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parenting

I wrote this a while ago, but it’s perfect for my entry to The Aptaclub Blogger competition, so rather than reinventing the wheel…

I’m lying on the bed in the dimly lit, stiflingly hot, hospital room.  I am sore.  Stitches pulling and knees and hips aching from hours spent swaying backwards and forwards.  If I stand, my organs dangle in my insides like bats on a cave ceiling and my feet are so swollen it’s like being on one of those moving fairground floors that’s designed to trip you over.  I think I am in shock.

I’m on my own for the first time in many many hours, without midwives, doctors or relatives.  Facing me is a seven pound stranger, slate grey eyes staring intently at my face.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel.  I think I’m supposed to feel love, but I’m too bruised for that.  Numb would be a good word.  Scared another.  I have no idea what I’m supposed to do next.  Go to sleep?  The thought of closing my eyes while she is still watching me is unsettling.  Shouldn’t she sleep?  Isn’t that what babies are supposed to do?  She stares.  I stare back, and tentatively place a hand on her tummy.

In the semi-tropical room, after the marathon day, sleep eventually overcomes me and I drift off.  Seconds later, I am awake again as she makes a noise.  It’s not proper crying, more the sound I imagine a baby dinosaur makes.  I shift uncomfortably to try and feed her.  I’ve no idea if we’re doing it right and it feels bizarre, like a string deep inside my breast is being tugged by someone standing behind me.

Everything about this is faintly terrifying.  I can’t believe that I actually have the care of this tiny, defenceless being; I’m so overwhelmed I have to remind myself to breathe.  I feel utterly unequipped for the task ahead.  I might has well have been pushed off the top of a mountain and told to fly.

Eventually everything will be OK.  She will grow and thrive.  I will feel like I’m actually not doing too badly as a mother. I will have more children and life will become chaotic and messy; but I will love them all, with a love as strong as the terror I felt that day.

I wish I’d known that then.

 

 

I’m completely frazzled, I’ve been busy all day and now I’m tired.  I’m trying to cook tea and oversee a game of Frustration, appropriately enough, and the children are bickering.  I swallow my shouts, but feel my scalp tightening over my skull. They’re full of end of school bouncing off the walls energy and they could really do with a good run around.  But I can’t face the traipse to the common, and anyway, it’ll make bedtime late, so I switch on the TV.  Again.  I wish I could just shove them out of the door to play, but no one does that any more, do they.

Except they do.  This week I discovered Playing Out.  It’s run by a couple of mums in Bristol who started small, by getting their own street closed for a couple of hours after school one day, and now help others organise the same.  Streets all over Bristol close for play on a monthly basis, some on a weekly basis.  There’s no agenda for the children, they can do what they want, but with space to do it in.  It sounds bloody marvellous.

Our street is full of children, but they don’t know each other well.  They’re all slightly different ages and they go to a number of different schools.  Our children play with the next door neighbours, usually throwing water bombs over the fence at each other, but it’s restricted by the size of our gardens and my desire to keep the fence in one piece.  I love the idea of them forging new friendships over a love of skateboarding, sitting on the kerb with an ice lolly, running off steam before tea.

Sounds good doesn’t it?  Who’s with me?

 

I’m lying on the bed in the dimly lit, stiflingly hot, hospital room.  I am sore.  Stitches pulling and knees and hips aching from hours spent swaying backwards and forwards.  If I stand, my organs dangle in my insides like bats on a cave ceiling and my feet are so swollen it’s like being on one of those moving fairground floors that’s designed to trip you over.  I think I am in shock.

I’m on my own for the first time in many many hours, without midwives, doctors or relatives.  Facing me is a seven pound stranger, slate grey eyes staring intently at my face.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel.  I think I’m supposed to feel love, but I’m too bruised for that.  Numb would be a good word.  Scared another.  I have no idea what I’m supposed to do next.  Go to sleep?  The thought of closing my eyes while she is still watching me is unsettling.  Shouldn’t she sleep?  Isn’t that what babies are supposed to do?  She stares.  I stare back, and tentatively place a hand on her tummy.

In the semi-tropical room, after the marathon day, sleep eventually overcomes me and I drift off.  Seconds later, I am awake again as she makes a noise.  It’s not proper crying, more the sound I imagine a baby dinosaur makes.  I shift uncomfortably to try and feed her.  I’ve no idea if we’re doing it right and it feels bizarre, like a string deep inside my breast is being tugged by someone standing behind me.

Everything about this is faintly terrifying.  I can’t believe that I actually have the care of this tiny, defenceless being; I’m so overwhelmed I have to remind myself to breathe.  I feel utterly unequipped for the task ahead.  I might has well have been pushed off the top of a mountain and told to fly.

