Tag Archives: family

“Do the goodies always win?”

Superheroes are featuring heavily in my life at the moment. Or rather, they are featuring heavily in my four-year-old son’s life, and so by default I am having to take an active interest.

I’ll be honest: when it comes to motherhood, I have found even the basics utterly bamboozling: How do you strap a screaming, angry toddler into a car seat when they have perfected planking? How do you persuade them to try a teeny tiny piece of carrot at dinner? Why does it take 17 minutes for them to put on one shoe? Where have their socks gone?

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Wishing for space

I spend a lot of time every day wishing for space. I’m not being greedy here – I’m not pleading with the universe to grant me solitary mountaintops, or vast plains, or a deep, crystal clear lake.

Just two minutes to pee in private would be nice. Or maybe silence while I’m changing the baby’s nappy, instead of a three-year-old shouting loudly, “Look at me, look at me, Mummy! MUMMY, LOOK AT ME MUMMEEEE! LOOK! LOOK!”

I would say that on average eight times a day, I long for actual, physical space – space away from little people who are intent on pulling my hair, climbing onto my back, attempting to jam fingers up my nose and generally clambering all over me, clinging to my limbs as if hanging off branches of a tree.

But then something happened, and I got struck with the realisation that, one day, I will have all the space I have craved. One day, when my skin is the texture of autumn leaves, I will long for their touch.

Two weeks ago, my Nan died.

She had a lot of space.

I often blame the physical distance between us, because we lived 300 miles apart. But I could have picked up the phone more often than I did. And now, I am caught in a kind of limbo, wishing I had spoken to her more and knowing there is no longer time.

I have not always been a good granddaughter.

I didn’t cry for weeks. I felt so removed from her passing.

And then, the morning we were due to visit her house, I sat on the toilet seat in a Premier Inn on the outskirts of her hometown in South Wales, and I sobbed so hard I retched into a paper sanitary disposal bag.

Because even if you haven’t been physically close to someone for a long while, if they are woven into the fabric of your childhood, your memories, your DNA, it will hit you, even if it doesn’t hit you right away.

Grandparents

And then, when you are feeling sad and regretful and guilty, it can take someone else you love to bring you back. My son, in his unique little way, brought me back.

To persuade him to wear a smart shirt to the funeral, I told him he could wear whatever he wanted at the ‘little party’ afterwards.

I am such a tit.

And so it was my three-year-old rocked up to my Nan’s wake dressed as Buzz Lightyear. At one point he even declared rather loudly, “To infinity and beyond!” Which, I suppose, summed the whole event up quite nicely. Good job my family have a sense of humour.

BuzzLightyear

Despite having said my goodbyes, the remorse lingered. It trailed me home along the M4.

I knew what I needed. I needed to run.

So I did. And it worked. The guilt fell away – for then, anyway. I ran further than I have for a long time. I ran through deep mud and puddles and up a killer hill. With my legs burning and my lungs screaming, I ran into nothingness; into the space I needed in my head.

And while I ran, things became a little clearer: my Nan had been unhappy for a long time, ever since she lost my grandfather, 17 years ago.

Now somewhere, somehow, she is back with the love of her life.

Grandparents2

Perhaps, after all, this is what I need. Not more space (although I will always long to pee in private). But more time with the people I love. Even if that does mean little feet jabbing me in the ribs as they clamber all over me.

Because right now, I have all the time in the world.

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Alone time (with an audience)

A couple of times a week, while my husband is bathing the kids (i.e. getting them so hyped up with splashing and songs and bubbles it takes them about three hours to wind down), I retreat into my son’s bedroom with my yoga mat, and indulge in 15 minutes of yoga and stretching. In part, this is to ensure any post-run aches from the week get soothed, but I also do it because, well, it’s just bloody lovely, isn’t it?

Yoga. Alone. In my pants (if you can’t do yoga in your pants in the comfort of your own home, where can you?). Staring out of my son’s bedroom window, across the garden and up at the sky.

Bliss.

Except for one tiny detail.

I’ve been rumbled.

