunity, what will your next stage of life look like and what path will you travel along?

I have tried to teach you all that I can to prepare you for this world.

You are a young man, an adult and with that comes great responsibility.

It is your job to set a good example to your brother and to others around you, to prove what we’ve always believed, a strong, caring and wonderful human being.

At times you will feel like the world is enormous and that you’ll never find your own way you will be knocked down, but, you will find the effort to get up and try again, don’t give up even when every sinew in your body screams at you to do so.

Adult Son Moving Out Of Parent's HomeBelieve in yourself as dad and I do, when the world appears dark and lonely and you think you can’t do it have faith, believe, succeed.

That is the wonderful thing about being human, our frailty and fragility also makes us strong and steadfast.

Never be afraid to stand up up for what you believe in and never, ever sacrifice your beliefs and what you hold dear to your heart.

I will always be your most trusted friend, your confidant, the person that will cuddle and love you no matter what age, but mostly I’ll always be your mum.

It has been a privilege raising you, loving you, nurturing you and I’ve loved every single second of every single minute, I am proud to be a mum to such a wonderful and beautiful person as you are.

With much love and honesty, always and forever.

Mum

xxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

Just being Mum

It is another school week and the start of the final school term as we begin the countdown to the summer holidays.A life less fulfilled

Time appears to be the common thread that runs through the blogs I write.

My eldest, shortly to be eighteen will, with everything crossed, head to University in October.

My eldest step son and his wife are expecting their first baby in October.

It is ironic that as one leaves to start a new chapter as a grown up a new life will be born into the world and the growing up process starts over.

The time we get to spend with our children seems so short.

Zero to eighteen gone in an instant, a flash before your eyes, from baby onesies to torn and skinny jeans.

Good old days, nostalgia what does it mean to you?I am anxious and excited at the anticipated arrival of a newborn into our family.

As a fifty plus parent I feel like I’m starting over, but this time, it isn’t my baby and I can hand him or her back at the end of the day.

I am older, wiser and have had greater life experiences.

The lessons I’ve learnt are plentiful and I have much to pass on and share with my step daughter but I will not give out advice unless asked.

I have learnt that as a woman and a mother shelling out advice whether asked for or not is destined to failure.

Celia, a very good friend of mine told me this; ‘the best advice I can give you, is don’t give any advice, that way you can’t be blamed for the fall out if it goes wrong’.

But what if your children ask for help or advice, that is different she says,’ because if they are asking it’s because they either need genuine help and are prepared to listen, if they then choose not to follow it then it can’t come back and bite you’.

Wise words that I have followed except when it comes to my own children whom I can’t help but tell rather than advise what they should do.

I do tell my boys is to listen to their Mother embracing her little girl before leaving to workinstincts; that gut feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when they are pondering over a decision.

As a mum you learn as you go along not really registering the importance of what you are learning until out pops this information when you least expect it.

You become very good at talking to yourself; you can often find me in a store toilet muttering to myself reminders not to forget certain things. Other fellow mothers nod their heads and empathise, we are comrade in arms.

Motherhood definitely has some kind of biological effect on our brains, you can remember all the school activities for the week or term for that matter but as soon as you step into Tesco you forget the very thing you came in for.

It is a fact of life that being an experienced and older mother means you end up sitting on a plane with an infant screaming its face off only for the poor twenty plus mother to look at you beseechingly to take her child and have it sat on your lap for the rest of flight.

Am I really the holy baby shrine capable of soothing this crying baby?

Miraculously the wailing stops and everyone on the plane sighs with relief, the poor mother orders another gin and tonic, thank you, she says relieved.

Motherhood miraculously gives you a handful of wisdom way beyond your years, capable of solving all problems it seems, including climate change.

In reality we are all making it up as we go along and who determines what makes a great mother?

What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

With books, websites and online forums depicting the perfect family, career and children, we can easily feel that we must be bad mothers because we don’t have a glamorous hair do or primed manicured nails, ‘super mom’ more like ‘poor mom’.

