Like learning to ride a bike

Have you ever tried to teach someone to ride a bike? I hadn’t really until today.

We got our three year old a bike with stabilisers for giving up his dummy and so we now start the process of learning how to do it. He happily asks to have the bike out from the garage, puts on the helmet, climbs on the bike and then he just sits on with his feet on the pedals going nowhere fast, or at all to be honest!!

I tried to help. It wasn’t pretty. It was the end of a long day with the kids and my patience was low, maybe bike riding should not be a post 6pm activity! Anyway he would put his feet on the pedal and push one foot down and start to move which sounds and looks promising. He would then take his foot off the pedal that he next needed to push to keep moving. He would lose the flow and he would have to start again.

It did not matter how many times I would tell him that he needed to keep his feet on the pedal, he would still keep taking that foot off and that lead to me getting more and more frustrated with him, losing my patience, raising my voice slightly, all the usual ugly moments you wish you could go back and change.

After a little while of attempting this and repeating the phrase you need to keep your foot on the pedal to no avail, my lovely husband came outside and I exclaimed “I just need to go inside for a few moments!”

As I sat down exacerbated by really quite a short exchange I just felt God say “that’s what you do”. And as I thought about it I realised it is in so many situations. I request to do something, get all kitted out for it, get lined up to start, take a small motion towards it and then I take my foot off the pedal and God’s somewhere in the background shouting “STOP TAKING YOUR FOOT OFF THE FLIPPING PEDAL” – to be fair He probably isn’t shouting that but in my head that’s what I think he is shouting.

It’s so easy to lose momentum. Something gets hard. Something is boring. Something is frustrating, The weather changes. You get injured. People distract you. Life gets in the way. Another ‘thing’ needs our attention and it seems more important. Priorities get confused.

The thing is that I am sure that there are things in everyone’s life where we keep coming back to that very same issue, and keep making a start and then taking our feet off the pedal without even really meaning to sometimes. If you keep going round in the circle to the same situation chances are you keep starting and then stopping.

I can think of a few things where I do this but weight loss is the most obvious. It’s easily been 10 years of starting and stopping. Getting distracted, giving up, life causing issues, children. I’ve all the excuses in the world and many of them are justified but for me weight is an issue. It’s something that need to be dealt with. It’s a physical, emotional and spiritual area of my life which needs me discipline, attention and effort. I need to keep my foot on the pedal.
I’m doing better with this. I’ve got further than ever before but my mojo has disappeared a little. My discipline is lacking. My focus fuzz. My attraction to chocolate stronger. I need to spend time getting back that self control and discipline so that God doesn’t have to keep shouting to me about my feet on the pedals! I can’t do it alone but I’m so blessed to have friends and family who have my back and maybe I need to start by asking for help!

Keep your feet on the pedals because you never know just what you might achieve if you stop pulling it off at the most important moment. Just imagine the progress and then maybe gaffa tape your feet onto the pedal which I will confess was what I was tempted to do with the three year old!

A new reality

Do you ever wonder why you don’t see somethings coming because they’re so obvious!?

Since my mum died when Zac was just 18 months old I am very deliberate about talking to him about her. I tell him about the things in the house that were hers, I talk to him about the things that she did with him, we have pictures everywhere and try to tell him when he’s playing with something Granny Sue got for him. He doesn’t remember her from his own memories but he’s creating memories through the information that I give him.

So the obvious thing that I missed, or maybe just haven’t prepared myself for, was the fact that because she’s a ‘real’ to him as I can make her he would start to ask questions. Question like “Can we go and see Granny Sue? I’d really like to” and “Where does Granny Sue live?” have popped up in the last week. What I haven’t faced is the reality of having to find answers to these questions. The reality of having to explain painful things in simple terms to a 3 year old who doesn’t yet have the brain power to fully understand so often ends up confused or reasking the question in the hopes that he will understand the next attempt to explain.