It didn’t take many sessions of my lovely alone-time routine for the little ones to figure out I was just next door. Just a few sessions before the shouts started:

‘Look, I’ve found Mummy! I don’t want my stories. I want to watch Mummy!’

So now, instead of having their bedtime stories curled up with Daddy in our bedroom, everyone sits on the sofa bed in my son’s room, listening to stories and watching me attempt sun salutations. Oh goody.

Nothing evokes ‘relaxation’ quite like listening to a three year old laughing hysterically at you while shouting, ‘Mummy, I can see your bum!’ (I might need to rethink the yoga-in-pants situation.)

And then, last night, just as I was about to yell, ‘OH MY GOD, GET OUT, ALL OF YOU! CAN’T I HAVE EVEN ONE MINUTE BY MYSELF THESE DAYS?’ (or something), a lovely thing happened.

It became audience participation.

My son performed a near-perfect downward-facing dog  while asking excitedly, ‘Mummy, am I doing it? Am I doing it, Mummy?!’ My baby girl clambered around my legs, babbling away. We stood like trees (OK, we swayed like trees). And it was fun.

Downward dog Tree pose

Yoga is about peace. But it is also about love.

I guess every now and then, my yoga time might be invaded. But that’s OK. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend some quality family time before bed.

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For my beautiful boy…

To my beautiful boy,

The other day, you asked if you could wear your Frozen dress to the supermarket.

Yes, you have a Princess Anna dress. We went shopping with your birthday money and the second you saw it, your eyes lit up. It was the ONLY thing you wanted; you were going to BE Princess Anna! You proudly brought it over to the till and it made me happy to see you so excited.

You’ve been Princess Anna a lot since that day.

But when you asked to wear it to the supermarket, I hesitated. And then I talked you out of it.

I’m sorry.

It wasn’t because I’m ashamed of you. Far from it. I will never stop being proud of you. It was because I was terrified that someone might say something nasty to upset you and quash the make-believe out of your soul.

Part of my role as your mummy is to protect you. Like any parent, I worry about the little things that might single you out for bullying, or name-calling, or ostracising. It pains me to think someone will hurt you one day.

But you know what? I’ve realised that alongside keeping you safe, it’s also vital for me to support you in your choices, rather than fear the consequences of them.

So if, while we’re picking up fish fingers from the frozen aisle, you want to pretend to be a feisty, fearless, kick-ass character who saves the day – and who happens to be female – then that’s fine with me. You are being a normal, playful three-year-old, who has a limitless imagination, and a wonderful sense of creativity and play. There are no boundaries in your world. You don’t realise you are breaking the mould.

Toys are toys. Clothes are clothes – that’s all.

So be yourself.

I will stand up for you. Because I am your mummy and I will have your back. Always.

Lego

‘Let’s play sleeping’

Last night, both of my children slept for 12 blissful hours, I had an unbroken night and I now feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

Ha ha ha ha!

Forgive me – my mind momentarily wandered into the realm of fantasy.

Of course they didn’t. And of course I don’t.

Sleep is a fairly contentious subject when broached in the presence of a parent of small children. Because, chances are, they aren’t getting enough.

As a runner, I’m well aware the golden rule when upping your mileage is to ensure you’re getting enough quality shut-eye, in order to aid recovery – yet another reason why I now breathe a monumental sigh of relief that I decided to pull out of this spring’s marathon. Because let’s face it, I could do all the training I like, but these days, when it comes to gently resting my head on a pillow every night, closing my eyes and switching off – well, it’s kind of out of my hands, isn’t it? My nights are now very much dictated by the two little sleep thieves I have created.

When it comes to night-time, they’re not bad bad. They’re just… well, not exactly brilliant.

The current routine includes the three year old needing to get up for a wee at some point in the early hours, with an occasional nightmare that requires cuddles and gentle reassurance to help him drift back to sleep. Pretty standard stuff.

The baby? Well. She is developing a far more creative bedtime schedule. She sleeps in our bed with us – a deliberate choice that we made from the start and are sticking with for now. Having her close feels right (although I’m aware this isn’t for everyone) and ensures she sleeps peacefully (she’s a bit like a cute hot water bottle), waking only to feed several times before settling down once more.

