Tag Archives: large family

You had a bad day

First up, sorry if you now have an earworm. If you don’t know the song, here you go!

It is Friday evening here and unusually quiet as half the kids have gone for an overnighter with the Best OutLaws Ever! Yes, I used the term out law instead of in law – long story for another day. Anyway. The two littleuns, the Lawkeeper and the Selfie Ginga Queen are away for the night ready for entertaining their fabulous Grandparents and volunteering out in the community tomorrow. The Duke of Edinburgh awards have been fantastic for helping us help our community and I personally love to see the rosie pink cheeks of a good day’s work on our children’s faces.

Our biggest Sometimes Ginga has been hard at work these past few weeks with GCSE hell but I’m quietly confident that he has put in all of the groundwork necessary to obtain the best results he can, honestly, and that isn’t just as his mummy but his teachers are also sure of his abilities. I’ve been really impressed with his dedication, timetabling, responsible attitude, and general restricted flapping. He’s got this!

We’ve had a long May with a virus circling the household and I fear I may have been the main culprit having not had a moment to rest with a Birthday full month. I’m ending the month with a sinus infection to add to my general bleurgh feeling and the inability to shift illness like I once would. I was one of those annoyingly healthy kids where I would watch my siblings in bed with coughs and colds etc whilst I ate dirt and bogies and the yuck of life which makes most adults squirm. Now, as a fully grown person in my own right, I seem to have been dumped with this autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndome, fibromyalgia blanket as a 30 something and my dirty faced childhood is a distant dream. 

As a mother, I have always tried to just get on with things and I spent far too long ignoring depression and refusing pain meds which seemed to just make matters worse so I probably lived with a great deal unnecessarily until I sought help in 2010. Since then, I have never visited a GP so frequently and the added bonus of telephone consults has been an absolute body saver. 

** yep, this is a catch up on a blog I fell asleep writing and we are now half way through July **

I am now less than 48 hours away from meeting with a consultant to discuss my Fibro and all which comes with it. I am extremely excited and terrified in equal measure. It has been so long since a specialist took a look at me that I’m a bit worried that they’ll tell me that there is something else at work with my body and if they had known then I could have started this miracle cure years ago. That, of course, might just be wishful thinking. 

As I type today with just a few of my fingers because it is too sore to use more, I am also suffering from some type of trapped nerve type pain in my shoulder that has been persistent for a few weeks and it is now travelling down my arm. This same arm is being traumatised by pins and needles and also a sensation like a twisting burn across my wrist. It is the most irritable of symptom clusters and is slowing down my creative crafting to a crawl. No good to me at End of School year gifting.

I also feel like I need to “crack” my ankles – you know, when you flex your fingers and they all “crack” and feel better for it. I’m walking around, almost collapsing every few feet as my ankles seem to fail under my weight. I’m also experiencing hideous cramps which I try to rub and ease but, more worryingly, these spasms which are catching me off guard are taking my feet and making it point in funny directions or forcing my toes to spread out and it is taking all my resolve not to cry and swear.

Blimey, I sound like a right moaning Myrtle! That isn’t quite what I meant to do. With all this moaning and groaning it is also important to remember the positives too. I have 8 beautiful, healthy children who all got fabulous school reports and performed wonderfully in the exams we already have the results for and most importantly they’ve ended the school year as better people! Their generosity and kindness has been exceptional this year and they’ve all offered clothes and toys for children who were left homeless in London, pennies into collection pots out and about, and even offered many suggestions for fundraising this year. 

Our children have so little in the grand scheme of things; we don’t have holidays, our bikes and clothes are mostly secondhand or hand-me-downs, even toys are often sourced from charity shops and Facebook selling pages. The fact that they feel they have more than enough to give back to others is extraordinary to me and I am often humbled by their generosity. They don’t limit this to our wider community either. They have been playground friends, members of the school councils, advocates for improving LGBTQ+ awareness and support, and generally being “good people”. 

There is so much to be glad about in this world and it is easy to forget in my daily world of pain just how wonderful this world is. There’s another ear worm and is quite apt given that Pride is being celebrated around the world right now with beautiful rainbows being flown high and wide! 

