Take That and Party

Take That

So last night one of my oldest and dearest friends and my 17 year old self went to see Take That in Manchester.

I am often the first to find an excuse to stay at home because I feel I haven’t seen Dan enough or because I don’t want another babysitter and sometimes I cancel, simply because I want to be at home. Last night was a real test of my resolve to do something for Mummy – it meant I couldn’t take the girls swimming and they we due to be assessed, it meant I missed an appointment as joint chair of the PTA and I missed an information evening at school ahead of F starting in September. Queue lots of guilt. However, friends stepped in, I have been at the school for 3 years and know the lie of the land, it was a longstanding arrangement and my friend needs me right now…plus it was Take That. I went and I am so glad I did….

So if you are feeling flaky about your night out this weekend or any other, read on. This is a shameful, skin crawling, cringeworthy read, and I am so close to not pressing ‘publish’ but it’s Friday night, it has been an emotional week and it’s a bit of fun!

In the rise of the auditorium, humming with the buzz of 20,000 expectant fans, I felt the genuine excitement of a young girl waiting for the boys to appear and found myself screaming when they did (40 – moi?!). Now, it being a Take That concert, it was expertly staged, wonderfully theatrical and the songs were all crowd pleasers. But what was a real treat, was the ability to leave middle aged Mummy behind and in the protection of the dark and my anonymity in the crowd, to let go. I wouldn’t exactly call it finding my inner wild woman, more like finding my irresponsible, hormonal teenager!

I cannot tell you how delighted I was to see that Gary had peroxide hair in a tall quiff reminiscent of their early days – though of course now, he has grown into himself and he looked amazing. I was literally clapping like a silly seal. And as I watched Howard strut around the stage, I will confess to tinglings that as a devoted wife and mother I would not normally feel looking at another man! Ridiculous, embarrassing but hey – completely harmless, so I gawped a bit more! I was on fire!

Fuelled by teenage hormones, I spent much of the next hour and a half, completely going for it – dancing and singing with what might have looked like gleeful abandon to the people behind us….What they didn’t realise, was that I was, of course, going to be focused in on by the makers of the DVD of the live concert and that they would keep coming back to me….I was about to be discovered. I was literally putting the dancers on the stage to shame and was bound to be spotted and asked to join the tour….And even though they couldn’t hear me in the roar of the auditorium, they could just tell by the formation of my mouth and the sway of my hips, that I had ‘it’. I was about to be revealed as the next big thing. In fact, they would be so excited, they would seek me out amongst the crowd and take me to be introduced to the boys at the end of the show…we would go for drinks and…..

I genuinely meant it when I told my friend that Gary was waving at me. It was a real connection (did I mention we were watching from the gods?!?!)….

And so I willingly and wilfully suspended my disbelief for the duration of the show….Moving with the confidence and freedom that only a young girl can…Yes I have been known to fill a dance floor with my fellow school mums – but not like I did last night. I was Beyonce. Yes I may from time to time sing in my local mums’ choir – but not like I did last night. I was Jessie J. And I genuinely let my teenage imagination take over picturing my future as the new ingénue. All night!

Of course, real me kept trying to bring me back to reality, reminding me how ridiculously I was behaving, but for the main part it was an hour and half of blissful escapism.

Then I got to thinking, that apart from being the antics of a laughable, crazy, overweight middle aged woman no longer able to charm her way past a security guard, who made us go the long way round, it was a useful reminder, to “never forget where you’re coming from”!

We should all unleash the shameless confidence we had as teenagers from time to time. We should make time to allow ourselves to dream, no matter how improbable – it’s fun! And if we keep dreaming and allowing ourselves to wander far from our humdrum reality, who knows what we might discover and which paths might actually lead us to roads we are meant to travel.

I know that last night I allowed myself to go bonkers and silly (and I was sober) but it was great and I felt really alive.

So, when you feel reluctant to go out, it is important to sometimes power through. You might have the time of your life. It might also remind you of a long neglected part of you, which from time to time, you would do well to harness.

