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Archive for the ‘Family life’ Category

mantra

I’ve been having a bit of a tough time lately. Oh, don’t worry – nothing is actually WRONG.  Everything has just seemed a bit difficult. You know the sort of thing – keeping on top of the house, looking after the boys, thinking about my work direction, trying to get time to be me rather than Mummy. When something as mundane as forgetting to buy olive oil is enough to make you snap, you know it’s time to take a hard look at yourself.

But as they say, when the student is ready the teacher appears, and help has recently come from two directions, one more unlikely than the other.

I recently interviewed the artist and author Lucy H Pearce for The Green Parent‘s August/ September edition (I work quite a way ahead for them – put it in the diary!). Lucy is the author of five books (and is working on her sixth and seventh as we speak) and we were chatting about her first, The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood. It’s been a long time since I thought of myself as a creative person (have I EVER thought of myself that way?) and while I was reading the book I struggled to see myself in the “Creative Rainbow Mother” archetype that she describes.

mermaid_hair

But somewhere along the line a little spark of creativity has been kindled deep inside. Since reading the book I’ve had my hair dyed an array of “mermaid’ colours, and after speaking to Lucy by Skype, I have even, perhaps more profoundly, been drawing a bit (not to mention filling page after page with labyrinths). And trying out a bit of lettering. This might not sound like much to you, but when you consider that my bullet journal generally just consists of very unfancy to do lists in my usual scrawl, this is a big change.

I won’t spoil the forthcoming interview (!), but Lucy highlighted the difference between creativity and “artistic-ness” and gave me a whole new way of looking at the blank page with a sense of excitement rather than terror. Thank you, Lucy!

labyrinths

In that vein, the picture at the top of the page is of a spread I did in my bullet journal of my new mantra (you can see the cover of my bullet journal in this post). When everything gets on top of me, I sing this quietly to myself: “Back and forward flows the sea, back and forward flows the sea, back and forward flows the sea.” If you want to hear the tune, go to the BBC website and listen to the Beachcombing episode of CBeebies Radio show Waterways. Waterways is a really charming and calming listen – I recommend it! And yes, CBeebies is still playing as big as a part in my life as it was when I wrote the “Iggle Piggle is a dying sailor” blog post that ruined In The Night Garden for so many people.

I love the sea – despite living more or less as far from the coast as you can in this country – and this gentle melody, ebbing and flowing like the tide, helps to ground me and stop me feeling overwhelmed. How can you feel stressed about forgetting to buy olive oil when the waves are always crashing onto the shore, pulled by the moon?

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Manford

The most popular thing I have ever written is almost certainly this old blog post from November 2012, The Secret Meaning Behind In The Night Garden‘s Opening Words. Written after watching too many episodes of ITNG while my oldest (then my only) son had pneumonia, it was a mostly-joking-but-OK-maybe-not-completely look at whether Iggle Piggle is really a dying sailor hallucinating in his last moments.

This post gets a steady stream of hits every day with occasional surges in popularity. One of its biggest peaks was in October 2015 when comedian Jason Manford chanced upon it while watching ITNG with his daughter and basically thinking “what is this all about?”. He posted about it on Facebook, and thousands of people clicked the link. Many people agreed. Quite a few thought I was sick / bonkers.

To my great surprise I got an email this week from Jason’s Absolute Radio show producer asking if they could make a video based on the post. How funny that he still remembered it and was tickled by it after all this time!

The video was posted on the Absolute Radio Facebook page.

It was great hearing my words performed in a dramatic reading like this – and it was even better to read all the comments! By the way, Jason, I still think I should get a scriptwriter’s fee…. What do you reckon?

CODA: I almost crossed paths with Jason back in April 2014 when I was a reporter at the Birmingham Mail helping to cover Stephen Sutton’s inspirational fundraising. I had hoped to chat with him about his support for Stephen but on the very day I was trying to get hold of him he was actually visiting Stephen in hospital in Birmingham. I can’t believe that was nearly three years ago. Stephen, you were amazing. RIP.

 

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GP Apr May 2017The April/ May edition of The Green Parent includes the latest in my series of interviews with parenting authors and experts.

Distinguished anthropologist Robert A LeVine, co-author of Do Parents Matter: Why Japanese babies sleep soundly, Mexican siblings don’t fight, and parents should just relax, told me about the almost five decades of international parenting research he and his wife Sarah have conducted – and what Western parents could learn from mothers and fathers around the world.

Parental practices in non-Western societies are full of surprises, if you’re a middle-class Western parent. For most parents, it is hard to imagine ways of child-rearing other than those that are conventional in their communities. They are amazed, sometimes outraged, that anybody could do things differently.

You can read the feature here (PDF).

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the-summer-day-mary-oliver

The sale of my late grandparents’ house completed yesterday and brought with it a sense of the end of an era. I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately and I miss them so much.

When I collated family memories to pull together my Grandma’s eulogy last year, it was wonderful to read about how she had touched people’s lives in so many ways. Although the specific recollections were different, the common thread was that she always had time for people. Time to take her children out exploring the sights of London. Time to cook wonderful food. Time to talk about anything and everything. Time to listen to grandchildren practising musical instruments. Time to ride a double decker bus just to be with my Grandpa.

She was always present.

I have realised to my shame that I am not following my Grandma’s example. I am terrible at being present. My mind is always all over the place. I’m listening (or not listening) to my children and checking Facebook at the same time. I’m reading the news on my phone when I should be watching my little one trying to walk. I’m scrolling through Twitter when I should be finding out about my husband’s day. I’m always fiddling with my phone and I hate it. It leaves me restless and unsatisfied and feeling bad about myself.

The horrible thing is, I feel too enmeshed in the modern technological world to know how to break free. Just delete your accounts! But I help to run a few different Facebook pages. Delete the apps! I’ve tried that – I just end up going in through the browser instead. Try a bit of self-control! If only it was that easy.

I was tempted to go completely cold turkey and start using an ancient Nokia again, but I realised that there were also (non-compulsive) things on my iPhone that I value, such as the Kindle app, maps and podcasts. Surely I don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water?

So for starters I am planning to delete all the apps that I don’t need off my phone (I realise, of course, that “need” is highly subjective) and to challenge myself to only access these horrendous time- and energy-suckers on my laptop after my kids are in bed. I’m hoping that making them less accessible (no sneaking in through the browser on my phone either!) will put me in a happier “out of sight, out of mind” situation. I want to get my life back and get my use of technology back under control. I want to be present.

In the end, who could really ask for more than to be remembered as fondly as I remember my Grandma? Surely that is the ultimate accolade, not how many likes you get. I need to change my life, and really live it.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

— from The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver

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feb-march-2017

The February / March edition of The Green Parent includes the latest in my series of interviews with parenting authors and experts.

I spoke to Vanessa Olorenshaw, author of Liberating Motherhood: Birthing the Purplestockings Movementabout mothers’ rights and the value of caring for our own children.

We are encouraged to look for validation in the public sphere but there is nothing shameful about wanting to care for our children and our families.

You can read the feature here (PDF).

 

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