Tuesday, 24 August 2010

It's all about the Legs

...all eight of them that is. Yep, I'm talking about the rather icky subject of spiders...eurgh. I don't like them. No, they have never done anything to me, I am well aware that they are probably far more afraid of me than I am of them....and every other cliche you can come up with. But I still don't like them much. Why anything with a body so small requires eight legs is beyond me. I mean EIGHT?! Why? I also struggle with that bizarre ability they have to lower themselves from the ceiling and seemingly drop in front of you. Gives me the heebie jeebies.

Anyway, up until recently Harry was fine with spiders. He was interested in what they could do, he talked to them....... no problem at all. This was up until about 6 weeks ago when we had a very close call in the bathroom. I had run a bath for Harry and he was playing downstairs. The water and bubbles were rising nicely and so I called him upstairs. He was just getting undressed when I spotted an 'issue'. An issue with eight legs.

'Stop! Don't get in!'
There, sitting on a small red rubber boat was a rather large spider. It looked about as worried as we did, in fairness and if I'd looked close enough it was probably trembling. Now, I wasn't going to pick it up but I didn't really want to drown it either. There was only one way out and that involved opening the window WIDE, scooping the boat and its passenger into a jug and flinging the whole lot out into the garden. So that's what we did. Harry threw some clothes back on and went down to rescue the boat, but then decided he wasn't brave enough to pick it up as he couldn't locate the spider......so the boat stayed in the garden for the next day until we were both sure the leggy creature wasn't still around!

Anyway, since then, Harry won't get in the bath without a grumble. We've had many a night where we've had to do a full bedroom check for spiders before he'd get in bed and go to to sleep. Until I hit upon a way of helping him to deal with this. The spiders started to talk back. He speaks to them and they reply (via yours truly, of course....) It can be a little tedious at times but if it works, then so be it. This has also led to the spiders having names....so yesterday we had Horace in the bathroom and Maurice on the landing....Horace in fact was sitting on the light so we had to be careful not to singe his feet.....

So far today Harry hasn't looked for his spider friends, which is probably just as well....as I went up to bed last night Horace had met Maurice.....and I'm wondering which one ate the other......

Monday, 23 August 2010

Day One of 'The Week Off'...

....has actually been ever so interesting in many, many ways! I'm not going to say much (I'm a spoilsport I know...) but there are things a happening and that can only be a good thing!

So, it's now me and Harry until Friday which is lovely - if slightly scary! I heard my ex heading out the door this morning to catch his flight and as the key turned in the door that was it. I'm in charge. Who? Me? Well, apparently I am big enough to cope so here I am.....

So far so good. I had a Dr's appointment this morning which I duly attended, on time and it wasn't half as bad as I'd feared... phew....I phone on Weds for the results. I picked up Harry from his nan's and we headed over to a local retail park and looked at far too many toys for far too long.

We wolfed down a couple of McFlurries on the way home and then plonked in the house as the rain poured outside...it's hardly stopped all day. I've come to the conclusion that any size house is too small to contain one seven year old and one kitten. At one point I watched Harry slide down the stairs on a bean bag as I removed the cat from the dishwasher....I think that says it all. One thing to add to Harry's twitter site later on too - we had some old gameshow on challenge tv, think it was Jasper Carrott's 'Golden Balls' and the younger of the female contestants was voted off. 'No!' Came the shout, 'I hate it when the good looking ones get voted off.' There are no words.....

So, I've sat here pondering and wondering for much of the day and haven't, so far, managed to complete any of the jobs I've set myself for this week.....but it's only half five....plenty of day left yet! What's that? Do I fancy a brew? Oh go on then.....

Sunday, 22 August 2010

On the subject of regret...

I sat by the bed but couldn’t bring myself to hold her hand. I just looked at it. The ring that I bought her so recently was still resting on her finger, albeit now held in place with some tape. Her body looked so frail and light, she was silent, except for the shallow breaths that came and went. Her eyes were closed. This was my mum, the strong lady who had brought me up, who had worked so hard for me, reduced to this lifeless figure that lay before me. She was dying. I didn’t know how long she had left, no one could tell me, but I had a strong suspicion that this would be the last time I saw her. It was.

That visit to the hospital will always stay as vivid in my mind as it is now. I knew before I even entered the room that it would probably be the last time I would make the journey. I had given it a lot of thought as I didn’t want to regret anything that I did or said. For that matter I didn’t want to regret not saying or doing anything either.