And because you failed to to make it to that football match because the train got stuck at Watford or you missed the school play at 4:30pm due to your meeting running overtime, you’re in big trouble.

Any missed event goes down in the book of no shows, and children very rarely forget it.

Parental judgement is one of the worst afflictions of being a parent, what to wear on your feet let alone body can mean the difference between being seen as cool and relevant by your thirteen year old or a fuddy duddy boring mother.

So, not a lot of pressure being a mother then?

Accepting the fact that as mothers we can’t in actual fact have it all, home, career and children, some things have gotta give and perfect parenting and motherhood is one of them.

There are always the reminders of the failures of being a mum even though you do your best to give your children time, love and your all.

Sometimes you just have to accept that perfection is unachievable but being a loving, caring and giving mum is more important than anything else.

And when my thirteen year old old tells me he loves me because, “well, you’re just mum” it is  the most wonderful feeling in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mollycoddling parents. Are we really too protective of our kids?

Bang, I was hit over the head metaphorically speaking when I realised that I am simply doing too much for my kids.

Mollycoddling parents, I believe that is what we are referred to as. Group Of Elementary School Pupils Running In Playground

Am I really molly-coddling my children, am I stifling their childhood?

Or, am I an ordinary working mother who cares about how her children end up?

I am sick to death of the media  bombarding us with images of our children growing up in an unsafe country.

At every corner there is a peadophile or some extremist waiting to prey on our children and hurt them.

What has happened to good old fashioned parenting skills and mother instincts.

why I fear for my children's future

I remember as a child going off after breakfast with my friends to the park, this involved crossing a seriously busy road on my bike, then riding what probably seemed like five miles but what was probably only two and half miles to play in the park.

There was no rubber matting under the climbing frames, swings at best were marginally safe and as for stranger danger, yes we knew not to talk to strangers or take sweets, because it was on the television and it was the last thing our parents would remind us of as we left the house.

My mother particularly taught me to use my instincts, if it doesn’t look or feel right it probably isn’t.

I remember walking through the park to get into town, catching two

role models for teenagers

buses to get to the gym club on a friday night and cycle to the recreation centre to meet with friends on Disco night.

It is the 21st century and my children have less independence than I had and yet they have more than I ever had at their age and I find myself asking what is different, what has changed?

I drive my children to school, simple really I work in the same town as the school they attend, if I sent them on the bus which would make for a less stressful start to the day but it will cost me twice as much as it does now.

DeathtoStock_NotStock6When my eldest son now fifteen asks if he can go into town with his friends, it becomes an interrogation about where is he going, who he is going with, how long will he be there for.

He understands and respects our need to know that he will be safe and yet it feels like we are taking away his freedom.

The only thing that is driving that concern is the fear that he might be stabbed or mugged all for an iPhone.

Is the media to blame for this shift in the way we are so protective of our children or is it simply that we know more because of the news and the power of social media.

I do feel that they don’t have the childhood that I had, we had.

The school day is long, there are extra curricular activities that they want to do, then homework with little or no time for play.

When holidays arrive understandably they want to be on the playstation or watch films on the television and relax.

When I was fifteen I spent two evenings a week at my gymnastics club, every saturday afternoon and alternate sunday mornings and I still had time to watch television in the evenings after homework and I remember after training on saturday getting home for 6PM to watch the Bionic Man and the inevitable Bionic Woman.

We seemed to have endless amounts of time.

I watch two young children endlessly busy with homework, coursework and GCSE’s and wonder was it like this when I was their age?

Parenting is not rocket science and often it is a mixture of making it up as you go along with good old fashioned inner instincts.

Do I then fit into the category of being over-protective or is this the treadmill of life?

I know I don’t overprotect or smother my children, they simply have no choice but to rely on me to get them to and from school.

And as our town centre requires a fourteen mile journey to get there they rely on us to take and collect them when they meet up with friends.

As a parent we are dominated by the fear factor.