This, at least, is the theory. And in all honesty, for the most part it’s how it goes.

Apart from those nights when, for no clear reason, she wakes when it is still blatantly the middle of the night and starts making sweet ‘wake up Mummy it’s morning’ gurgles (at least, they would be sweet if it wasn’t THREE O’CLOCK IN THE SODDING MORNING! GO BACK TO SLEEP!).

Apart from those nights when she misjudges a midnight kiss on the cheek and head butts me instead, resulting in a rude awakening and a fat lip for Mummy.

Apart from those nights when she simply has to sleep in the shape of a starfish, slap bang in the middle of the bed, leaving me and my husband clinging to the edges like something out of Cliffhanger.

Apart from those nights when she decides to creep slowly up the pillow and do her Darth Vader impression directly into my ear, scaring the sh*t out of me.

As you can see, co-sleeping has its pitfalls.

So it was last week when, after a particularly bad night (three night wakings from the boy; five night wakings from the baby) I felt – how shall I put this? – f*cking shattered. I’d valiantly battled through a morning of painting and Play-Doh, supported heavily by my sponsors, Caffeine and Sugar. But by mid-afternoon, I was fading.

‘What’s wrong Mummy,’ my son asked.

‘Mummy’s very tired,’ I replied, stifling a yawn.

‘Poor Mummy. I know! Let’s play sleeping!’

Now don’t get me wrong, I never once believed any actual sleep would take place during the course of this game, but the opportunity to shut my eyes – even for just 20 seconds – was too appealing to pass up.

‘Good idea,’ I replied. ‘I’ll sleep here [positioning myself horizontally on the sofa]. Night night.’ And I closed my eyes.

‘No Mummy! NOOOOO! Get OFF! This is MY bed! You need to sleep on the floor. Like bunk beds!’

Okaaaay, not ideal, but hell, if it still involved some kind of closed-eye situation, I’d take it.

I dutifully slunk onto the floor (leaving my pride on the sofa). The baby started hammering a xylophone with a piece of Duplo. Not perfect, admittedly, but once I closed my eyes it was a good enough approximation.

Silence. For five seconds.

‘And now Mummy,’ a little voice declared loudly, ‘I’ll jump on you.’

‘Oka… wait? What?’

I should be thankful, I suppose. He did warn me.

Sleep

She’ll sleep well anywhere. Apart from in bed.

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Being brave

When my daughter was eight weeks old, I signed up to run a marathon. It must have been something to do with having just grown and given birth to another human being that made me feel so capable and empowered. The female body is amazing. I felt amazing! I was capable of committing to ­– and achieving – anything.

In the months that followed, I gradually increased my running speed and distance (so far, so good).

And then, as December gave way to January and the start of my marathon training, my resolve (having so far channelled my I’ve-given-birth-I-can-do-anything mentality) faltered somewhat.

A marathon? Training to run 26.2 miles – this time with an energetic three year old and teething under-one year old along for the ride? Had I gone f*cking insane? What the hell was I thinking?

At first, despite the fact I already had doubts, I felt the brave thing to do was battle on.

Battle on, despite the fact I was soothing and feeding a baby back to sleep in the darkest hours of the night, rising at dawn to greet my son each morning and racing around after my little ones all day.

Battle on, despite the fact I felt daunted by my 16-week training plan.

Battle on, despite the fact I was dreading those runs getting longer. Dreading the additional exhaustion. Dreading the possibility that this would lead to me not being able to give my children all the energy, positivity and creativity they deserved from me.

And then it hit me.

I didn’t have to do this.

Now historically, I’m not a quitter. I’ve previously run two marathons. While training for both, I suffered setbacks. But twice I made it to the start line. Twice I crossed that finish line. And I loved them.

The start of marathon training should be exciting. It’s a time of possibility and growth and determination. It requires commitment and dedication and guts. You have to be hungry for it.

It’s taken me a few weeks to realise I’m just not hungry enough for it yet. To realise that the brave decision is not to battle on. The brave decision is to admit to myself – and everyone else – that I won’t be running this marathon.

The brave decision is to quit.

So often, the brave decision is the right decision. Because as my marathon goal ends before it has even begun, a new set of running aims has started to stretch out before me – aims more suited to my current time restrictions, family commitments and energy levels:

1 Run a decent 5K with the running buggy.

2 Get a new 10K post-baby PB by April (sub-1:03:27).

3 Run a sub-60-minute 10K by June.

So there they are: three challenges, all of which are more suited to my life right now. And you know what? I’m excited by them.

The other great thing? These new goals mean I’ll get to spend a whole lot more time with my new favourite running buddy: my baby girl, whose babbling in the running buggy makes me smile and whose giggles spur me on.

Running buggy

All smiles: she really does make a great running buddy

2015: not a write-off

This time last year, as 2014 was drawing to a close, I did not have high hopes for 2015. In fact, I distinctly remember telling several people I had already written it off. The reason? I was expecting a baby.

I know, I know. I should have been brimming with excitement at the anticipation of such a wonderful, joyous occasion… but here’s the catch. I’d been there before. Two years and four months before. That first time around – expecting my son – I was so excited, so happy, so desperate to hold my baby in my arms… but once he was finally born, the reality of the post-birth healing, sleep deprivation, constant feeding and loss of my old life slammed me in the face and threatened to floor me. Then there was the crying. Oh God, the endless crying. My baby boy suffered so terribly from colic that he would scream for hours on end. It was draining; I felt like a bad mother – that I wasn’t good enough. I was to-the-bones tired and yet had to carry on – day and night – when all I wanted to do was curl up under a 10-tog duvet and close my eyes.

Don’t get me wrong – I was so very grateful and relieved my baby boy had been born safely and that he was healthy. But the actual parenting bit? It was so much harder than I’d expected.

Second time round? Well. I decided to expect the worst and if there were any rays of sunshine through the sleep-deprived fog, it would be a nice, balmy little bonus.

And a strange thing happened.

My daughter was born in March and my little family had the most wonderful year.

Newborn

Oh, hello!

Yes, it has been hard. Yes, I am tired. Yes, sometimes I feel like banging my head against the wall when I’ve had to say ‘Be gentle’ to my son for the 76th time that day. Yes, I am fed up of scraping bits of broccoli off the floor and discovering that I’ve knelt in a splatter of Weetabix/porridge/avocado again (bloody weaning). Yes, sometimes I’d love a weekend off.

But wow, the joy in our house. The love and the laughter and the noise. Just wow.

It helps that, as a second-time mum, I am so much more relaxed. I now have the confidence to raise my baby my way, as opposed to worrying I’m doing it wrong according to this or that book.

It also helps that my baby girl was a peaceful newborn and remains, for the most part, happy. Oh yes. She is smiley and calm and utterly chilled out with the world and her place in it.

But it is also down to someone else.

My funny, clever, sensitive little boy has simply shone in his role of Big Bro.

The baby cries? He hands over his favourite toy. She coughs? He pats her back. He has helped teach her to wave, clap and blow raspberries. I feared he would never stop bouncing up and down with excitement when she started to crawl. He has one-way conversations with her, and she smiles and laughs along with him as if she understands every word. He tells her he loves her. All the time.

Seesaw

Sibling love

OK, OK… so every now and then many times a day I’ll leave her happily playing with her toys and, on returning 20 seconds later, she will have been shoved over, a bewildered look on her face, with no toy in sight. But he’s only three. We’ll get there.

One other amazing thing has happened this year – so incredible it should technically class as a miracle: I have managed to carve out a little time for me.

Weird, yes?

I started running again. I started writing this blog. I have crossed the finish line of two 10K races in not-too-shabby times.

WR_Brock.PK_A_127low res

I’ve been beating myself up a bit recently for my lack of running, but you know what? I have realised I need to feel proud of everything I have achieved in my running shoes this year.

After all… 2015?

It was supposed to be a write-off.

ChristmasDay

Happy New Year!

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