I had received an email from a friend the day before who had lost her mum a few years before. Her advice had been to tell my mum that it was OK for her to go. To give her permission to die. The very thought of speaking those words filled me with fear and dread and yet I felt that it was something I should do. Mum wasn’t coming back, I knew that. There was no way in the world that she was going to recover from the cancer that had eaten her away. I hated seeing her like this. It was time for her to be free from the ugly mass her body had become.

As I sat there, in the chair by her bed, I felt suddenly self conscious. Could there be a more important meeting? It was my last chance to say everything I wanted to. If I said anything wrong or missed anything out I would regret it for the rest of my life. I cried.

Looking back on that day I am relieved to say I do not regret anything. I did tell Mum that it was time for her to go. I told her that we didn’t want to see her in pain anymore and that, whilst we would all miss her, we would be strong and we would be OK. I told her that I loved her and that I would make sure my son knew all about his Granny. He was only 3 and so I knew I would have to help him to remember her.

It is now a little over four years later and I can still look back on that final visit with no regret. I sometimes wish that I could have brought myself to hold Mum’s hand but I know that she wouldn’t have expected me to. It was just something I couldn’t bring myself to do, I think I was afraid of how it would feel.

There are many things that I could regret, many decisions, especially those we made towards the end of her life but I still feel we did the right things and I am forever grateful that I do not question those difficult times.

That’s not to say that there are not things I would have done differently, but they are mainly things from a long time ago. I wish that I had not spent so much time shut upstairs in my room when I lived at home. There were only the two of us and I can clearly remember saying, ‘I’m going upstairs’ and heading up to my bedroom leaving mum alone downstairs most evenings after tea. The stupid thing is that I have no idea what I was doing up there. It was so important that I can’t remember it and yet it was enough to leave my mum alone for. When I think of all the hours we spent apart and yet in the same house I could just kick myself. All the conversations we missed out on and the laughs we could have shared. If I could go back in time I would be sitting there with her every evening. I would just love to sit and watch TV with her now or just sit and chat. I hate that I gave away all that time. Time that now feels so precious to me. I would give almost anything just to be able to spend another 5 minutes by her side.

I also regret not helping more around the house. I suppose I was a typical teenager, every household job was a chore. I should have done more and not dragged my feet so much - stopped moaning and just got on with it. I feel this clearly now that I have my own house to run. If only I’d learned more from her. Mum loved to clean and have everything sparkly and clear. It seemed effortless to her. Home always had a wonderful atmosphere, it was cosy, warm and safe. I never realised how much hard work it took to create this feeling. I think I must have assumed it was just ‘there’. As I try to recreate it now for my own child, I know just how much it takes and I will be forever amazed that Mum managed it so well considering everything else that was going on in her life.

I could also have learnt a lot from my mum about cooking, another thing I regret every time I switch the oven on! I was just not that interested in baking and cooking as a teenager. It was another thing that Mum loved to do and so I left her to it. The food she made was always delicious. Quite frequently now I will remember one of the dishes she used to prepare and wish I could remember what it was called or how to make it. But it’s too late now. I never asked when I could have done. I will always regret that.

This amazing lady was bringing me up alone, struggling in so many ways, and working full time. I only wish I had the insight back then that I have now, all these years later. I just hope I didn’t make things any harder. At the time I was just a child, in so many ways removed from the reality of life. Still living in some idealistic bubble surrounded by my own agonies and importance. Looking back now, I want to pop that bubble. I want to shout at myself to realise what was right under my nose and to care for it and nurture it. I had the most fantastic mum in the world and I took her for granted. That hurts.

I can almost hear my mum’s voice as I write this piece saying that she wouldn’t have changed a thing. That’s Mum all over. She was a giver and, in the end, she gave everything. My job now is to take all that she gave to me and to pass it on. The unlimited love that she showed to me I must now share with my son and, eventually, any children that he has. This motherly love still shines from within me, everyday, even though my mum is no longer here. She lives on in the way that I live my life.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The University Issue

Now it's not like me really to spit the dummy out on this blog. It's not really what I set it up for, more a light hearted banter about all things parenty really....but today I'm making an exception as I have things I need to get off my chest....

This week, of course, has seen the annual A level results released. And, for a welcome change, the headlines haven't been screaming of how the results are better than last year, the year before that, the year before that and the last 22,456 years too, no doubt. But the alternative headlines I have actually find even more difficult to comprehend.......