Whilst I am so grateful that she is ‘real’ to him and that he can recognise her and talk about her I am also going to have to come to terms with a different version of the grief I’m experiencing. I also have to learn how on earth I explain simply that she was poorly, she died and that she’s in heaven now where we can’t see her. Not a simple task!

Perception or more?!

This is mostly a rant at myself but you know I can rant at you too if it’ll help?!

Why am I so easily influenced by the worldly perception that showing weaknesses is failure? Why do I let that perception rule my internal thought processes? Why do I seem to think that only perfection is enough for those around me. My whole emotional existence seems to be easily destroyed by such simple comparisons, comments, observations and overthinking.

I’m tired of trying to be wonder-wife, supermum, the incredible friend, captain weight loss and any other super hero you can think of.

It can be putting myself down as a wife because I failed to clean the bathroom or didn’t finish dinner at the time I was aiming for.

Or berating myself because the supermum I aspired to be first thing in the morning turned into the toddler watching almost an entire serious of Fireman Sam whilst the baby naps instead of doing fun activities like making a fire engine out of a box! (and I somehow still didn’t manage to clean the bathroom?!?)

Or a rubbish friend because I forgot something like sending a message or not encouraging someone enough.

Or even just as a person aiming to lose weight. I *should* have lost more. I *shouldnt* have eaten that.

My overthinking mind influenced by a perception from somewhere, where I don’t know, tells me I am not enough and I cannot be enough until I am always achieving.

One of closest and most valuable, lovely friends sent me this the other day.


What if I could live in that mindset?! I don’t really know how it would help me get the bathroom cleaned, the fire engine made, the messages sent or the weight lost but I suspect somewhere God would make it work!!

Achieving is important. Achieving gets things done. Achieving motivates me to do more achieving but the perfectionism and the negative impact that goes with that achieving will destroy me.

So when I feel overwhelmed with an under whelmed soul and an overthinking mind maybe I need to just stop and remember I was made for me!

Being a mum is hard

Now before you jump on me I’ve already written a post about being a dad being hard so you’ll have to scroll and find it, but it’s true that being a mum is hard.

Being a mum has probably always been hard. Let’s face it the physically hard part hasn’t got harder, maybe it’s actually got easier with all the gadgets we have to help us. But maybe, just maybe the mental side has got harder. Bare with me…

Physically, carrying a baby often sucks. Sickness, nausea, heartburn, sore back, sore hips, sore tummy, sore boobs, needing to go to the toilet all the time….I don’t think I need to go much further!

THEN there’s HAVING a baby. I only did labour to a certain point. Admittedly that certain point took 37 but both boys were csections so the pain I recognise to do with child birth is probably quite different to others BUT it still physically hurt!

THEN there’s breastfeeding. Anyone who tells you it’ll only hurt if you’re doing it wrong is lying to you. Nipples suddenly being used to feed for almost 180hours in 30 days are going to hurt. The most important thing you need to know is if you keep going chances are it won’t hurt as much or at all!

But all those things will always have hurt. What I’m contemplating is whether being a mum has maybe got more mentally and emotionally hard?

Mentally and emotionally mum’s face a world that is bigger and more in your face than ever before because of the internet and social media. Now don’t me wrong this has MASSIVE benefits. We ask google for advice (Top tip: never google medical problems! Dr Google is unlikely to ever be right!!), we can join forums with mum’s who are due at the same time or have children same age or who wean in the same way or who are as ecologically minded as we are and we find ideas for activities for our kids (read put on iplayer/netflix/amazon video).

BUT this often comes at an emotional or mental price. You browse facebook and see all these mum’s who’ve done crazy crafts, baked cakes with children who are still smiling (because when you bake either you or the toddler end up crying), built towers, had lovely days out or whose houses/children/cars look immaculate and if you’re not careful you are lead to compare, to feel guilty or to feel like you *should* be able to be doing the same.