Are they ok, is it safe.

These weren’t the questions that my parents asked when I travelled on public transport.

Does this lack of independence mean that not just my children but ‘our children’ will be unable to cope when they are older, unable to buy a train ticket, understand a bus timetable, book a taxi on the phone?

Whilst I freely admit that I encourage my children to play the sports or do the hobbies they love I haven’t orchestrated this for my benefit.

I want them to be busy, it keeps them interested, gives them some independence, they learn new things and hopefully they have fun.

A good friend of ours related the tales of his eldest daughter who went off to University in September. For the first two-three weeks, his wife was making twice weekly trips with food and clean laundry.

‘You’ve spoiled her’, yes, he said. We’ve done nothing to promote independence, Julie has done everything for her, made her bed, cooked, ironed, given her lifts to friends.

When she left she was ill equipped for what university life had to throw at her, sharing with people she’d never met, unable to cook proper food, no organisation in her daily life, plan the food shopping list, when to change the bed, wash clothes and so on.

Initially she felt bereft and insecure and at one point considered moving to a University closer to home.

All because she had not been disciplined or had prepared for entry into the world.

When I mentioned that over the last few months we’ve been making an effort to teach the boys basic cooking like pasta with meat sauce, how to cook and english breakfast and prepare simple meals, how to iron a shirt or pair of jeans it was met with ‘I wish we’d done that’.

It was a decision my husband came to when he said I was cosseting them too much, but that’s ‘what mothers do’, I said.

You are are a mollycoddling parent, how I hate that word. In my view I thought I was doing the right thing but I thought about what I did when I was eleven and fifteen respectively and the realisation dawned on me.

At the time I wasn’t pleased to be accused of being a mollycoddling parent but deep down I knew that if continued I would not be helping them prepare for entry into adulthood.

Good parenting isn’t just about making sure they come top in english it’s about teaching them the mundane, everyday life skills. If we don’t show them or teach them how are they going to be ready for the real world.

Many young people just expect success will be easy, only to crumble and fall apart when they crash at the first obstacle?

How do we encourage independence when the world appears so unsafe and unwieldy?

Fear is the dominant emotion – the fear of something happening to them and consequently children are being denied the chance to learn on their own, to work things out and to take responsibility for their own actions.

I don’t have the answers but I do know that we have lost the confidence to trust ourselves as parents and to trust our children that they are actually more aware than we probably give them credit for.

 

 

 

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Competitive parenting. Has parenting become a competitive sport?

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Twelve years ago I set up my business to give me the freedom and flexibility to spend more time with my children.

As they head into their teenage years, I admit to feelings of guilt because I still feel like I didn’t spend as much time with my children because I worked .

I was convinced I wasn’t a ‘proper mummy.’

The fact of the matter is I love what I do and fourteen years after the birth of my first child I wonder if I would have made a better mummy had I given up work altogether and been a stay at home mother. i love my job

My decision was based on feeling uncomfortable being reliant upon my husband because I wanted to manage my own life, be in control of my own finances and I admit that had I had given up work it would have felt like I’d be handing control of my life to someone else.

Like many mothers I put my children first but there have been times when I’ve had to cancel a really important meeting with an all new prospective customer, how hard it was to get that appointment, there were times when I could have screamed and cried ‘why do you have to get ill now!’

I can recollect missing one harvest festival and one christmas carol concert both due to circumstances beyond my control.

I was always home with them when they were sick and remember on one occasion when I was visiting a client, getting a phone call from the nursery to say that I should come and collect my toddler as he had developed a high temperature.

Apologetically, I bid a quick farewell to my host and flew out of the office.

There were days when the only conversation I had was with my bundles of joy and when my husband came back from work it was a moment of celebration as it meant that I could engage in adult conversation rather than baby talk.

From the outset of parenthood I’ve become increasingly aware of the pressure to make sure we are doing the right thing for our children.

