The Teaching Mum

A light-hearted look at parenting through the eyes of a very busy English Teacher.


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And That’s All I Have To Say About That

You died on a Friday afternoon – it was the 30th January 2009 and today marks ten years since you left us.  We are taught from a relatively young age that dying is a part of life, but I sure wish it wasn’t.  A couple of months ago I spotted a video being shared on line.  It was amateur footage of a man holding a teddy bear and in that teddy bear was a recording device of some kind and on that recording device was the voice of his mum who had passed away some years before.  It was an old answer phone message she had left him and after she died, he could not bring himself to delete the message.  A friend had managed to take the answerphone message, store it on a device and placed it inside the teddy bear.  Before watching the video, there was a little context given so I knew what was going to unfold and I was certain about my reaction.  The man in the video squeezed the teddy’s tummy and his mother’s voice rang out.  It’s the man’s body language that is etched into my mind now as I think about it again. He doubled over, as if in physical pain, and he hugged that teddy so tight.  I was an emotional wreck ten seconds into that video; the emotion in him was so raw.  It was beautiful but also painful to watch because after the initial exultation over the fact he was hearing his mother’s voice, the realisation that is was just her recorded voice set in and the man stayed doubled over because the pain of her not really being there was a little too much for him to handle and understandably so.

I don’t have a recording of your voice; I don’t have any videos of you stored on my phone. But, I also no longer double over in pain at the thought of you not being a part of my life. I don’t need that constant reminder of your voice to remind me what I no longer have. Just your absence is sizeable enough even after ten years.

And in the ten years that you have been away from us, I can say that we are doing just fine but this is what you’ve missed:

I became a mum. A role that should not but absolutely does define me and every thing I do. I don’t think I am mumsy especially when I turn up to my daughter’s gymnastics wearing biker boots, jeans, a leather jacket and a She-Ra t-shirt and the phrase ‘full time Mummy’ would not sit well both on my Facebook page and on my conscience but first and foremost I am a mum. All of my decisions and choices always come back to the two lives I am trying to raise right. My outlook on life has changed with the landscape constantly evolving; no longer do I dwell upon my dreams and ambitions – I appear to have lost them somewhere in my endless laundry pile – but I dwell upon Grace’s and Zach’s. What type of people will they become and how will they make their mark upon the world because I sure haven’t made mine? My own mortality hangs over me; there’s nothing like having children to remind you that one day you won’t be there for them. I think your illness makes me worry more. Every niggle and every pain that can’t be explained and I’m in the doctors’ surgery. I was asked once by a doctor if I had hit my head after complaining of a headache that had lasted more than a week. ‘Yes,’ I told him with a serious look upon my face. ‘Three years ago I fell off my bike and hit my head on the pavement.’ He scowled, told me it was a stress headache and sent me on my way. Parenting leaves me stressed, anxious and exhausted but also more vigilant, I hope.

It goes without saying that my biggest regret in life is not giving you grandchildren before you died.  I’ve often wondered what kind of grandfather you would be, but I struggle to picture it so I don’t try to.  Why force an image onto something that won’t ever happen?

Your granddaughter at seven appears to have more confidence than I ever did growing up.  Last year I made a decision to move her out of a school she loved and into a new one closer to home.  I cried when I dropped her off on her first day as I knew I had taken her away from her friends, however I also knew that I had made the right decision to move her.  When I picked her up after school, I saw her alone and walking towards one of the ladies from After School Club.  Immediately my heart dropped because she had no friends but as it turned out, she was just asking where the toilets were and she had had a great first day.  She started a gymnastics class alone and she loves it and only three weeks ago she started Brownies.  She walked into a room filled with children she didn’t know, handed me her coat and walked right on in.  She’s good at making friends.  Let’s just hope she keeps them for life, like you did.

Your grandson looks like his dad – there is no getting around that fact.  His ears though – I would say they are yours.  Whether that’s a good thing or not, you can decide for yourself.  He’s just started playing football and when I say playing football, I actually mean that he runs around a field, chases his friends, sits on footballs and doesn’t listen to instructions.  He does all this dressed in the Barnsley kit his dad bought him though so perhaps you wouldn’t be surprised at his footballing antics.  I couldn’t visit your grave yesterday – on your birthday – but your grandson did.

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You missed my wedding and didn’t see me finally walk down an aisle.  I didn’t particularly enjoy the run up to my wedding and in the weeks and months beforehand, I left most of the planning to my mum.  I thought I was going to find the day really difficult and felt incredibly anxious over walking down the aisle with my mum and not you.  As it turned out though, I was completely wrong.  Nerves were defeated by perhaps a little too much champagne as I was getting dressed and ready and the day was up there with one of the best.  Your picture hung from my bouquet, you were toasted and remembered and then I just danced and danced and danced.  There wasn’t a shadow hanging over me that day, only light.

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However, after the births and the weddings we are left with this: the every day – the normality and you have missed 3650 of those every days.  Age is creeping up on me and sometimes I don’t recognise myself in the mirror.  Granted it’s usually at 6am in the morning, in the harsh bathroom light and without makeup on but I can see the fine lines that no longer disappear when the smile (or grimace) leaves my face.  You saw me as an adult but not as one who carries responsibility around with her daily.  My actions and reactions can impact upon someone’s life whether it be one of my children’s or one of the countless other children who see me and rely on me (and probably moan about me) everyday.  I am accountable and sometimes I miss my younger care free self but at 28, she was a little lost and now despite some inevitable dark days, I do know my self worth.

In the ten years since you have gone, I may not have travelled the world or lived the life I imagined, but I have become someone I think you would be proud of.  I have many, many faults but fundamentally, I am a good person.  Just as you were.

As turbulent and traumatic your final months were, I hope your final moments were anything but.  I miss you; I will always miss you.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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Teaching Mum’s Guide to Wellness

So, a fellow blogger and I were contacted last week by The Times magazine and were asked to write an article about wellness.

Hers started like this:

7.45am – I wake up having had, on average, seven hours and forty one minutes’ sleep – I have analysed my sleep over the past few years and I know this is the perfect amount for me.  I turn on the near-infrared light at the end of my bed and sit there for seven minutes meditating, to focus my mind for the day ahead. 

I take shots of probiotics and Quinton Isotonic, a supplement that comes from plankton and contains enzymes that help me stay hydrated, and a glass of water.

Mine, on the other hand…

5.37am – I start the morning filled to the brim with anxiety about the day ahead. I’ve had approximately five hours sleep. I blame this partially on the fact that I was playing on my children’s Nintendo Switch until midnight. The down side is that my eyelids feel like they have 20kg weights attached to them but the upside is that I have over 50 Pokemons in my bag and my Pikachu is at level 34 and almost undefeatable. I could go back to sleep as my alarm isn’t set to buzz until 6.15am but my head is already organising and reorganising my day: have I planned my lessons? Yes. Have I marked my books? Yes. Have I ironed the school uniforms? Yes. Did I pack my daughter’s PE bag before coming to bed last night? No. Sh*t, but I did bag myself a rare Pokemon instead so swings and roundabouts and all that. I pull my arm out from underneath my son; it is numb because he has laid on it all night, so my somewhat stealthy operation has failed before it has even begun as my arm is flopping around like Magikarp out of water. My son will wake and demand his morning kale Fruitshoot and wake the house. I sit in the darkness on the edge of the bed praying that I will one day win the lottery (that I don’t play) before early mornings get ups are the death of me.

I quietly nip downstairs where I take my daily dose of thyroxine, a tablet that is supposed to help my thyroid work properly because having children f*cked it up.  Silently creeping back upstairs, I step on a plastic Plankton from SpongeBob, cry out and wake the house.

8am – Take a shower using natural products, as the chemicals found in shampoo and shower gel can be toxic.  Weigh myself and use a litmus test to measure my urine pH levels.

6:23am – Take a shower in the company of 6547 Mashums and Smashers. Wash myself using a half empty Mr Matey and a unicorn sponge from B&M.  I worry that the chemicals in my hair are now toxic due to the fact that it hasn’t been washed since a week last Tuesday.  Residing myself to the fact that it won’t be washed again today, and feeling confident that perhaps in my hair lies the cure for an underactive thyroid, I climb out, get dried and weigh myself. This is usually followed by crying, swearing or hopping back on the loo in the hope for a poo in order to lose a couple of pounds.

8.20 – I turn on my HumanCharger, a device that looks like an iPod with an ear piece that shines a light into my ear to give me energy, and make my bullet-proof coffee, using a table-spoon of coconut oil, some chaga mushroom powder – a little bit of potassium, colostrum and collagen.  I use a low-mycotoxins, toxic chemicals produced by moulds.