I am Proud of so much and have always been. We are blessed beyond measure and as long as we hold that love for each other close our days will never be as bad as we think they may appear to be.

Sweeping it under the carpet

With our size family, we often have to deal with issues of self esteem. There are 3 gingerlings, some bean poles, some belly woes, a few geeklings and a couple of nerds, a bookworm and a sports enthusiast. We have been exceptionally lucky because none of these things have led to any sustained bullying or upset. The issues we have had is because of the sense of justice, the choice to follow the rules, the lack of “tell-tale” mentality at home which allows for a greater sense of needing others to do their best and the reporting of poor behaviour or rule breaking.

My children get pulled apart for doing the right thing. It is absolutely frustrating that they have to deal with back handed name calling, pinching, pushing, isolation tactics etc. and when I try to discuss the issue at school, it is *my* child who is told to ignore poor behaviour in others, to walk away from troublesome 10 year olds, to find a new place to play, to stop taking things so personally. 

This doesn’t wash with us nor does it mean that the school get to deny they have a problem with bullying. As a parent, it is my job to protect my children, to encourage a positive attitude and install a compass to help steer them clear from trouble. When I drop them off at the class door I expect the staff to put the same effort in and 10 years ago, mostly, they did. As I now approach our youngest two entering the system I can see definite flaws in how things are being handled and the way the schools mark down incidents.

At a recent meeting with one of the Heads, it was mentioned that the mother of the boy who *slapped my child around the face* was not keen on the school’s behaviour policy so although it would have been mentioned the school had not given the child any sanctions beyond asking him to say sorry. So, as an adult, I can go into the playground and smack a member of staff and all I’ll have to do is say sorry….. No. I can’t see that assault being let go quite so easily and this is what children face everyday at school.

There’s one of those urban legends about a young lad who twangs a girl’s bra strap multiple times and when he doesn’t back off the female turns around and punches him in the face. Parents are called to the school and the girl looks to be excluded for a day or three for violence when the mother, quite rightly, steps in and explains that if the young adult isn’t punished she will be forced to press charges for sexual assault. It is almost certainly a lesson based on some truth but also one that doesn’t seem to be being heard by those in a position of power and responsibility.

My beautiful niece, only 12 years old, was having trouble with the snidey kids at her secondary school. It started with giggling as she passed, whispers in the class line, notes being passed around reminding others that she wasn’t to be talked to. Her mum tried to do right by our little Smiler, explained to not let these kids get the better of her, remind her that she isn’t any of those things being talked about, to be “the better person” and walk away. That worked for a short while but when these bullies saw it wasn’t working they stepped it up a notch and eventually became physical. One day she finally had enough. Smiler had done everything she was supposed to; walk away, tell a parent, tell a teacher, tell head of year. Now she had nowhere else to go and felt that she wasn’t worth as much as these other delightful tweenagers because no one had her back at school, a place where she spends the majority of her time, where she is supposed to be as safe as, or better safer than, home. She stood up for herself and when the leader tried to trip her up, again, she told her in no uncertain terms that she needed to pack it in right now. The other girl laughed before grabbing a handful of Smiler’s hair. She defended herself brilliantly and matched her enemy pull for pull, scratch for scratch. She was put in isolation for the rest of the week and made to apologise to the other girl.

What does that teach the next generation? Do the right thing but you might get hurt in the process but stand up for yourself and you will be punished and probably more harshly than your bully..? Why are we allowing the bullys and their bullying parents to dictate how we handle these situations? Why should our children be putting up with hurtful behaviour, attitudes, and violence, the consequences of which stay with a person for a lifetime? Accidental headlocks, recommending the wearing of shorts under skirts to prevent bullies from showing your knickers to the rest of the school, ignoring others blatently breaking school rules, holding back the tears for fear you give the bully more ammunition. Our children shouldn’t have to feel scared at school, they shouldn’t have nightmares or breakdowns as you insist that they attend classes. 

I urge all parents to stand up to bullies. Speak to the teacher, the Head, explain that you will not stand by and allow your child to be subjected to poor behaviour because the school fail to see it, or worse, see it and do not appropriately handle the situation. Our children have the right to an education free from harm and harrassment, lessons that don’t involve being kicked under the table, lunchtimes free from people ruining food, and also to walk home without a group of kids following or crowding around them.