When my children were between the ages of 4-6 years I felt that I was in competition with other parents to enrol my children into as many sport and social activities – swimming was an absolute must and as an ex-gymnast I hoped that maybe one of the boys might follow my footsteps into gymnastics.

As a former gymnastics coach I experienced first hand the pressures placed on children by their parents forcing them to concentrate on one activity and pushing them beyond what they were capable of.

I adopted the opposite attitude by encouraging my children to do what they wanted my thought process was that if they tried something and really enjoyed it they were more likely to stick with it rather than me dragging them kicking and screaming to an activity they hated but one I felt they should do.

I was mystified when well meaning mums enrolled their children into everything from childnastics, swimnastics, to toddler rugby and music classes.

There were times when I felt inadequate as a parent because I did not have the time to do the same for my children.

Was I wrong to deny my children access to all these activities? Did I fail them by not ‘pushing’ them harder?

Watching a hockey match recently, I overheard a mother speak to the coach about why her son should be playing for the A team and not the B team. Perhaps a better question might have been what does my son need to do to be considered A team material.

As parents we are protective of our children and want the best for them so I understood what this mother was asking. What surprised me was the presumption that she thought that her child should be in the A team.

Is this not down to the wisdom of the coach? I felt that as a parent she was overstepping the mark and questioning the teacher’s authority and knowledge?

I’ll admit to getting angst if my boys aren’t selected for what I believe to be the best teams just because I think they are good enough but, I accept that maybe they aren’t as good and who am I to determine what team they should be in?

As parents we see our children through rose tinted glasses believing them to be brilliant. The truth is often very different.

We need to be able to accept that maybe our kids aren’t and can’t be great at everything. By recognising their limitations and encouraging them to be the best they can be and to enjoy themselves is more important than our single-minded quest for them to be the best at everything.

business team standingParents evening is a clandestine place for competitive parenting.

Observe the competitive parent hanging onto teacher’s every word in the vain hope that the smiles and addressing teacher on first name terms will automatically guarantee Henry an A in his next maths test or better still a prize at prize giving.

Then dad asks the most important question did teacher watch the rugby on Saturday because he knows teacher coaches rugby and dad wants his son in the A team. What can he do to make sure that happens?

Invariably at the end of the evening you chat to other parents who can’t help but tell you how well their children are doing without admitting they might need extra help with school studies.

In your naivety you admit that your youngest needs some extra help with his studies and you are left with that feeling of inadequacy because you feel like you have failed them as a parent.

I’m left reeling with the thought there must be many mothers who despite their best parenting efforts feel a failure. When did competitive parenting suddenly make you feel bad because you were unable to attain a perfect ten in motherhood.

How did women get to feel this way? Am I the only one?

Is it because we had children later in years after having established ourselves in a career or well paid job?

Women have to compete in the boardroom, for managerial and senior positions continually striving to improve and show how good we are.

Has this competitive element spilled over into our child-rearing efforts? What are we trying to prove? Our kids are blissfully unaware of this competition that is until school sports day.

Cross Country Team RunnersParents are secretly praying that the ‘superstar kid’ who always gets picked for every A team will fall and give their child a chance to win. Parents shout and scream at their offspring to run faster, giving them advice and tactics on how to be the best. I’m one of them.

Work now sits a very comfortable second place to my life as a mum and that for me is as it should be.

I love my kids unconditionally and ponder momentarily over the toddler photos I have of them in my office. The joy of being a mother engulfs me as a tear swells in my eye for I know I can never have that time back again.

I’ve accepted that the most important thing in my life is the welfare and happiness of my children and whilst they quite possibly may not end up being selected for England, I believe they will be the best they can be and that parenting isn’t a competitive sport with rules, training manuals and a referee, it is a life long learning skill.

Perhaps the only true indicator of your success as a parent is when your offspring turn out to be well rounded individuals who show compassion, care enough about family and friends, have a sense of morality and finally understand that maybe mum and dad weren’t that bad after all.

If my children are still talking to me when I’m 65 then I’ll consider my parenting efforts a success.