I sat in a lesson today and I clocked a girl in the back row called Lily. I don’t know what made me double take apart from the fact that she looked the spitting image of her mother.
I was at the very same college I’m at a placement in now, and it was at the same time her mother was there. She was beautiful and cool and dating the coolest guy on campus. However, she was like me and was hating her time there. She left and got pregnant shortly afterwards. And she had a girl called Lily.
I dropped out and then got pregnant the year after she did and we became friends during that year. I was heavily pregnant when I was invited to Lily’s christening and I attended her second birthday.
I’m a crappy introvert who loses touch with everyone because I don’t like phones or coffee dates, so I lost touch with Lily’s mother. It was only when I saw this girl behind me, aged about sixteen, that I remembered that friendship.
Lily is a beautiful woman now and she was analysing The Great Gatsby like a boss. This didn’t make it any easier to match her up with the toddler that I remembered and it just reminded me how much our children grow and how quickly it happens. It’s made even more interesting by the fact that these kids are on the cusp of adulthood. They have fully formed opinions and soon they will spread their wings and fly. Soon they will experience all those highs and lows that make life so much like a novel.
I’m watching far too much TV at the moment and one of my new favourites is Britain’s Best Parents. It’s basically a show where parents compete each other to be crowned the best. They all have differing parenting styles and once the audience have had the chance to watch them in action they vote for who they think are the best.
A lot of the parents are quite extreme and it’s quite interesting to see how different they are and how their children are turning out. But the entertainment seems to come from the arguments the parents have over why they see themselves as the very best.
And they really do think that they are the best.
I find it a little bit cringey to watch but I can’t seem to tear my eyes away from it. And now that I am working in a school with four and five year olds I am seeing the personalities of these children starting to shine through.
I think all parenting styles have something good to offer but I’m finding the ones who tell their children that they are perfect and the best a little hard to stomach. I think that children need to learn that the world doesn’t owe them anything and even hard work isn’t always going to lead to success.
If I was going to go on that show I think that my main message would be to teach children to be nice. Most four year olds haven’t learnt how to be really mean to each other and it’s a pleasure to watch them play. I wish we could parent them in a way that keeps them like that. Being nice and if you fall out, be quick to forgive.
I had my son when I was 20. That’s not scarily young, but it is much younger than most of my friends have been when having their children. And over all this time the question that has been rattling around my brain is ‘was I too young?’
I know that I’ve done a pretty good job but I wonder about all the variables that could have made things easier or better. And then I start to think that maybe I made mistakes and maybe I’ve screwed it all up.
On the one hand, being young meant that I never got my career started before I had my son. I’m now in my mid thirties and I’m only thinking about this now as most women have that all wrapped up before they get pregnant. I think of all the money that I could have earned, and if I had waited would that mean that I could have given him a better life with better ‘stuff’?
I also think about the patience that I have now in comparison to when I was 20. It was hard to keep my cool with a demanding toddler that needed all of my attention when I still didn’t even know what I needed as a person. If I had waited, would I have been a kinder mother?
There is also the fact that it was still early days in my relationship with the father and that didn’t work out so I had to bring up my son on my own. I envy women who have several kids with a loving partner and a nice house and car. But once again, I only have myself to blame.
However, I look at Noah and I know that even though I was young and in some ways I could have done things better, I still gave him all the love that he needed to feel safe and secure. And that seems to be the thing that most kids remember and need. There are pros and cons to having kids early or waiting and just because somebody is forty and has a great job, doesn’t mean they’ll be great parents.
I didn’t write this to slate anyone’s choices in life, but rather I wanted to say that we all take our own paths and normally it all works out for the best. If we all waited for the perfect life there would be no fun stories or adventures out there in the world because we’d all have the same life.
So even if you think you might have made a mistake and released the ball a bit quick, just enjoy the ride. Even if you end up miles off target, you’re going to end up somewhere!
I’ve always had this funny little belief that babies pick their parents. I couldn’t tell you exactly how it worked, but I definitely think that I was paired up perfectly with my child.
But also, if you think of it in this way, you start to feel much more lucky and grateful when you are starting to feel a little bit frazzled. It feels like such an honour to be picked by a person, to know that they want to spend all of their formative years with you. This becomes even more incredible when you don’t have much money and you think that your child chose you over Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow. Pretty cool, huh?
Anyway, I know how hard parenting is at the best of times so I really feel for you if you are struggling (especially if you are in the baby phase and struggling to get a full night’s sleep!). But stay strong and know that you are in the right place with the right people at the right time.
A home that was trashed with the slamming of a door,
Leaving a mother and son.
But what comes down must also go up,
I think that’s the way the expression goes.
I grabbed him, probably by the scruff of the neck,
And pulled him along at a speed that was slow.