School isn’t always fun, we all know how far the government have gone to make tests the most important part of the learning process, but as adults, we have the capability and responsibility to keep our children free from physical AND mental harm. 

Enjoying the little things

I don’t have particularly fond memories of school. I stood out in Primary for being the first in my class to have divorced parents and then we had the only Stay at home single Father who was loved and adored by all the mothers and even the all female staff. When I moved to Secondary I was placed in a very small class (18 students) of exceptionally gifted and talented 11 year olds. It seems I had a natural gift for English and Maths which put targets on all of us. We were the geeks and/or nerds of the school and expected to lead the way for excellent results during the next 5 years. My saving grace was an incredible group of friends. 

We were a quirky lot, got down to work when we had to but also found the time to laugh and break the stress of the day. We all dressed in black one year to fundraise, one of us could speak passable Klingon, another hid a shed full of animals and is now a Vet Nurse. We were good for eachother and I made some life long friends who will never understand how much they meant to me at a time when I felt extraordinarily lost. 

One of the girls and I had a very up and down relationship; she was my bestfriend and also my achilles heel. She knew so many of my secrets and she occassionally slipped up and would dump me in it with one boy or another that I was head over heels in lust with and it would all end in tears. Looking back it was fairly typical teenage hiccups but, also, I thought of her as a cousin or stepsister. That’s the relationship we had. I told her all the darkness and she would try to find me some light. I put up with her catty side because I loved her dearly and it was nothing to the way my own sister treated me. Her family were, and are, awesome. Her parents are some of the coolest going and they never seemed to get fed up with my constant visits. They are truly diamonds of the South.

My bestie and I fell out around the time of our GCSEs. It was a biggun and it took me a very long time to forgive. Too long. We would find eachother over the next 14 years and have a quick catchup. I was at a different point in my life to my school friends. Happily married, a houseful of kids, chicken pox, washable nappies, and the start of my aches and pains. She was a working woman, living her life the way she wanted to and still getting through her own baggage. 

Then we hit 30 and whilst I was still making babies, she was starting a rollercoaster that she never planned on. 

She was having shoulder pains which they were struggling to indentify and eventually a bit of a push from mum about an “unrelated” issue made the doctors look a little deeper. Yeah, cancer. This woman who had lived her life in the positive had been hit with a killer blow. That’s when it stopped being about where we were in life and it came back to a group of friends who had each others backs. 

I had missed my bestie. The odd sense of humour, the dark laughter, the sage advice. I was glad to be able to reconnect even if the circumstances were less than ideal. Oh, who am I kidding? Less than ideal? They couldn’t have been worse. It shouldn’t have taken cancer to bring us back together. Any hurt that happened half our life time ago should have been well and truly buried. It was buried. I knew that we were a couple of teeny boppers just finding our feet and hurting inside because of things we had no control over. 

We laughed again, giggled inappropriately, enjoyed giant yorkshire puddings and afternoon tea. It was simple. I want anything for it to be simple again. 

Her cancer isn’t shy. Her Doctors have been doing a fabulous job at pushing it back, holding the flood gates. The multipe surgeries have helped, certainly she finally got the breast reduction which had always been a back seat “one day” – something we had a dark laugh about. We also chatted about the special one of a kind face mask they use to hold her head completely still for targetted treatment. She tells us that there are these fabulous murials on the ceiling rather than crappy hospital tiles. The staff are extraordinary too. They go above and beyond to make sure that all of their patients are as comfortable as possible. 

We often moan about waiting times, prescription costs, time hanging on the phone whilst sorting out appointments, and yet, our NHS has gone above and beyond to help my beautiful friend. It does so every single day around the UK. 