Kerry

X

Ps thank you to Pinterest for the image

A school community: my modern family

PTA 1

The fabulous #peterandjane wrote a blog in March which was shared far and wide and which began “shall we talk about the dreaded ‘PTA Mummies’?” but which actually applauded the work of those mums. I am one such mum but last week, and for the first time in the three years since we joined the school, we had to cancel an event due to lack of interest. It broke my heart.

I have seen people avoid my gaze, seen friends stop short of standing with me, seen people roll their eyes as another request for help has been passed around assembly….But what might school look like without us? Without the events that we hold, which bring both the children and the parents together beyond school hours?

I know it’s a pain when it is another bottle of wine for another raffle – it’s one more thing you don’t need to remember, it’s one more thing you don’t need to pay for, which blooming event is this one for anyway and you never win the sodding thing either….

I know you are busy and most of the time you would rather be at home looking after your own life than standing for an hour on a tea stall which only raises a few hundred pounds and we never see it spent….But we are all busy – I for one, am the mother to 3 children, a dog, working part time, without a cleaner or an ironer, desperately trying to squeeze in a bit of time for my own enjoyment, supporting Dan who is training for a coast to coast, without family to help out round the corner. I get it. I don’t want to do it either. Sometimes I want to cancel it all and leave it to someone else. At times, it feels like it’s leading me on the path to divorce!! But despite this, I persist.

The thing is, we have chosen to live where we live because of its amazing community.

Also, to me and many of my friends, school is family. It took us all by surprise when at the end of H’s reception year, some of our best friends were those we had known for 9 months. Almost another 2 years down the line and we are more like family. Linked by our children and the same time experiences, which by nature of being a parent are guttural, raw, emotive and explosive and mean that we are almost forcibly joined, in a way you never are with a work colleague. In each other’s eyes we see reflected our own challenges and our own burning love and aspirations for those children who are together their own clan, their own unit, in their class of 24.

For those of us particularly close, it is noticeable that many of us do not have family close by. So we live in each other’s pockets more than we ever thought we would and we lean on each other. That in itself is not perhaps remarkable, but the speed with which we knitted together is. I think it is also fair to say too, that lots of us no longer invest the same amount of time in our older friends, who are not part of our everyday village life.

I would also add that even if you don’t feel that close to some of the other mums or dads, you still feel connected and still know that you could call on them if you needed to and you see in their smiles, the feeling is mutual. Like a cousin you only see every now and again perhaps.

One of the reasons being, that our children will raise a hand to hold and not necessarily check it’s their own mummy’s or daddy’s, and if they realise it is actually somebody else’s, then they simply smile and skip on, holding on. Our children, will run into the arms of any friend sent to collect them and will happily play in a home that is not their own. Our friends represent our children’s larger and extended family. Our children are as at home in our friends’ homes as if it was grandma around the corner. For this, I will always be eternally grateful.

I know crucial to this is our village school. I wonder if it would be the same, had we all not been there repeatedly boiling 300 horrible hot dogs at a time, losing the kids across the playing field whilst organising another gala, stumbling home drunk together from the just for grown ups disco….and emptying our spirits cupboard without any mixers….

Dan and I watched Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby on iPlayer recently and one of the episodes visited an incredible hotel on the island of Fogo off Canada, remote and unyielding. The youngsters on this island are leaving: it’s not for them – lured by the brighter lights of the mainland and turning their backs on the long standing traditions and island industries. The population of Fogo is now in serious decline and its future uncertain. Many of its homes empty and the hope of the remaining inhabitants is as battered as its rocky outcrops.

If we all give up on our PTA, which is old fashioned in its events and is often unprofessional in its efforts, just because we are all short on time and not because we don’t want to do better, is that how our school would feel?

Would there be tumble weed across the playground? Would we nod and smile courteously, but not know what you did drunk last Friday, what you are in pain about, what you are excited about? Would we no longer love each other’s children so intently? Would we know their names? Would we know that they only like sausages without their skin on or will only have sandwiches without butter? Would our children feel the same sense of security and assuredness which they have now amongst our adult friends? Just at school full stop? Or would it be more like an office, 8.45-3.30, in and out.