But together we gathered our pace
Rolling along on our rickety track.
There may have been ups and downs
Which I like to call loop the loops.
Soon we will reach the station, and he will leave too,
But this time there won’t be a crash.
No gaping wounds to patch up,
No need to feel like I must catch up
With everyone who raced on ahead
All of those years ago.
He’ll fly away as I watch and wave,
I won’t break this time because I am brave.
I’ve wanted this moment for all of his life,
And I’ll watch him fade away with tears in my eyes
And him on the arm of his beautiful wife.
I don’t know about any other single mums out there, but the moment that I am most looking forward to in my child’s life is the wedding. I can’t wait to be mother of the groom and watch with pride as he marries someone that he loves entirely.
When I was drinking all I wanted to do was make it to that moment before I let the alcohol take me over and kill me. That makes me cry to write because it’s so painful, but it’s the truth.
We’ve had to pull ourselves through all kinds over the years since his dad left us. It really has felt like a rollercoaster, but a good one that’s been more fun than scary.
The parenting journey is so difficult and brilliant all rolled into one. I’ve got a few years left before my Noah goes off to university and then gets married, and I’m going to treasure every moment of it.
It’s me who needs to handle this with grace and love,
And all the things I never got.
Later on that night
He came to me and held me tight
And in the kitchen, there we stood,
A decision made to heal our wounds,
Rewrite the past that’s caused this pain.
Between us we can start afresh,
Weather the storm that’s not abating,
Surviving the feelings that are inundating.
Words have power but love is stronger
And we’ll stay standing just a little longer.
Today I went to the bus stop to collect my son. He has a long journey because we have recently moved from my parents’ house which is much closer to his school. He has lived in this house since he was a baby and so this change has been hard on him. Add to this the fact that he hasn’t seen his nan in months and now she is starting divorce proceedings; it has led to a very stressful time for both of us.
So, anyway, I went to collect him and when I asked how his day was he snapped at me. It was out of character and it made me go quiet. I feel bad about everything that he has had to go through and see this year and it makes me feel like a terrible mother when I know that he is hurting.
He came to me afterwards and he said he was sorry and we hugged. I want him to feel that he can vent his anger when things are hard because I was never allowed to do this and it’s been really damaging in my adult life.
He’s on his computer now. I have no idea if he’s happy but I have a feeling that there’s a lot of hurt inside. All I can do is love and forgive. He does the same for me when I’m venting.
I hope that this poem can touch a few hearts. I’m sure there are mums out there that have been through a turbulent time and had to shelter their little humans from as much as it as possible. I sometimes just need a cry to get through it and that’s what I’m doing as I sit on the sofa and write this poem. Keep strong if you are struggling, and hug it out when things get super bad. A good hug can fix anything that’s hurting.
Sometimes when you set out into the land of parenting you can be a little bit gung ho and think that everything is just going to fall into place. You think that you will give birth to this rosy cheeked angel who will grown into the perfect child and then the perfect teenager and the journey will end when they fly the nest as a fully formed adult.
But in reality we all know it’s not quite that simple. We forget that most of the time we spend struggling with next to no sleep. Partners who seemed almost perfect suddenly become an annoyance at best; at worst, they disappear altogether and leave you to do the job all on your lonesome.
It’s a really difficult road to traverse and a lot of people gloss over the horrible bits. That’s pretty much what this poem aims to address. It’s the pain and the agony, the tears and the tantrums in all of their technicolour glory. It’s true that children really are a blessing but life is difficult and parenting really brings this message to the forefront. So without further ado, I give you The Parenting Journey:
The blurred and fuzzy black and white
image doesn’t seem so right
knowing that the little bean is mine.
I’ve seen it played out for
The other couples that deserve it more,
That know the way to sparkle and to shine
As loving leaders who will guide
That little child and push aside
The horrors that can plague our earth.
And when the babe is finally born,
And our hearts are gladly torn
Into shreds that have no worth,
We realise without a doubt
That older worries all mean nowt,
As new life starts to take its root.
There will be pain and hurt and strife
As there is as part of life
And that’s a point you can’t dispute.
So then you have to watch them grow
Even though it hurts you so
To watch them stumble, trip and fall,
When all that’s running over, round and through
Your mind are all the things that are not true
That hold you back from standing tall.
It’s all a bunch of hurtful lies
That are designed to close your eyes
To all the things you do so well.
You’ve brought him up through all these years
Of fun, of laughter and some tears.
Sure you lose your temper, you may yell.
You may wonder what it is that keeps you going,
And then you see him as he’s growing
And see the journey you are taking.
You realise it’s worth the struggle,
The daily battles that you juggle,
Because there’s love with no mistaking.
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