'At least 200,000 students who have applied to University will not get in'

Erm, OK. Is it just me who doesn't see a problem with this? At what point is everyone who applies to University SUPPOSED to get in? It's supposed to be competitive......not a given that if you fancy having a go at higher education, then why not?

I was taught to look at courses from age 15 or so, decide what I wanted to do...make sure I chose the right subjects from GCSE level and then work bloody hard to make sure I got onto the course I wanted.... I honestly don't think I ever assumed I would go, I had to work for it. And I didn't just want to go to University for the sake of going....I wanted that course, that subject because I felt a real love and interest in my subject....and that was why I worked hard enough to ensure that I got onto my first choice. If I hadn't, yes there were fall back options but I would have been devastated. And so I worked. Hard. And I got through. But I was fully aware that if I hadn't worked I wouldn't have gone. End of.

It, quite frankly, dumbfounds me that it can be seen as a 'given' that if you apply for university you will get a place.....to my mind it should be over subscribed, that's what pushes you to work. It's like applying for a job, many applicants - ONE job. That's how it works, it's how it should work in my mind. Because that's what makes people really question what it is that they want to do. Without wanting to sound like a snob, though no real apologies if I do, university is not for everyone and it worries me that it is pushed down children's throats as if it is the only way forward. It isn't and in pushing so much we are increasing the numbers of students applying for second or third rate courses and, as a result, devaluing the worth of every degree and person who holds one. We are also costing the country nationally and as individual families a whole lot of money. And for what? To me, it just isn't the way forward. Let's stop force feeding university to people who, given a free choice, would rather do something else. Let people really find their own vocation, their own interests and their own strengths then give them support to use them and develop them for the good of the country and themselves and their families. Yes, we do need academics, of course we do, but we need a lot more to keep the country ticking over too.

OK rant over.....

Friday, 20 August 2010

Is this really the time?

Harry. Again. That boy, honestly! He comes out with the most weird and wonderful questions and statements. Things that you think you know but then suddenly find you can't explain? Do you know what I mean? If you're on Twitter I have set up an account to record them, you can follow @whatharrysaid

Take this week. It was Wednesday. It was 6:15pm, we had just finished eating....


I take a deep breath.....there's a question coming and it could be on any subject, be about anybody (doesn't matter if I know them or not).....it really could be anything.

'Yes, Harry.'
'How did the first man or lady get on the Earth.'

Initially I think I had a little sigh of relief, then the bottom fell out when I opened my mouth and realised I didn't know where to start. It was Wednesday tea time. What a time to ask a question like that....

Anyway, I switched into 'repsonsible Mummy mode' and realised I should be happy that I have an inquisitive, intelligent son (though I may still have been grumbling slightly internally). I took a deep breath and explained that scientists believe in a process called evolution and I took him through some of the basics of evolving from apes, using tools, changing shape etc etc Then I explained that people who believe in the Bible believe that God made man and I told him the story of Adam and Eve. 'How did they get those names?' Erm, I still have no idea? Anyone know that? I said God must have chosen them and told someone....or something like that.

Anyway, he listened intently seeming to take it all in. I asked if he understood. He nodded. I relaxed. I put the kettle on.

Ten minutes later.....

'Yes, Harry?'
'So people who believe in the Bible think that Adam and Eve were the first people to evolve from apes?'

I'll start again.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

4 years...but who's counting?

Well, me actually. Today is four years since I lost my mum to cancer. And it's probably the first anniversary on which I have actually functioned. I feel OK. Have I had a cry? Yes, of course I have. Have I held Harry that bit closer for just that bit longer - you bet I have and there will be times later on I'm sure when the tears will fall again, but I'm OK.

Today I am making a concerted effort though not to dwell on the end of Mum's life. It's been hard to not focus on those difficult memories, after all they were traumatic and more recent than some others. But today I am trying hard to concentrate on Mum's life, not her death. She was so much fun and we used to have some really goofy times together, laughing until we cried half the time. I'm a lot like her and I'm glad of it.

I have some fantastic memories to get lost in and today is the perfect day to do just that. To allow myself to fall back into those thoughts, like sinking back into the comfiest armchair you can imagine and just remember...let the memories come flooding back. And there is more to that than you realise as in doing so I am brought back to myself, if that makes sense....reminded of who I am, where I come from...that essence inside of me that has always been there but has, at times, been buried over the years.

Today is a time to reach inside, to find that essence, that crystal and to give it a good polish. To admire its shine and its colours and to wear it proudly. This is me. And that is, in no small way, thanks to the wonderful person I am always proud to call 'Mum'.