Would we still have our modern family? Our school friends, the foundations of our blessed life… The people I sometimes want to hide from, feeling the intensity of living in a little bubble, but who I know are part of us and without whom I would be lost.

I don’t know, but this, for me is why I slog on, another irritating PTA mum.

Kerry

x

ps thank you to Pinterest for the images

PTA 2

 

 

Mummy blogger: missing in action!

hamster

I have two alternative titles for this blog, ‘Working Mum: Reality Bites!’ and ‘Fifty fifty parenting: Fat chance!’

This time last week, I agreed to undertake a piece of work, which I knew meant working full time this week and working long hours. I did so on the basis that it is the middle of May, still freezing and I want to upgrade our tent to a caravan for the half term holidays.

Now, I have a friend who is a mum and works full time, passionately in love with her career and highly motivated to strive for the next promotion. Their family is set up for both her and her husband working full time. They both willing embrace what they call fifty fifty parenting – each accepting their share of daily parenting tasks and household responsibilities. They have a whole wall in their kitchen dedicated to detailing their and their children’s timetable for each day: detailing drop off time, pick up times, out of school activities, uniform and kit requirements, snacks required and everyone’s meals for the day. It also allocates to my friend and her husband their chores for the day. Their freezer is pre-stocked with batch cooked meals, all labelled and ordered. Theirs is a well-oiled machine.

This is what my working week looks like in comparison:

Two of the girls meals this week have been hastily bought pizza and chicken nuggets and chips, there is a load in the washing machine that has been there since Monday, similarly one in the drier and the three piles of laundry that I sorted on the landing on Sunday night are still there, growing…No-one’s bedding has been changed, all the bins are over-flowing, I have ironed uniform at 6am every day, the fridge is stacked with mouldy berries, the bathrooms need cleaning, I have only exercised once and I have done the school run twice this week in my scruffs, without showering and without make up (yikes!).

On Tuesday, I went into Leeds to work, leaving before the girls woke up and returning home at 8.30pm. This is what happened:

Dan allowed H, just turned 7, to do her own hair and her sisters’, despite me having lined up another mum – scruffy girls at school. I wonder if he remembered for once to clean their teeth. Mid-afternoon I receive annoyed texts from my lovely husband, who had agreed to help, complaining about the inconvenient time of H’s gymnastics drop off. A little later, more angry texts about a miscommunication with the gymnastics instructor who had given lovely husband a dressing down about arriving at the wrong time and H arriving in her leotard only and no tracksuit. Forward to 6.30pm, a phone call with lovely husband shouting at me, and I can hear wailing daughters in the background: the dog has killed the hamster. Darling, why are you shouting at me, instead of consoling the kids?

I arrive home at 8.30pm – all three children are still in their uniform in front of the TV, not bathed and not having a bed time story and certainly not close to being in bed on a school night. There are shoes, cardigans, coats and bags trailed all around downstairs and the remains of pasta and sauce spread across the kitchen table and the work tops. The contents of the hamster cage are still spewed over the floor of the playroom upstairs and L brings me the dead hamster in an empty Lurpack tub. Lovely husband complains bitterly about his awful day and is short tempered with the girls and me.

Yesterday, sweating as I batted back the hundreds of emails filling my inbox, frantically trying to turn documents for a 3.30pm deadline, I managed to squeeze in a shower at 3pm and at 5pm, I did the most unprofessional all parties conference call of my career: Dan’s embarrassing clock chiming loudly in the background, the dog barking, the Worst Witch blaring from the TV and the children intermittently, asking “Mummy”…not to mention me packing them in the car mid call to get them to swimming class on time.

Today, I am sat in the office, waiting for completion monies to transfer so we can convene a call to complete the share acquisition we have worked on, wondering when the money will land and if I will get home for pick up, having accidentally double booked a play date, let down a friend and missed Friday’s celebration assembly when, of course, H was awarded the Head Teachers award.

How do I feel?

I feel glad that the deal will be achieved within the week – yes it’s been a tough week but it has just been a week and we’ve booked that caravan! I certainly don’t want to do this week in, week out. I am grateful I don’t have to – the joy of working as a self-employed consultant. Good decision.

