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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Five Lessons for my Five Year Old

I have thought long and hard about this post.  I have written parts, deleted them and rewritten time and time again.  Why? Because this blog, ultimately, is for you and your brother to look back on and read about what you were like growing up – if you want to that is!

Therefore, this post is going to be an honest account of how you are now.

Last year, I wrote about you turning four and I gushed over you and spoke of how you fixed my broken little family and brought and end to the heartache that lingered from losing Dad and Grandma.  That, my dear, remains true.  You are all we have ever wanted and in the moments that your possessive yells filled the birthing room on the 29th October 2011, I knew that I would lay down my life for you in a heartbeat.  I was now a Mum and that was irrevocable – I would always be your Mum and there was no going back.  My life was no longer about me anymore and despite declaring before your birth that being a parent would not define me, I am proud to say it does and it always will.  I am yours until the day I take my final breath.

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Were you ever really this small?

You’re five.  I must have blinked.  I can see the young lady that you are becoming and if I am being honest, sometimes I worry.  The little girl who runs into my bedroom each morning still half asleep needs a little direction and, perhaps, a sterner hand.  Every morning I ask for a cuddle and most mornings I am denied. Perhaps it’s because you’re still in the clutches of sleep, perhaps it’s because you can see the iPad on the bedside table over my left shoulder or perhaps hugging is not the done thing for a five year old.  And it is this awareness that I am a little afraid of because there is no doubt in my mind that you are fully aware of when you are being naughty, unkind or disrespectful and it is these qualities that I must change in you.

Now, I fully understand that with every child there will be some mischief – it is what makes life fun sometimes and it can liven up our personality, but being unkind is a quality I will not allow.

“Daddy, kick Mummy,” you say.  Or, “Zachy, climb on the table,” or “jump from that chair.”  You know that this is wrong, so why do it? Do you really want to see your brother jump and hurt himself?  No, don’t answer that question because I fear the answer.  I reprimand you of course, and so does your Dad. Only a few weeks ago, I returned home from work to see you in floods of tears on the bottom of the stairs.

“I’m on the thinking step!” you yelled as I walked in and without thinking, I scooped you up and wiped away your tears.

An act of defiance.


The sky falls when you cry and my instincts kick in and I strain to hold it up for you.  If I were being a good parent or a strong parent, I would have left you there to think about what you had done, which as it turned out, was to tell Grandma to leave as soon as your Dad arrived home.  What you did was rude.  Grandma had picked you up from school, brought you home and taken care of you whilst we worked and you told her to leave.  I too have been on the receiving end of this when, last week, you told me to leave and physically tried to push me out of the door when you were staying at Grandma’s.  In this life, you must always be considerate of other people’s feelings, but in that moment you weren’t – you were kicking your mum out of her mum’s house!  You have come home upset on a number of occasions when children haven’t let you play with them, but, my dear, you reap what you sow.  Being kind might not make you powerful; it might not get you that dream job you want when you’re older, but it will make you loved and a world without love is not a world at all – I imagine it’s lonely and desolate, two feelings I don’t want you to ever experience. Therefore, always be kind.

I miss my two year old girl, the one who gave the tightest hugs; I miss my three year old girl, the one who was preparing to become a big sister and was so excited about it and I am certain to miss my four year old, the one who, in her first week of full time school, was so amazing that her teacher stopped in her car in the middle of a busy road to tell me just how awesome you had been at school that week.  Dropping you off on your first day at school, I admit that I got a little emotional and had to leave before a tear fell.  You were with a friend though, so I knew you were going to be fine and by ‘eck, you were totally fine. By the end of the week, you were a firm fixture at Art Club, lost both your jumper and cardigan and spoke incessantly about your new friends.  Recently, I met with your teacher; she spoke highly of you and your incredible imagination, but she mentioned that sometimes you forget when it’s time to work and when it’s time to play.  Don’t misunderstand me, having fun whilst working is extremely important.  My colleagues are a constant form of entertainment and I love how they make me laugh, but I know when it’s time to be serious too.  You tell me you love learning – so learn and never lose your thirst for it because it keeps you humble.

You tell the worst jokes.  But, that makes them the best:

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”

“I don’t know,”

“To do a poo.”

“Knock knock,”

“Who’s there?”

“Cattio,”

“Cattio who?”

“Cattio needs the toilet.”

Seriously, what does that even mean?

You’re funny.  What a wonderful quality to have.  Not only do you tell the worst jokes in the world, you dance like no one is watching (often with you bum out after a bath), you sing songs into Mummy’s Snap Chat, which she then shares with the two people she has added (yeah, sorry about that) and you tell the most random stories that often include the words ‘poo’ ‘bum’ ‘stinky’ or, if we are really lucky, all three.  Always en-devour to make people laugh just please just don’t do it sitting in an exam hall when you are about to sit a GCSE exam – especially not your English ones.

You’re learning to be a good sister. This week, during half term, I have watched you look after your brother and ask him for cuddles.  I have been marking a lot and kept a watchful eye on you both from behind my books on the table. There was one moment when I looked up to see you standing on your desk and your brother standing on the chair; you both were looking straight at me with fixed grins.  Afraid of any sudden movements, (in case you both jumped at the same time and I would have to choose who to save) I slowly put down my red pen and edged towards you both.  Through gritted teeth and a fake smile – so not to cause panic – I asked you to sit.  You obliged and so did your brother because he looks up to you.  In everything you do in life, always set a good example.    

This kid looks up to you so much!


Your final lesson is something I cannot teach you because I don’t think it is anything I have achieved.  It’s also not a lesson as such, but an accumulation of all of the above qualities.  I feel that if you achieve the above, then this should just fall into place.  I want you to dream big.  Don’t put a cap on what you think you can do with your life.  Too many times I have told myself that I can’t do something and too many times I have failed, given up and never tried again. Seek out adventure, find your passion and do what you love. Don’t settle; do what makes you happy.  If travelling the globe makes you happy, do it.  If falling in love with your childhood sweetheart and starting your own family makes you happy, do it.  And, if you ever find yourself in a situation that you don’t think would make your Mum and Dad happy or proud, tell us (as just not being afraid to tell us would make us happy) because you might be surprised. Ultimately, it’s your life and as your parents, we can only offer you guidance. At thirty-five, my mum still guides me, offers me advice (and still washes my wools) so don’t ever be afraid to ask for help if help is what you need to achieve your dream and be happy.  Dream big, but don’t take life for granted – you only get one.

You can’t wait to be five.

Well kid, here it is.

Enjoy it and kick the ass out of being five.

Same hair style gang!