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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What Are You Thankful For? 

This week I made a conscious effort to not interact with anyone or any article, video or blog.  I didn’t feel it was appropriate to post a status about how my ten month old just broke his bath poo virginity (see new FB status) or how my daughter recites ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Poo’ nightly in an attempt to soothe her brother.  That’s how I have come to use Facebook in recent times, I use it to try to make people smile and I use it to show that life and parenting isn’t as picture perfect as some would have you believe.  But last week, I didn’t have much to smile about because something tragic occurred that reverberated with millions across the world.

Facebook can often be a sounding board for racist slurs and derogatory opinions about people’s religious beliefs.  Having a computer screen to hide behind often brings out the small minded people in their masses.  Personally, I never make comments on such rubbish, but sometimes I read them and it angers and upsets me.  Last week, I didn’t need to see anything like that.

On the flipside, Facebook can be a wonderful platform to share pictures and videos of heroic acts that often leave me gasping for breath and sobbing.  I didn’t want to do that either because I cried enough on Friday night when I read about the death poll in Paris and when I learnt that hundreds of lives were taken in an instant – hundreds of people who I did not know died and I shed a tear for them.  I kept away from social media and mourned for a world that one day will belong to my children and their generation.  And what a scary world it may well be.

Last Friday was like any other.  The Other Half and myself were watching television when my son began his nightly cry. He had been in his cot for just over an hour so I knew it was coming.  Switching the torch on my phone, I began my ascent up to his room and having finally visited the sleep expert, I was going to remain in his room until he fell back to sleep.

And that is exactly what I did.

With my back faced to my son, I sat down beside his cot and waited by him.  I wanted him to feel comforted by my presence, but I was determined not to pick him up and whisper in his ear that was ‘all alright because Mummy was there now’, so I didn’t. I sat down and started scrolling through my phone and after a few minutes, his crying ceased.  In that moment, I read a Facebook status that read ‘Pray for Paris’, but without thinking anymore of it, I soon turned my attention to the little hand that had reached out to play with my hair.  Smiling to myself, I remained seated, but turned to see my little man sitting up in his cot.  Yes, the crying had stopped, but the monkey was wide awake.  I reached my arm through the bars, stroked his soft face and he grabbed it and used it as a pillow.

A few minutes passed.  He was snoozing and my arm was wedged in the cot so I thought I would take another look on Facebook.  I noticed that Paris featured in a couple more statuses, but was still far too chuffed with the fact that my boy was now back asleep and, more importantly, he was still in his cot.  A military procedure of ‘operation move arm without waking baby’ began and after freeing myself, I stayed by the cot because I knew that that creaky floorboard to my left would surely give me away if I attempted a ninja roll out of the room too soon.  That was when I Googled ‘Paris’.

And that’s when I stopped and read.  I raised my hand to my mouth. ‘Oh God, how awful,’ I whispered into the darkness.

I logged back onto Facebook.

My timeline was suddenly filled with ‘Pray for Paris’ and I understood the severity of the situation.  It no longer mattered that my boy had been crying and was now sleeping his own cot.  It no longer mattered that he had not slept for longer than three hours the night previous. And nor did it matter that at midnight, when he woke again, I broke all the sleep expert’s rules and collected him and put him in my bed so that he could feel safe next to his Mummy.  Because that’s what we all want in the night isn’t it?  To feel safe.  I was lucky enough that night to be able to make my son feel safe, a feeling that was taken from thousands of people in a split second in a city not so far away.

It was still dark when we woke the next morning and it was somewhere between the hours of five and six when, once again, having read some Tweets, I Googled ‘Paris’.  I learnt of the death toll and of the bombings and in the darkness, with my wide awake son pulling on my fringe, I had a little weep.  I cried for those who lost their lives and I felt scared for the millions of innocent people who would be blamed for such a heinous crime.  But, I don’t want to make this post about race or religion; it’s not what my blog is about.  This post is about my concerns for my children and my pupils growing up fearing a world rather than embracing its beauty and the adventures it has to offer.  This post is also about my being thankful.

It’s easy to complain about your life.  Only this week, my partner, myself and my son have all battled with a sickness bug.  The little man is upstairs asleep now (in his cot) with a temperature and I have moaned about our rubbish week to colleagues.  In the grand scheme of things, our week has been far from rubbish.  Therefore, I wanted to remind myself to be thankful for my lot.  I am thankful that we live in a safe community even though I always complain that that my Mum and my friends live a whole twenty minutes drive away and that I have to drive for at least fifteen minutes before I reach a motorway.  I am thankful for my home despite my complaining to EVERYONE about our ridiculous mortgage payments and I am thankful that every morning, when I wake, I have a job to go to.  Therefore, rather than complain about at how at 6am I struggle to successfully apply copious amounts of makeup to my eye bags (which would cost you 5p if you purchased them at Tesco) with a snotty ten month old hanging off my hip while at the same time having to pacify a four year old who is demanding both a Fruitshoot and an Ipad, I will be thankful because for thousands of people around the world caught up in conflict, the norm is no longer something that exists for them.

This week, our pupils have been scared by the attacks in Paris.  Of course, they would never admit this to their teachers, but we have spotted it in their questions.  I taught a sophisticated vocabulary lesson earlier in the week and one of my words was ‘malice’.

“Use it in a sentence,” I requested.

A young boy raised his hand and said: “The Syrians are maliced against France.”

The first thing I did was change his made up verb into a noun.  That is my job after all.

“The Syrians feel malice towards France,” I said. “But they don’t.  Not at all.”

Despite not understanding the conflict in the Middle East (hell, I don’t understand it), not one pupil has whispered a word of malice and hatred against another race or religion and that makes me thankful for being able to work with a group of young people who are curious about their world and not prejudiced against some of those in it.

I desperately want to see the good in people and the good in the world.  I need it to be safe as my arms for my children and the protection of my classroom walls for my pupils can only stretch so far.  This post is my emergence back into the world of social media; I hope it causes no offence or harm.  I just hope it makes you thankful for your lot in life.  I know I am.

Mami 2 Five
My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows