Monthly Archives: July 2014

A long way to stretch…..


Family portrait by Edward

I read about a new app the other day which keeps parents up to date with the minutiae of their children’s lives whilst at daycare. Apparently it’s becoming more common to keep closer tabs on your little ones (details of nappy changes snacks on your day ‘off’, really?) and the dad quoted in the article said it helped him to feel more connected.  I have written in the past (in To my gorgeous boys) about my struggle with the transition when my youngest went to pre-school but now, though of course I miss him, I I relish those ten hours per week when I am in charge of me and me alone.  Sometimes I find myself standing staring into space and I wonder how long I have been there, undisturbed by tugging hands, pleading voices, the internal nag that steers me to the next task.

However, my enjoyment is couched in the knowledge that, at the sound of the bored school secretary’s voice I will drop everything and run to comfort them through whatever bang, scrape or ear infection is afflicting them this time. I have had no competing priority for over eight years and I marvel at those mums working away from home who have to juggle and sacrifice and yet who still manage to have a far more organised and tidy home than me!  But in a week this will, for a short period, all change.  I will be on the other side of the world, in a different time zone, unaware of what they had for breakfast, how their mood is when they finish school, how they feel as they go to bed.  I will not be the primary contact number.  I am well aware that I probably sound like an over-protective, possessive nutter of a mother and perhaps you are reading this thinking ‘phew, lucky boys having a break’.  The thought of saying this about myself would have had be rolling in the aisles before now but I will now admit it, I am a control freak when it comes to my children.

I have never been very good with change, preferring instead the comfortable known of home, people and familiar things.  But I am realising that to be a parent, and a good parent, it is important to be, if not adept, then adequate at handing change.  Life feels like a constant transition at the moment, and there is a skill in making the most of transition, stepping carefully through the open door before you rather than hammering on the one behind that has slammed shut.

This is why I have explained to them why I am going, and why I am incredibly excited about seeing friends who I have not seen for years, one in particular who has had a tough few months and whose courage and resilience I have cheered on from afar.  Just imagining giving her a hug when I see her for the first time is at once quite unbelievable and truly thrilling.  It makes me grin from ear to ear imagining our pyjama party next weekend, a boarding school throwback twenty-two years on.

So, I will FaceTime my boys while sharing time with special special friends and family.  I have told them that they can call me whenever they want to, day or night.  I considered getting  a sim card for my old phone in order for them to have a ‘direct line’  to me (as opposed to just using Daddy’s account, what was I thinking?).  But I am finding it hard. When William says “I don’t want Mummy to go to Scotland and England”, my heart breaks a little but thrills a little too, it extrapolates the unspoken love between us, verbalises the normally non-verbal, taken for granted, deeply fixed, unconditional love and unbreakable bond.  I am holding them just that little bit more often, that little bit closer, that little bit tighter as I try to imprint the feeling of their peachy skin, the weight of their little bodies, the smell and tickle of their hair as I put my face to the top of their heads.  Most of the time this is greeted with a “gerroff Mum”, as they peer around me back to the book or screen I am rudely interrupting but I hope it is imprinting me onto them too.

I have bought three books in duplicate, one copy of which I will hide for them to find and the other of which I will take with me in order to read stories together.  I will probably write them notes and no-doubt bug Andrew beyond belief with annoying instructions and questions.  Overthinking things?  Of course, I’m a control freak remember.

I have always been relieved that my boys weren’t ‘runners’, when out and about.  I have always imagined us attached by a piece of elastic, rather like a manic three/ eight legged race.  When other parents have run after offspring I have been relaxed, always sure in the knowledge mine wouldn’t stray far and that they would ping back.  That elastic certainly has its work cut out.


When your heart misses a beat.


risk averse parents

I have a son who does not sit down unless he has to.  There are a few things that can hold his attention for a short while but he rarely sees a film through to the end, he leaves lego models half finished and the number of circulation-stopping loom bracelets I own is ridiculous as he is determined always to get to the end and onto the next thing.

He is also stoic and straightforward, wearing his heart on his size six sleeve.  Which is why when he says he feels ill I know it probably means really ill.

Our wonderful GP* squeezed us in yesterday after she saw him and quickly told me this was a hospital job.  He had been complaining of a sore head and by the time we saw her was visably agitated and upset.  He could also barely open his eyes on account of the light, had a sore neck and was ready to fall asleep in an instant.  The word meningitis, dreaded by parents everywhere was mentioned, quickly followed by ‘slow bleed’. My god.

Thank the lord I have a most wonderful reliable friend with a son the same age as my youngest who we see every Tuesday and who we dropped the little brother off with.  She is also a nurse who is married to a doctor who used to be head of the ER at the very hospital we were en route to. I was garbling about the snacks I’d stuffed into a pillowcase when she gently said, “Jules, you need to get going to the hospital.”  I don’t know if it was a subliminal attempt to show my lack of panic or just my internal turmoil coming out as ‘look, I’m still in control, I haven’t forgotten everything.’

Having scribbled a note of apology to display I left the car in a disabled spot and half carried Sam to A & E (I would love to have carried him but he weighs half as much as me) we were rushed through to have him assessed.  Having kept him awake in fear of what might happen if I didn’t (yes, too much ‘medical’ knowledge gleaned from TV), the registrar prescribed pain relief, darkness and observation.   After the longest day we witnessed the fastest recovery.  He slept, holding fast to his two toy rabbits.  He was listless when he woke up but asked for juice, after which the world seemed to right itself.

My heart slowly slowly inched back into my chest from my throat where it had been residing for the past few hours.  The ‘second opinion’ doctor checked him out, pronounced a virus whose name I can’t remember but whose symptoms mirror those of meningitis and prescribed nothing more than R & R and close observation.

I clutched my abacus necklace and moved my fingers over the tiny rings, reminding myself to count my blessings.  This is how I think of this necklace, a gift from my grandparents after a trip to Thailand when I was not much older than my sons.  It lay unworn and unloved for years.  Now, I use it as a reminder not to take life for granted.

We are truly lucky but so much of the time it takes a period of difficulty or upset to remind us so.  The illness of our children, when their life, which we protect with every fibre of our being and ounce of will seems to be out of our hands, is terrifying, however benign the end result and dramatic the recovery.

Our utter vulnerability as parents and our children’s total oblivion to the fact should be a recipe for paranoia and constant questioning.  Thankfully their innate trust and our instinctive judgement (most of the time) coupled with the hilarity and craziness of family life (ditto) means we muddle happily through life, most of the time.