I am also buzzing slightly – I have genuinely enjoyed the work and I know that I have had a large part to play in driving the deal to complete within a very tight timeframe. I feel confident in my abilities (though it’s hard for me to tell you that). It’s been hard going and having been out of this world for so long, there are things I cannot remember, but after 18 months of dipping back in and out, I have learnt to trust my instincts. Equally, whilst I have had the adrenalin of a looming deadline and felt driven by client expectations, I feel really aware that as a mum, I really don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I have been able to laugh freely when obstacles have appeared and have felt calm and assured. And I feel lucky – I sense that I have been alone in that, hearing the worry and caution in the tones of others on the many calls, that inability to step back and realise it’s not the end of the world. I want to tell them about the dead hamster and not to worry about missing semi-colons.

Equally, whilst I know Mummy working like this is not something I want the girls to see all the time, I don’t mind them seeing a bit of it. It opens their minds about what women can achieve.

What they haven’t seen is that whilst for 3 out of 5 days I have done drop off and pick up, I have been working for two hours before they get up and for 4 hours after they are in bed. But that is the decision I have made and I make those sacrifices willingly, still seeing them more than I otherwise would in a typical office.

The questions that are puzzling me are not about me though. They are about this notion of fifty fifty parenting. I will go home tonight, shattered having worked 50 plus hours in 5 days as well as being mum. The house is a pig-sty, there is over a week’s worth of laundry to do. Dan is training for a coast to coast bike ride and so will be out on his bike for 6 hours tomorrow (did I mention he still managed to go for 2 rides after work this week?), meaning tomorrow I am on the ballet run and so the house will remain a mess until Sunday.

Our everyday lives are not geared towards fifty fifty parenting and nor do we want them to be. I am happy and long to be in the home and I am better at it. But if we have decided that I am doing some work, then do we need to make more of a switch?

Dan will acknowledge that since I have gone back to work, I still do everything I did before when I was at home full time. But this week has magnified the imbalance and has caused me to question whether my decision in April to step back from growing my own business because the balance was wrong, was just about me. Was it all really down to my desire to be at home more? Would I have felt the same, if we had shared out our responsibilities to reflect a different partnership, respecting that I was now doing two jobs?

Neither Dan or I would want it to be fifty fifty, but how about eighty twenty (isn’t that the golden number for everything?!)? Do we need to be more like my friend, formalising and timetabling our roles? We couldn’t go that far, we are woolly edged, impulsive and we like it (I often think our home is like the Weasley’s in Harry Potter), but I have to confess, a touch of that order and discipline might be called for. I wonder….

In the meantime, kerrytalks is back. I have missed it and I have lots to say – watch this space!

Kerry

X

Ps. Before I go, in case you get the wrong idea, I just want to acknowledge all the wonderful things Dan does for us. This blog shines a spotlight on a perfect storm of the pressures of being busy working parents to three young girls and a murderous dog and is not meant to be an expose of Dan’s shortcomings! I love and adore him and wouldn’t swap him for the world (Ryan Gosling in La La Land maybe!).

Pps. Please note that the piece of work referred to above was undertaken for a law firm on a consultancy basis and not for Serenwood, a business consultancy with which I am also associated and which highly values work life balance.

 

 

Maintenance

Maintenance

Leaning back in the outdoor hot-tub at Seaham Hall Serenity Spa and looking at the building, a crisp bright white, towering into the pale blue sky above me, I could not quite believe how new it looked.

The last time I was here was over 10 years ago and it still looked brand new. Inside was just the same….When Dan announced this was where we would go for my 40th birthday, I had of course been thrilled (2 nights somewhere lovely, just the two of us), but I have to confess that secretly I was a little worried. I had visited the Spa before and loved it: indulgent luxury and pampering at its best. But it was a long time ago….surely it would be really tired now, a bit frayed around the edges, the mosaic tiles full of black mildew, the woodwork chipped and the soft furnishings worn. I was even more worried when I visited the website and it looked just as I remembered it.