Firstly there’s the matter of *should* to be dealt with. Should creates instant pressure and instant guilt. It makes many people feel like a failure before they’ve even climbed out of bed because they *should* be happy, they *should* go out or they *should achieve something because Jane Smith on Facebook managed it and she’s got THREE children and her youngest is only 1 month old whilst you’ve *only* got 2 children and your youngest is 5 month. As an aside as Christian mothers the bible tells us there’s no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) and so therefore *should* is actually quite a distructive thought process and one we *should* probably be handing over to God regularly.  I think *should* often stops us from asking for help because we *should* be able to cope, we *should* be enjoying being a mum and we *should* be able because every other mother on Facebook seems to be able to.

The key word in that sentence is SEEMS. On Facebook we create a different reality. I don’t think we do it on purpose but it certainly happens. No one really wants to see my toddler and baby screaming but the true reality, particularly with the smallest one, is that often what he’s doing. I post pictures of them smiling and cheerful and often want to write a “by  the way most of my day they’ve cried but they’re so cute when they smile”

In a world of Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram it’s incredibly easy to be overcome with inadequacies but worse than that we create the notion for parents, and particularly mums to be, that this parenthood thing is easy and clean and predictable and pain free and something we all take in our stride. Of course no mum to be really wants to know what’s really coming and actually often you don’t really understand what it’s like till you’re actually in depth of it but maybe its worth a little more reality, a little more of an accurate perspective with those we know how are having children and with those mum’s we spend the most time with.

Perhaps that extra honesty will relieve one mum’s feeling of being overwhelmed, of being a failure, of not being as good as the person next door and allow them to better enjoy the reality of this challenging but oh so rewarding, messy but oh so worth it experience.

I also think that sometimes we take being a mum for granted in those moments of despair. There have been many times, as a direct result of having struggled with infertility I suspect, that in my lowest and most frustrating times I have turned to these little people who cause my world to run in chaos and been overwhelmed with gratitude that they are here to cause my chaos. Being a mum is hard. Wanting to be a mum when it isn’t happen is just as hard, if not harder and to anyone in that situation reading this I sending you such a huge love and grieve with you your monthly disappointment at not being the mum you long to be. xx

Being a Dad is hard

I really think that we don’t give Dad’s enough credit for how hard being a Dad is. In fact most of what we hear about Dad’s is about how so and so walked away from their family, or how little this Dad does. Dad are often referred to as babysitters, secondary carers instead of primary carers and for the vast majority of Dad’s this does them a MASSIVE disservice.

From the get go of parenting it’s all focused on the Mum. SHE gets pregnant, SHE is tired, SHE has morning sickness, SHE has all the appointments, SHE is asked how she’s feeling, SHE feels those kicks, SHE gives birth (although I suspect many Dad’s are quite grateful that one’s not on their heads!!). Then as you move into actual parenting chances are SHE is breastfeeding, SHE is recovering from birth either natural or csection, SHE gets time off with the baby, SHE gets to go and eat cake and drink tea with her friends. SHE also has the weight to lose, most of the sleepless nights and the pressure of feeding a baby all on her shoulders (if she’s breastfeeding) but that’s an aside note!!

Dad’s cant make their wives sickness and tiredness go away, Dad’s miss so many firsts, Dad’s go back to work whilst still get disturbed sleep, Dad’s watch on as breastfeeding wives struggle with the pain and frustration of feeding, Dad’s see how tired their wives are getting and can’t do much to help. For the first 6 months much of their wives attention and energy is focussed on this little alien who has burst into family life and destroyed all you thought you knew about parenting.

All a Dad can often do at first is just support his wife. I say ‘all’ as if that’s not much but actually to an exhausted and emotional mum, support is EVERYTHING.

Both our boys were born by csection. Zac an emergency after a long labour that had awake for a whole night and saw me in hospital for 5 days partially due to Zac having jaundice, and Sully a planned calm csection which I was home from after 26 hours. Both required me being looked after and supported and particularly after Sully this is exactly what Ross did. He looked after Zac, he made me drinks and meals, he passed me Sully in the middle of the night, changed all of the nappies and basically worked his bum off to look after me and the boys, he certainly did not get a holiday for his paternity leave!