That word seems to be said so often now. Cancer. There is sound scientific reason behind it too. We have a 1 in 2 risk of being diagnosed with cancer across the course of a lifetime. That’s some seriously scary odds. The good news is that we are increasing the odds of surviving every single day so for the majority of people who get dealt the Big C card, they will beat it and go on to live happy, healthy lives. www.cancerresearchuk.org

My friend got given the rubbish hand. She has managed to hold off her ending for longer than she was first told. I am so glad she did. I found my friend again, just when I needed her. I’m so incredibly blessed. She has helped me to live again, just at a point where she can’t. Hold your loved ones close today and everyday. Don’t weigh yourself down with hate, work through it and let it go so you can enjoy the daily grind – okay, not enjoy but you have to count the days that are normal as a good thing. I do the night rounds at home, checking in on each child, removing the hard plastic dinosaur, tucking teddy back into bed to avoid an early wake up alarm to find him, turning off the cd player, and brushing the fallen locks off the faces. Today has ended well and I enjoy knowing that we made it through another day. 

I don’t know what happens next, I suspect it will be awful. I want to remember the little things like daisy chains and pizza parties, blue lemonade and bent chips. It’s the little things that matter the most, they all add up and make amazing memories. Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. I’m glad I have the opportunity to revisit, to make anew, and find time to look back.

Love you, V xxx

Picking Favourites

For quite some time now, my eldest daughter has been slinging ‘ the favourite’ card at me. This is usually connected to the future CEO – daughter no3. I can see why she says it, to a 13 year old it would seem that I am unfairly favouring a sibling who is frequently rewarded. I guess this is where carrot not stick falls short. 

Here I am, asking the kids to help with the household chores. I don’t think I’m being unduly harsh on them for asking that they pick up after themselves, make their own beds, bring their own dirty clothes down to the basket, take clean clothes upstairs again, load or unload the dishwasher, help with lunch or dinner. Please remember, they aren’t doing that all day every day. I’ll allocate 3 or 4 jobs each. Easy tasks which are all connected to themselves. The screeching from Miss Hormones, the stamping from Miss Dreamer, the pursed lips and folded arms from the youngest Gingerling, and the boys both conveniently disappear siting homework as the reason. The only child who is likely to just get on with it is Miss CEO. Occassionally we get the odd “it’s not fair!” from her, afterall, to her it feels like she is the only one doing anything (because she is) but then she gets the reward which I have stated repeatedly, is open to all helpers when they’ve finished their jobs. The reward can be *helping with the shopping!* which will often lead to a small treat of new colouring pencils or a pretty hair dye, or maybe getting to choose the movie night treats, or even just getting their hair plaited which is now quite a rarity with my fingers cramping up. Nothing is extravagent, they all get the same chance but the results are the same. It will always be the tweenie who helps, you know, the child caught between their care free childhood and the peer pressures of the teenage years. 

This stage of life is actually the easy bit but it doesn’t last for anywhere near long enough. It is the last year of primary and life seems to go through like a bagillion changes, or so Miss CEO seems to suggest. As a mother, always fostering independance whilst slowly letting out the apron strings, I’m no longer surprised that we are seeing a gluttony of depressed youngsters. The demands our children are under starts before they even start school at 4, constantly being tested, watched for errors, placed on tables relating to how well they do or don’t stick to the lines when colouring… 

I am not a keen results reader, I much prefer to sit with a teacher who knows my child and who can tell me who their friends are, what their favourite topic is and how wonderfully knowledgable they are about Minecraft, Peppa Pig or the rights and responsibilities of the LGBTQ+ community. Instead I get to go in, interrupt the teacher who has their parent’s evening chit chat memorised and say actually Mr Teacher, would you mind if we can talk about how my child feels isolated and threatened whilst in your care? I have to explain that, yes, I understand that Miss CEO has a very secure sense of The Rules, how society should behave and, unfortunately, how it actually behaves. I have to again suggest that perhaps “ignoring” the problem is making it worse and that, perhaps, if the children involved were pulled to one side and asked to follow The Rules as they are supposed to. I don’t want to know that she must be popular because she was chosen by her classmates to be class rep, it doesn’t alter how much my book worm, mathematics enthusiast, teacher’s pet has changed, how now we talk about why it is important to attend school instead of why she can’t possibly be ill because she has to go to school. Even speaking with the Head didn’t help. One particular child is a handful in class and particular hurtful to Miss CEO because his mother doesn’t agree with the School Behaviour Policy!?! (I still can’t get my head around that one.)