Luckily for us, my fears were completely misplaced. The Spa was spotless inside and out, it seemed like something recently opened.

So, as I lay amongst the bubbles, I couldn’t help but wonder about the value of maintenance and the power of that investment.

And then I thought of me. Forty but not feeling so fabulous. A woman with aching joints, prone to days of anxiety, piling on the weight in fits of self-pity, always finding an excuse to open a bottle of red wine, waking up tired, never making the time to exercise….

It is very clear, that if I carry on like this, without taking care of my own body and mind, that in another 10 years, I will feel and look every one of my 50 years. Is that what I really want?

Of course not! So when will the excuses stop?!

In my blog The Power of Play, I wondered whether or not exercise doesn’t feature high on my agenda because it was never on my parents and questioned if I really wanted to pass this legacy onto my own daughters.

I have also been thinking a lot lately about ensuring that our girls stay true to their natural selves. Just as they are now, slightly wild, running until they are breathless, scaling anything their arms allow them to climb, always having a go and persisting until they can.

Equally, I want them to remain entirely confident and comfortable in their own skin. And whether we like it or not, body image plays a significant part in how we feel about ourselves. I want the girls to remain in love with their own bodies and what they allow them to do. In awe of the amazing capabilities and resilience of their very beings. I want them to always be happy and relaxed when naked. I want them to walk down school corridors heads held high with a certain amount of swagger and an ability to bat away any criticisms that come their way from girlfriends, frenemies and (breathe!) boys.

How will they do this when they don’t see me celebrating myself and the achievements of my own body? I have always been careful never to mention diets, losing weight and I certainly don’t call myself fat in front of them. But I am beginning to suspect that is not enough. I need to go further. I need them to know I love my body, squidgy bits and all, after all it did a pretty incredible job in growing our three beautiful girls. I need to celebrate my form, glorious in its imperfections, beautiful because of who it holds.

The problem is, I don’t love my body. I just don’t. I don’t hate it, but it’s hard to love something you are struggling to fit into most of your wardrobe. It’s hard to love a body whose calves ache at the top of a sprint up the stairs or whose chest heaves trying to keep up with the girls on their scooters. It’s hard to love a body you have spent 40 years measuring against celebrity ideals. And yet I must. I need to lead by example.

I know I always feel better about myself when I do exercise.

It has been almost 18 months, pretty much since I went back to work, but I do remember the glow it gives you. Plus, I might do one run and I instantly feel 4lbs lighter (I’m not I know, but in my mind, I have done something and so must automatically look so much better!).

Equally, 18 months ago I completed a 5k Major Series, having trained for only 3 weeks and I can honestly say I have rarely felt so alive, so empowered. I ran the whole way, stayed with my team, climbed steep banks, cargo nets and crawled through feet of mud and icy cold waters. It was incredible. I felt invincible. In the aftermath I felt like wonder-woman, I wanted to sign up for a triathlon, a marathon, a sky dive! Why oh why did I let that go?!

I want to feel like that more often! Strong, in control and in tune with my natural wild woman, who can flee, can attack, can hunt, can survive.

Equally, I want longevity! I know we are all exposed to the vagaries of cancer, ill-fated accidents and so on, but I want to give myself the best fighting chance. Pre children, I wasn’t afraid of death, but now, it terrifies me. As does the ageing process….who wants to grow old, to feel the ebb of your mental agility and the sapping of your limbs?

So all in all, it’s time to stop making excuses. So, this week I have been for an early morning run and today had an empowering one on one session with #workoutlikeamum, a fellow mum blogger studying to be a personal trainer and inspiring us all daily. In declaring my baby steps here, I am hoping to hold myself accountable, to keep going.

A little bit of maintenance and investment in myself which goes beyond the odd manicure and so hopefully sometime soon, the girls will sit on my bed, watching me get ready, soaking up Mummy’s admiring gazes at herself (not because I am thin, but because I am strong and because I am invested in all that I am). And whilst they watch I hope that sight will be embedded deep inside their self-conscious, images of positive self-love and self-care to protect and strengthen them as they grow.

