Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Good Mother

Standards have seriously dropped around here. Half term began with good intentions on my part - limited screen time, board games and other family activities to enjoy, autumn walks, biscuit making....... Perhaps I set my sights too high, but by Wednesday those intentions were all but forgotten and survival was my only goal.

Having a nasty cold that has set it's hindering heaviness into my head and face, I have struggled to be the 'good mother' that I had planned to be. My whole body aches with the need to go to bed, and yet I have 3 energetic boys who need me. And so, the elusive 'good mother' has to wait again to come out of hiding.

Screen time limitations have been more than relaxed. Food has been consumed outside of mealtimes and even snack times - or perhaps they are just prolonged snack times. Yes, that is a far better way to think about it. Knowing that I would be completely ignored, I feebly suggested playing a board game whilst watching them racing around the house, yelling at the tops of their voices and wielding coathangers, tennis rackets, light sabres and other weaponry at each other. I gave in when they asked to go to the Yellow M for tea, and even went to the supermarket afterwards to buy them sweets (bribery for sitting down and watching a film) on a day that was not sweetie day.

Weakly, I watched them making their own lunches (and the mess that accompanied) - cheese sandwiches that would need several cows to replace the thick wedges of cheese that they attempted to squeeze into the bread. I did try to offer them fruit for pudding, but by that time, appetites satisfied, they were onto the next mess-making activity. Thankfully I managed to dissuade Toby from having a big bowl of ice cream for lunch, that would have been taking it one step too far.

I have paid them for paper aeroplanes they made 'for me' (after counting up all his 1p and 2p's Max discovered he had £4) and I have let them wander around the house with scissors in their hands, calling to them from my comfortable sofa to "carry the scissors properly". I have shouted at them to "STOP SHOUTING". I have answered their "Can shadows reflect the light?" type questions with "I don't know."

Is the 'good mother' really out there? Or is she just a slippery eel that is too hard to catch hold of? On occasion, I manage to catch her and feel as though I have achieved something but more often than not I fall short of her standards.

Oh well, maybe the good mother will return tomorrow. There is always hope.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


Sometimes I am plagued with questions. Not the "Did you know that in Australia people have to walk on their heads?" type of questions or the "Why is poo brown?" questions. Not even the "Will I manage to get 2 loads of washing dry in one day?" questions. No, these are questions of a far more serious nature.

On occasion I am overcome with questions such as these:

How do we know we are doing the right thing with our boys?
Why do I think so differently to other parents?
Do I actually think differently to other parents, or am I just verbalising what other people are thinking?
Will our boys, one day, be well rounded citizens of society or are we going horribly wrong somewhere?

We do our best, but what if our best is not good enough? In a horrendously disconcerting way, we will never know whether we are doing the right thing or not, until we have finished the job. What if we are getting it all wrong?

Sometimes I look around me and wish that I could think the same as other people. Why can't I just be happy to fit in, put my head down and get on with things? Why, for example, do I have to be so incredibly opinionated about homework and schools in general? This morning, as Max was making a tomb for Tutenkhamun out of a frubes box, including separate compartments for his brain, lungs and other organs, I contemplated telling his teacher that we would not be making a board game about the Ancient Egyptians for homework because Max has already made this tomb. 'Child-led learning' is it's official title and I am big fan of it. Why do I have to even contemplate this when other people seem to just get on with the task they have been given without question. When I take my boys to a park, making myself comfortable on a bench with my book, I look at other parents hovering over their children on the climbing frames and even telling their children not to attempt certain equipment and I wonder if I am being an empowering parent or a neglectful, lazy parent. Should I, also, be ensuring their absolute safety or is it ok for them to fall and learn not to attempt that silly climb again?

This is not a pity party, and I am not looking for "Oh but you are a wonderful mother" responses. I am being honest. I don't like thinking differently. I wish I wasn't so opinionated. Or am I so different? I do not enjoy looking at other people parenting their children in a different way and wondering if we are doing the right thing. This isn't a scientific study in which we are testing the outcomes of different parenting techniques, this is the lives and futures of our boys and I desperately want to do the right thing. But we won't know the outcomes until it is too late, and that is one very scary thought.

Friday, 21 October 2011


Friday, oh Friday. This day has taken on different meanings over the last few years. Before we had children, Fridays were a day of celebration. The weekend had arrived and it was time to rest and have fun. As soon as Toby was born, weekends dissolved into the rest of the continuous, monotonous, sleep deprived, bleary eyed week. Weekends were no different to the rest of the week, and lie-ins were certainly a thing of the past. When the boys were slightly older and had started school, I used to dread the weekends and long for Monday mornings when the house would be peaceful and fight-free again.

More recently, weekends have become easier for us and although we are not quite at the lie-ins stage yet, the mornings are certainly more chilled than they used to be. When they are not telling tales, throwing balls in each other's faces, weeing in the garden (yes, really) or stealthily lifting the fence panels so they can retrieve their footballs from the neighbour's garden, the boys actually play fairly nicely together and even help us get on with jobs that we need to do. Weekends are no longer dreaded. So, Fridays can be celebrated again and 'end of half term' Fridays can be even more of an event.