While I am having my coffee, I fill out a spreadsheet on my computer inputting my weight, my urine pH, my hydration and how well I’ve slept.  I then sync my Oura tracking ring, a sleeping and activity tracking device that I wear all day., with my phone and look at the data on how well I’ve slept and how much deep and REM sleep I’ve had.  I get dressed and stand on the balcony in my flat, which clears my mind.  I then feed my mind by reading for 20 minutes.

6:30 – I turn on every charger in the house because I have forgotten to charge tablets and phones the previous evening. In order to look more human than zombie for work, my children need some form of entertainment whilst I apply three layers of foundation and concealer. Unfortunately, and I’m ashamed to say, that the entertainment comes in the form of You Tube where my little ones watch other families acting out scenes from various retro films you used to love. I watch in awe at mums and dads acting out scenes from Ghostbusters – all with special effects and costumes – and all I can think is ‘Where do they find the time?’, ‘What the hell am I doing so wrong?’ and ‘I wonder if I can buy that Slimer on Amazon.’  My husband brings toast up stairs for the children to eat in bed; they attend Breakfast Club at school each morning so technically I’m paying for them to sit in a chair and watch other kids eat their breakfast.  My morning rant falls on deaf ears so I grab discarded crusts where I can and know that if there is a little Lurpak left on the crusts then it’s going to be a good day.  I haven’t had a drink of water in three days and my first cup of tea of the day will be at 11:05 during breaktime at school.  I wonder briefly if my insides look like a prune.

When it’s time to get dressed, I ask my children politely to grab their outfits for the day. Often I am ignored so this is followed by begging, pleading, shouting and the confiscation of all technology. I am then labelled the Worst Mum in the World but at least the cherubs are dressed. Me, however, I’m still in my dressing gown. I meander into my room and contemplate a life where I could stay in my dressing gown all day and yet still have a respectable career. Could I teach ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to my Year 10s via Skype, for example? Yes, I think so.  I feed my mind for 20 minutes with unachievable goals and unattainable wishes.  Then I realise I am running late. Sh*t.

9.15am – I leave the flat and fist bump the concierge.  I’ve fist bumped him every morning for the four years I’ve lived in that flat.  I like to make people smile and feel valued… I stopped reading the article here as I no longer believed the person writing it was a real human being. 

7.30am – I drop my children at Breakfast Club and on my way out through the school gates, I spot another mother – a kindred spirit.  We fist-bump each other and as we pass, I notice she is wearing pyjamas under her coat and Ugg style boots.  Perhaps she has mastered how to have a respectable career whilst staying in her dressing gown all day.  Perchance the dream really is attainable and I find myself both envious and in awe of her.

The definition of ‘well-being’ is ‘the state of being comfortable, happy and healthy’ and despite all of the above, I am.  Who wants to drink coffee made out of some weird mushroom anyway?

Always good for my well-being

**Please note that I wasn’t asked to write an article for The Time magazine, but my guess is that you have figured that out by now.**

Deny yourself nothing.

 

 


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The Fortunate Four

You’re twisting my hair as I type this. Twisting hair brings you comfort as it is something you have done since you were a baby. The hair twisting needs to stop because when I brush my hair, I pull out knot after knot after knot and it’s excruciating! However, right this second, as you twist while drinking your bedtime milk, it feels so relaxing. I’m sitting up in my bed wearing my pyjamas and you’re next to me. You’ve just got out of the bath and you’re in your pyjamas too (so is your sister, who is also in my bed.) It’s my favourite time of the day – together we lay reading, chatting, playing with tablets, watching Netflix or You Tube and you snuggle in next to me and lull me into a false state of relaxation with the hair twisting. In the back of my mind I know that in about twelve hours, when I am straightening my hair for work, I’ll be cursing the fifth knot yanked from my scalp. But, we’ll deal with that tomorrow.

Right now, let’s focus on you.

You LOVE opening presents and during the Christmas holidays you have ripped your way through your Dad’s birthday presents, your Christmas presents and my birthday presents. After every present opening session was complete you asked: “Is it MY birthday yet?” And we would reply with “Not yet, but soon.”

When you were born, you completed our little team of four; you’ll always be the baby of the family but tomorrow you turn four.