Kerry

X

Ps thanks to Pinterest for the images

Pps we stayed at Seaham Hall Hotel and Serenity Spa in February 2017.

 

For the dads

P1010029(2).jpg

Last week, I took a week to myself simply because I felt I ‘needed’ it. I wanted a week of downtime, not working, just to ‘be’. This marked the start of a change in my working patterns, reducing my availability, taking work as and when it arises, rather than working on a set hours basis. A decision taken to balance our family better yes, but also to reflect my own desire to spend more time at home, notwithstanding that this represents a real squeeze on our finances.

Whilst pottering around the house, revelling in the mundanity of working through a large pile of ironing and the simple joy of a clean, calm and ordered home, it occurred to me just how lucky I am.

Not only because of the blessed life we lead, but because of the freedom being born a woman has given me.

Much is often written to question whether or not women can really have it all and documenting the many demands on working mums time and our overwhelming, never ending to do lists. But I wonder if there is enough written to celebrate our choices.

Assuming a certain amount of financial freedom, isn’t it true that many of the stay at home mums or part-time working mums chose their role in response to their own cravings and desires to spend time at home? For many of the working mums I know, it is the days at home which they crave and working part-time allows them to satisfy those cravings, if only in part. Isn’t it also true that, if those mums had a desire to work full time, no-one would stand in their way?

Of course, I am not dismissing or belittling the many restrictions and limitations my sex imposes or the ongoing battle for equality. I am simply struck that I have been given the luxury of walking away from a secure, traditional and well paid career path to explore what it is that I would really love to do, simply because I am mum. I have been given the joy of time at home, just being, again, simply because I am mum: it is expected and accepted that this is my right, simply because I am a mum.

Dan, my amazing and supportive husband does not have the same choice. The expectation of him as a man and as a father is to provide.

These are clichéd stereotypes, but they are stereotypes we knowingly and willingly perpetuate and in this middle class suburban life of mine. These are stereotypes which fill our school halls, delis and coffee shops. We are everywhere.

It is true, that I do expect Dan to be the breadwinner. To provide a certain level of income and to keep us safe and secure. I don’t expect this of him as my equal, I expect this of him as a man, as my husband, as the father of our three children.

How would I feel if Dan decided he needed time at home and had just reached the end of the line in sales. After all, this wasn’t his dream? What if he just wanted to spend time, sprucing up the garden, tidying the garage, hoovering? I’d like to say I would be enlightened, and forward thinking; I know there are families out there who are. But the honest answer is, I would be horrified and I doubt I am alone. It would also take something quite significant for me to sit up and really listen.

Dan, does, I know, sometimes feel the weight of this expectation. The trap we willingly created for him, sometimes tight across his chest. Knowing that for him, there is no easy ‘out’. Yet, how often do we really, seriously consider the mental health, mental well-being and the mindset of the partners we love so dearly?

The biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK is suicide and those most at risk are in their 40s.

Interestingly, women are more likely to suffer from depression but are significantly less likely to take their own lives. Key to this, is a woman’s willingness to seek help and her ability to find it. Help means professional help but also help from peers.

Men, we know, are less likely to do so. Discussing this with Dan, despite the many conversations we have had on this topic and the importance of being open, it is clear, that even in very dark times he would be reluctant to reach out to friends, despite the great efforts being taken to remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues and in particular, men’s mental health issues.

We are all of us guilty of complaining about the bad mood our partner brought back from work yesterday, of rolling our eyes as he complains about the 3rd amazon delivery that week, of laughingly ignoring his protests about our (twice) weekly coffee shop visits with friends, but perhaps we should pause.

Maybe his concerns are justified: he might that day have really been feeling the pressure of his job, knowing he absolutely must get it right. He’s a bloke, he’s meant to provide right? And he knows you love him, but he knows deep down you expect that too. Yet the thought of another 20-30 years of this is soul destroying. Maybe he is jealous of your two days a week at home, especially now the kids are in school, but heck maybe he has a right to be, where is his escape? Maybe he does resent the fact that you are sat blogging/renovating old furniture/network marketing products you love/sewing and crafting to your hearts delight but perhaps that is fine when he is stuck in a job he doesn’t feel born to do, in the same day to day routine, hours spent in meeting after meeting, with unanswered emails and phone calls all the time mounting: his own version of overwhelm.