Today was one such Friday. Throwing their bags, coats, shoes, PE kits and other paraphernalia on the floor by the front door, my boys headed straight outside to the back garden. Apart from the fact that they keep leaving the back door open and letting all the freezing cold air into the house, I love watching them shedding their layers of school expectations. They can just be themselves again. They stayed outside until teatime (apart from Toby who came in to cook the tea - another blog altogether, but a very interesting one). They ate their tea with their usual relish and gusto (we even managed a burp and fart-free dinner time tonight), cleared the table and went straight back outside again only coming in when it was too dark to see each other.

I love watching them relaxing in the way they know best. I love knowing that we have days of this to come. I love the fact that it is Friday and tomorrow we don't have to nag, cajole and bribe them to be out of the house early in the morning. I even dare to hope that one day we might have our lie-ins restored. On that day, Fridays will be even more exciting.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

A Taste for Adventure

We are about to embark upon the biggest adventure our family has yet experienced. No, not even the scary jet boat ride we did last summer can compare to this one (although I did scream ALOT and shouted at the boys to hold on, much to their amusement).

In April next year, Jared's yearly salary will halve as he works part time in his current job and begins to build up Outdoors Unlocked, our exciting new enterprise. Staying in a comfortable, reliable (albeit stressful) job is not for us, as we really believe we are doing what our Father wants of us. Following God is not ever boring and it is about to become alot less so!

This is not just for Jared. This is for our whole family. Over the last few months, we have sat around the breakfast table together and prayed. Excitement has built as we have seen prayer after prayer answered,at exactly the right time. In the coming months, this will increase as we may have to ask God for sometimes literally our daily bread. If I am honest, part of me is terrified. Change, although it is here to stay, is never a comfortable, relaxing process. However, I know deep down that this is the right way for us to be heading and so part of me is extremely excited about the answers to prayer that we will see in the future. I step into this unknown with the deep trust that the All Knowing one is with me.

More than anything else, I want my boys to know that God will provide for them. He will always hear their prayers and he will always answer. He is faithful. I imagine situations where we may sit around the table, asking God for our next meal. How thrilling when it turns up on our doorstep! For a family who love adventure, this is certainly going to be one! Who knows where it will take us or what we will learn through it? I want the experience to deposit in my boys an unwavering faith in their God and a reliance on Him and not on themselves so that when they are men and fathers themselves they will be able to take new adventures for God with their families. I cannot think of anything else I would like to pass onto my children than this. May they always be ready to follow their God, whatever the cost and to trust in his infinite wisdom and faithfulness.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Disorderly Dinnertimes

After rushing around for the whole day, cleaning, picking up dirty odd socks, playing with duplo (not on my own) not to mention the 3 school runs I am doing each day now, I look forward to the evening family meal as a moment to sit down, enjoy civilised, peaceful conversation about everyone's days and be revitalised by good food and good company.

The disappointment sets in when I bellow my "tea is ready" shout and they all rush into the kitchen like a herd of wildebeasts. 'Washing' their hands consists arguing over who will 'wash' first and then showing their hands to the taps, arriving, breathless into the kitchen whilst wiping their damp hands on their dirty trousers.

Jonah and Max then sit at the table, arguing over who is going to receive their food first whilst Toby, in full parental mode, tells them that whoever sits the most quietly will have theirs first.

Plates deposited in front of ravenous boys, they tell tales on who has started before everyone has sat down. Our clearly impossible rule is that no-one can start until we are all ready. At the allotted time, they dig in, and I really mean dig. Hands are used as cutlery, food is scattered on the floor, drinks are spilled and appreciative farm-like noises are made.

Once everyone has had their first few satisfying mouthfuls, I begin to ask questions about the day. In an attempt at teaching social skills and how to listen and converse, I stupidly try to make everyone listen when someone talks. Jonah has other ideas and shouts over the conversation. Max then shouts louder to be heard. I then shout louder to make them all stop shouting. Eventually, once everyone has stopped the noise, we again attempt conversation. Today was a perfect example of our civilised conversation:

Me: "What did you do today, Max?"
Max: (looking at Toby with a cheeky smile) " I saw a naked man at school. (giggle, giggle, snigger, snigger)"
Toby: "A real one? (giggle)"
Max: "No, in a book and (splutter, cough, snigger) I saw his nuts and everything".
Toby: "(Guffaw)"
Jared: (attempting to regain control) "Jonah, what did you do at nursery?"
Jonah: (looking at his brothers for approval) "I just did 3 burps at the table (giggle)"
Max: "(Loud belch)"
Toby: "I am the medium toxic gas machine."

At this point, we gave up attempting conversation and began crowd control. Everything we said or did was turned into something for them to fall off their chairs with giggles.
Rapidly finishing off the meal, we dispatched them to their various jobs and then sent them outside to play football to run off their silliness.

Perhaps I am setting my sights too high each night. Perhaps I should just send them outside to eat their meals. Perhaps tv dinners are the way ahead. Or maybe one day, just one day, we might be able to have a whole meal without talking about body parts.