You’ve been a great three year old and these are the things you have enjoyed at three:

  • Fruitshoots
  • Hitting your sister
  • Running (‘From that day on, if I was goin’ somewhere, I was runnin’!’ – Your Daddy often quotes Forrest at you.)
  • Shouting ‘poo’, ‘wee’ or ‘butt butt’ at any given opportunity
  • Mooning and saying ‘look at my bum’ (that went down well in a beer garden this past summer…)
  • Transformers (although how they transform into a car has beaten us all.)
  • Gizzy and the Lemmings (you make us read out the title of each episode and if we don’t do it, you go beserk.)
  • Teen Titans Go (the Pee Pee Dance episode was repeated at least 3562 times back in August.)
  • Fruitshoots
  • Playing with your two best friends
  • Climbing on your Dad’s head
  • Cuddles
  • Hitting your sister
  • Ghostbusters 1, 2 and even the universally panned 2016 remake.
  • Smashers (we have at least 73 perched around the bath – you may have had 75 but then Mummy got in the bath and they were never seen again…)
  • Smelling my hair (you grab it and breathe the scent in – perhaps you learnt that from me because smelling your hair and breathing you in is my morning ritual.)
  • Cuddles
  • Fruitshoots

There was a cow at the birth of Jesus

You are, without a doubt, a Mummy’s Boy. and give me the best cuddles. Sometimes they are rough cuddles when you clamber all over me; sometimes they are sad cuddles when you’re hurt and sometimes they are mischievous cuddles when you know you have been naughty but you know you can soften the ‘blow’ by insisting on having a cuddle.

Your sister – from day one – was a Daddy’s girl so when you were born, you became my boy. Feeding you as a baby came so easily. I struggled with your sister and gave up breastfeeding after five months. But you? Well, you wouldn’t unclamp for fifteen months! But that’s enough on boobing as you might read this as a 21 year old and think Christ, Mum stop writing about your boobs on a public forum that your friends and colleagues read…😉 The subject, however, brings me perfectly to my next topic: co-sleeping. Oh, it’s a taboo subject and I have been told on a number of occasions: “Ooh *looks at me in a judging manner* you’ve made a rod for your own back there.” I can categorically say, hand on heart, that I do not have a rod in my back (I mean, I may one day because sleeping on the edge of a bed for the best part of seven years will probably have caused some critical damage) but metaphorically there is no rod because waking up next to you nestled in close brings me nothing but comfort. Waking in the dark winter mornings at 6am knowing I have a five lesson day, followed by boosters or a meeting, followed by a swimming lesson or Brownies, followed by umpiring or playing netball, followed by washing or ironing followed by…(oh, the list goes on and on), well that can make a person feel somewhat f*cked off overwhelmed but waking and feeling your body tucked into mine, smelling your hair and taking that moment to appreciate that you sleeping next to your Mummy makes both of us feel safe and loved and protected, well that just makes me happy. And for as long as I am happy and you’re happy, then I guess we’ll co-sleep. You’re little for such a short period of time so as long as you need me, I’m yours.

There is something that your Dad and I worry about.  You’re obsessed – some might say even an addict.  You cannot make it through the day without a Fruitshoot (or three).  Each morning your first words to me aren’t ‘I love you, Mummy’ or ‘Mummy, you look at least five years younger than your real age of 38’ No, your first words are ‘Fruitshoot’ and heaven help us all if your Dad has forgotten to put a Fruitshoot next to my side of the bed.  You have been known to punch bottles of Evian because we – God forbid – denied you that devil in a little orange bottle and told you that you needed drink more water.  Did you know that Evian spells naïve backwards?  Your Dad and I were certainly that when we thought we could end your addiction to Robinsons with a bottle of clear liquid that tastes like nothing, smells like nothing and yet costs twice as much.

Are you looking at him or shaking your head at all the Fruitshoots in the background?

Sometimes I have days when I feel that no one is pleased to see me; perhaps I have had a challenging class, maybe I have had an argument with your Dad or possibly your sister has told me that I am the worst mum in the world.  Whatever the reason, there are days when I don’t feel my self-worth but then I pick you up from after school club or Grandma drops you off at my school after a long day and I see your eyes light up when you see me – you ignite my light that occasionally doesn’t shine as bright as it should. No one loves me like you love me and no one will ever reciprocate that love one hundred times over quite like your Mummy does.

Happy Birthday, son.

I didn’t choose the kit…