So today, I want to say thank you to my husband for my freedom to make choices, to cherish precious time at home with the girls and to explore what makes my heart sing most. If you are lucky enough to be in the same position as me, I invite you to do the same.

Kerry

x

A letter on your 7th birthday

Letter.jpg

To our darling H, today you turned 7 and I have got to tell you Mummy is frightened.

From the moment you were born, you have been mesmerizingly intense. Where most new-borns sleep, not you, alert and watchful, you never took your wide eyes off Daddy all night as I came round from the general anaesthetic.

Since then you have been brilliantly fierce, passionate, driven and determined. Full of life and energy. You love with your whole heart and are affectionate and sometimes jealous. At 17 months you became a sister for the first time and then again at the age of 3 years and 3 months. Since then you have given and shared willingly and easily, you have cared, nurtured and protected your siblings and have been more responsible than your years. You have been unapologetically confident and self-assured. Amongst your peers you have been a leader and a prized friend.

But now I am worried. I see you darling, at a cross roads, on the beginning of your journey towards your teenage years then onwards to womanhood. I know that the next few years are a fundamental part of your development. For the first time, I am witnessing you struggle with new emotions, with relationships and I watch as I see the first unravelling of your precious self-love.

Yesterday, I began reading Steven Biddulph’s, ‘10 things girls need most’ and was not surprised to read:

the Department of Education is reporting that a third of all teenage girls in the UK suffer from depression or anxiety. They are calling it, “an important and significant trend”. The NHS says the same; they report that 20% of girls are self-harming – three times as many as ten years ago. Not only that; 13% of girls have symptoms of post-traumatic stress – something we associate with serious trauma or harm. Eating disorders, body-hate, having unhappy and unwanted sex: are all on the increase.”

Never has my role as a mum felt quite so important as it does today. More than anything I want to get it right for you, but what if I don’t?

I used to think we were so different – I didn’t recognise myself in the spunky little girl, not afraid of anything and yet just lately, I see myself in you so much. You are only just seven but in the last few weeks I have been alarmed to hear you ask if you are good enough, worrying that you are a bad daughter, a bad sister, a bad friend. When I think about how intensely we love and adore you, I wonder where it comes from.

Last week, for the first time, you didn’t want me to comfort you. I was the cause of your pain and you resisted me when I tried to hold you and wipe away your hurt. My parenting style needs to change: whereas past chastisements have been taken at face value, I now see you internalising them, flipping the admonishment to be a reflection on your value, your worth and how you are loved. I cannot speak quite so firmly or frankly as I seek to guide you as to what is and what is not acceptable behaviour, because if I do, I see it dampen the spark in your eyes and you are questioning yourself.

When you pushed and pushed me away last week with a force that came from deep felt hurt and fury and told me you didn’t want me, I was absolutely terrified. I wanted to scream out: “no, darling, please, don’t let this begin already, not now, not so young….not ever, I will always love you, no matter what, I want to be the person you trust more than anyone else, without question. I am your safe harbour and I never want you to feel anything but love and care from me….”

I’m so scared darling that I am going to mess this up.

It was parents evening this week and we were so very proud of you. Not because of your many achievements but because of the little girl we spoke about. Someone who is choosing a strong work ethic, who is striving hard to improve and who enjoys improving herself. Someone who is polite and helpful. Kind and caring. We have seen a change in you, as you move towards the next stage of your development and so have your teachers. We see you choosing who you want to be.

For our part, we want to protect that feistiness and joy that you have had so far. The little girl who could do pull-ups, “because I just had to believer harder Mummy”. The little girl I call Kissy McKissy because you smother us with love and wrap yourself around every part of us with your bony little limbs! The little girl who just runs and runs because she loves the thrill of it. The little girl who believes in herself and who until this moment has felt 100% loved and secure.

Please, please, please don’t let us lose her. Please, please, please don’t let us have any part to play if the edges of this amazing little girl become a bit blurred or a bit frayed. We are your protectors and I hope beyond all else, that I can be the mum I need to be and that I do not let you down.

I am going to go now darling, because I cannot see the screen anymore. You are my love and my hope and my heartbeat. I already miss the preschool and early years you and those beautiful easy days at home. Please don’t let me miss you, at your most natural and most incredible. I hope I can find a way to keep you close and to keep you whole.

Lots of love

Mummy

x

Space to breathe

 

NY Moors

On Saturday, Dan and I had the day to ourselves and headed to one of our favourites, Helmsley for a nostalgic pootle around the charming market town and an explore around the North York Moors. I absolutely love being up there and always have. For me a visit to the Moors, no matter the season, is absolute bliss: a real tonic to nourish the soul; a haven of calm quelling the noise in my head and dissipating the demands of our busy days.

When I am on the Moors, I am light, tranquil and dreamy. I could spend hours just gazing at the view, being reminded of the beauty of world we are gifted with. As I breathe in deeply the wonder and grace of the moorland, I feel my shoulders drop, my head lean back and almost feel like I could float above it, swathed in the hold of the cool fresh scented breeze….

It’s not a chocolate box view, it’s not dainty or pretty. Some find the rugged expanse foreboding, but the rolling hills of weathered heather and yellowed grassland are to me safe and secure. I would never feel frightened out there, not even in a lashing storm or darkening night. The craggy climbs are at once brooding and majestic and as I admire the shafts of glowing sunlight pouring into the valleys below, I do feel as though I am witnessing the blessing of God’s own country.

On a Spring day like Saturday, I love looking up to the uninterrupted expanse of a pale watery blue sky stretching far and wide, filled with billowing rolls of cloud leading my eyes to the horizon, amazing me with the breadth and scope of the space around me. I love looking at the detail of the gorse bushes illuminated by the first buds of yellow or marking the different patches on new-born lambs unsure on spindly legs and huddled against their mothers on the roadside. There is no place quite the same.

One of the things I enjoy most about being on the Moors, is the liberating perspective it gives you. I am always reminded of my inconsequentiality. I am reminded of Tess of the D’Urbervilles:

Not quite sure of her direction Tess stood still upon the hemmed expanse of verdant flatness, like a fly on a billiard-table of indefinite length, and of no more consequence to the surroundings than that fly”.

Yet I find no tragedy in this notion, it comforts me. The mistakes I make are insignificant. I don’t look at this as a perfect excuse, rather a perfect invitation to keep going. Where some might feel this belittles their achievements, I don’t; I recognise that I am part of a much bigger universe but that we all have a role to play and I hope my contributions can ripple out, in ever increasing circles.

When I think of Tess, I also think of the history of the landscape and the many people who have wandered over the heath, characters battling the elements, determining on by foot without the luxuries we have today. The people who have farmed the unforgiving stubborn land, those forced to move from place to place in search of work. The challenges that so many have faced were real and physical. I am reminded of the providence of the life I was born into and filled with a sense of duty to make the most of my own opportunities.

On the Moors I am rooted, tethered to nature, by a past as recent as my grandparents. As a girl they would take me on drives over the hills, asking if I was asleep as I fell into silent reverie, breathless even then at the wonder before me. Filling my head with stories of their adventures as young adults, going to dances at Hutton-le-Hole, Grandma helping herself to gin at the Jolly Sailor, driving merrily from one remote village to another with a car and even a boot full. They would talk too of more idyllic, childhood memories of potato picking season, of dying eggs and rolling them down hills at Easter, of the freedom they had to roam as children. All images of a simpler time….of a life with less material comforts yes but with less expectation, a greater ability to just be and to relish more basic pleasures and I am encouraged to do the same.

Even just writing this, I can feel the sense of space, the quietude, the peace of being on the Moors. If your head is full, I urge you to pay a visit to this splendid place and if you cannot go that far, then find any walk. If you take a good look around you, it is so much more than a breath of fresh air.

Kerry

x

ps thank you to Pinterest for the image