Eventually everything will be OK.  She will grow and thrive.  I will feel like I’m actually not doing too badly as a mother. I will have more children and life will become chaotic and messy; but I will love them all, with a love as strong as the terror I felt that day.

I wish I’d known that then.

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I am joining in with Save Every Step’s weekly ‘Life’s a Journey’ blog hop.  This week’s theme is ‘becoming a parent’.

“Little boys love to be ‘just like daddy’ and now they can” 

What century are we currently living in?  I was vaguely under the impression that it was the twenty first, but according to this press release from John Crane about ‘boys’ workbench toys, it seems be the 1950’s.

They’re not the only toy sellers who insist on girls hoovering and boys wielding heavy machinery.  The Early Learning Centre are shockingly sexist with their colour coded toys.  We know that farms are for boys, because they’re in the blue corner and ironing boards are for girls because they’re in the pink corner.

I don’t think you have to be a radical feminist to think that there’s something wrong with that.  For a start, it doesn’t reflect real life.  Do dads not push buggies?  Can women only be nurses and not doctors?  Do all girls dream of a white wedding?  Are all men a dab hand at DIY?  Of course not.  I wouldn’t let my husband within three metres of a power tool, he’d almost certainly lose a limb.  So why are children being marketed to in such a narrow way?

I suppose you could just dismiss it as not important, after all, if we as parents are good role models, then our children will learn what is right and wrong.  But I think it IS a problem.  Children pick up on all kinds of subtle signals about gender, why knowingly reinforce negative ones?

I can clearly remember being horribly jealous of my brother’s Action Man.  My Sindy was so wimpy in comparison, with her wedding dress and handbags.  Action Man had swivel eyes and a zip slide.  No contest.  I’d like to think that things have changed a lot since the 1970’s, but I’m not sure they have.  Barbie can train as an astronaut these days, but with the BMI of an anorexic, she’s unlikely to get work.

I won’t deny that boys and girls often have different interests.  There’s no doubt that my youngest son’s love of trains bordered on obsession for a while, and his sister still likes dolls aged ten, but does that mean that she never liked trains and he could never play with a doll?  No.  Although he wouldn’t admit to that in front of his friends.  Aged five, they’re already so heavily conditioned to think that dolls are for girls that sadly, he would never live it down.  Who’s fault is that?  It’s certainly not mine.

I want my children to believe that they have the potential to do anything they put their minds to.  It’s a shame that toy marketers seem to disagree.

My eldest child is ten.  Ten.  Last time I looked she was a toddler.

I’m scared.

Puberty is galloping over the horizon, and I wish it wasn’t.  I want her to stay as a funny, quirky imaginative little girl.  Already the hormonal ups and downs have started and she’s losing her little girlness.  I know I should embrace her growing up, but so far I’m struggling.

She’s conflicted too.  She feels things differently.  She’s always been an easy, happy child, but now she wakes us in the night with random worries.  If we get cross with her, she thinks we don’t care.  This week saw us both crying at 10pm about something stupid.  And this is only the start of it.

I love having primary school age children.  They’re funny and thoughtful and interested in everything.  They’re potty trained, mostly, they can walk for miles and read books and they sleep through the night.  They’re amazing travel companions.  They do what I say, on the whole, and they need me.  I like being needed.

The next bit is a complete unknown, as a parent.  I can remember the hideousness of being a teenager;  shy, awkward, worrying that everyone else was having a much better time than me.  Periods, greasy hair and spots: I wouldn’t wish them on anyone, let alone my gorgeous little girl.

And as for drugs, sex and teenage pregnancy, I’m adopting an emu pose.

I wish the future would hold it’s horses.

They’re asleep.  Finally.  After great quantities of thrashing and moaning and he’s kicking mes in the humid, cramped room.  The husband and I lay quietly on single mattresses, which covered all of the remaining floor space.  We pretended to sleep, as Thai pop music blared from speakers in the open air restaurant on the other side of the river and motorbikes revved over the bridge.

Getting them to sleep while we were travelling was rarely easy.  It was often the bane of my life.  Rooms where all three had to share a double bed were by far the worst.  In one awful hotel in Malaysia we bought a thin foam camping mat for the youngest to put on the hard tiled floor.  He tossed and turned uncomfortably on it, and I felt guilty, but it was preferable to the alternative.  At least there weren’t any cockroaches.

Looking at that photo now doesn’t give me a feeling of peace, an ah aren’t they so cute moment.  It makes me feel slightly sick and anxious, as the memories of mozzie bites and grubby sheets and perpetual tiredness flood back.  Travelling was wonderful in many ways, but we missed our own beds.

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The prompt for this week’s Gallery is ‘at peace’.