He supported me with breastfeeding even when i was in pain and frustrated. He never suggested I should give up and even told the midwife off for not listening to me when I said I wasn’t willing to give a bottle yet.

Then when dealing with a toddler he often misses the calm and content morning Zac and gets to deal with tired, fiesty, shouting, grumpy, volatile Zac having done a long and exhasting day at work. I’m also incredibly blessed that he comes home and cooks dinner for his family. He does amazes me.

Sully is still in that under 6 month phase when its limited what a Dad can do, especially with a breastfed baby (I know I keep saying it but that’s the only first hand experience I have) but his face lights up and beams when he sees his Dad and he definitely loves Daddy kisses!!

Zac is all about his daddy. In my opinion that is testament to the present and active role that Ross has chosen to take in Zac’s life.

So yeah, being a Dad is hard but I’m proud of the Dad of my boys, even if i do lots of moaning… sorry Ross!

 

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Percecption vs reality

There are so many people who put so much effort into making it appear like life is perfect. It’s odd that we seem to think that showing weakness, errors, issues and failures is wrong when actually we all experiences them. The problem with perceptions is in moments of weakness we think we are the only ones who have those moments of we don’t know who to turn to who may have gone through similar.
I remember particularly feeling it when we were experiencing infertility and will always be eternally grateful to the couple we knew who’d been there before us who were open and honest and supported and loved even when our sadness reminded them of the sadness they had experienced. That’s when I tried to be real with people. When most people asked if we had kids I’d respond honestly. Some people were taken aback, others it gave them the chance to see they weren’t alone as they were experiencing the same issues and others it just allowed them to love us.
As a mum I know it’s easy to give off a perception of life being perfect and I know that often we only share the positives but I try to be real and honest. I try to show vulnerability and tough times as well as moments of pride and enjoyment. I’m not there, but I’m working on it!!
Right now my toddler is ill on the sofa on one side of me watching Bing (seriously there’s a rabbit who’s needs a parent – maybe more on that another day!!!!) and a grumpy screaming baby who quite rightly is tired and wants a nap. My dilemma is if I put the baby to bed the toddler loses his hugs that he says he NEEDS!! I shall leave you with my dilemma!!

Bittersweet

Have you come across the idea of bittersweet? The idea is that we need the bitter to grow and to make the sweet, feel sweet.
“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. When life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” Shauna Niequist

It’s hard to imagine being thankful for the experience of a parent dying. In fact, it’s ridiculous to imagine it BUT actually the practice of living a bittersweet life allows you to look at the circumstances around the situation and be thankfully for what it reveals. Friends who are there; cry with you, step up when you just can’t go on, who help in emotional and physical ways, are revealed in the bittersweet of the circumstances. It’s easy to see this in the early days of grief.

What’s taken longer is the bittersweet thankfulness of what God is doing in my mum death in me. God is using the experience, the vulnerability, the passion for keeping her name alive, to grow me as a woman, a mother, a daughter, a wife, a writer, a creative spirit but most importantly a child of God.

When mum suddenly died it was like her light suddenly went out but as I reflect now I see that she leaves behind a legacy of lights in her husband, her children, her friends and family to keep her faith alive. Particularly for me and my husband we are trying to keep her presence real with our boys so that they know the faith Granny Sue had (she was grandma when she was alive but Zac was getting confused with his other grandma!) and how much love she would have shown them!

As I explore what it means to be a part of Mum’s legacy and all God has called me to be I’m praying God will guide my path.

Please understand I’m certainly not saying I am grateful my mum is gone. I miss her daily, sometimes hourly. I miss her part in my adventure and I hate that she is gone. I do not believe she was taken to teach me a lesson or that somehow her death was a positive thing but I have to believe in a God who deals with the bitter and can show me the sweet around it. I’m not sure I explain myself very well on this topic!!