I am more than aware that no child is an angel, I’m not overly concerned by the fact that all 8 of my children are unique and fall across the behaviour spectrum, but I am concerned that one after another my children have felt bullied at school and it is at those moments that my tweens, as each has been when this occurs, naturally demands a little more of my attention, an extra squish before school, and a touch more responsibility and praise at home to remind them that their beautiful nature and enthralling character is worth so much more than this bully or bullies will have them believe.
So, no. I don’t have a favourite child just a favoured child at *this* time. It will soon change. The bullies will lose and my little Future Leader will regain the confidence at home to be a stroppy dot again reminding me that we are doing a good job with our kids – they fell safe and secure enough at home to push the boundaries and ignore the mess *just* long enough to not get in to real trouble. At this point I think it worthwhile to point out to my eldest two (who have both acknowledged having a nose) that I still love them just as much when they are being messy, antisocial, food demanding, adolescents. But I also really would like you to bring those messy cups and plates down, thanks muchly.

I am utterly proud of my children, it would be impossible to pick a favourite. Each child is maturing into beautiful examples of what people could be, I am enjoying seeing them grow, change, tweak their own world view map, bring new insights to our family table, and even behave in an adorable childlike way whenever we find a bridge over a stream to play Pooh Sticks or a particularly interesting looking tree to climb.

I have many favourite moments, my children feature in all of them.

Mothering the hard way

I was fairly young when I became a mother. I had turned 18 about six weeks previously and had just taken the keys to my first home. 

I can tell you that from a very young age, all I could think about was jobs that helped people and being a mummy. I played with dolls for a lot longer than I would admit to my peers, I recall quite clearly wanting to breastfeed too which seemed quite alien having never actually known anyone to feed in this way. I loved the idea of cloth nappies and baby clothes hanging on the line to dry, trips to feed the ducks and hiding behind my fingers as I listen to a little voice saying “watch me, mummy!”

Nobody warned me about the sleepless nights – well they did but I thought it meant the occassional night because of teething or a bit of earache. Why did no one tell me that some babies just don’t sleep? Seriously. I’m pretty certain that The Boy got by on these 20 second cat naps for a solid three years. I am not exageragerating. There was only one night when he slept for very long whilst my breast was out of reach and I used it to escape. My depression was at the point where I just kissed him goodbye, nudged the Mr to look after him and I fled. 

It was gone midnight, I parked at the top of a hill which meant I had a clear view of our local area and I cried until I ran dry. It was also across the road from my younger sister and my heart leapt when I saw her light go on at near 2am. She welcomed me in, gave me tea, listened to my rantings and bemusedly told me that there was nothing she could do, I had to seek out help for myself. I wanted to cut her tongue out and feed it back to her. She was, of course, quite right. No one could help me but myself. I arrived home to the familiar sound of my tiny son’s wail and knew I was back where I belonged. Still wanted to kick my little sister under the table for being a know it all.

Also, dithering. I never dithered before children. I wanted to achieve something so I did and if I didn’t I just tried again. Or not. It wasn’t a big deal. When you’re a mother every decision counts. It starts before they are born with finding out the gender, writing a Birthing Plan, choosing pain medication, to give Vitamin K or not, to swaddle or wrap, to bottle or boob, choosing a name, a cot, a nappy brand….. When you reach the stage where you are choosing their educators you freeze all over again. You ask yourself why it took so long to settle on the Supermarket label over Big Brand Names when *this* choice is the one that really matters. I cheated. I couldn’t work out what I wanted from a school so I just let the council decide for me by submitting the forms late. This is not a recommendation. We were thankfully offered a place at the first choice school about 2 weeks after the Firstborn started which was handy because so far I really didn’t like the second place school we were given.

I thought I would do things differently when time came for secondary choices but it was no easier and I darn sight harder. Five years later, at the end of secondary school life, I’m still unclear on if we made the right decision but I think it’d been mostly okay. Best of a poor bunch possibly.

And that’s just the important stuff. Accepting the vegetarian declaration followed by another child being a pescatarian was a bit of a nail biter. Allowing Tellitubbies back into my life? I wish I had the choice to say no! I swear, the smalls know how to navigate our tellevision setup better than I do. That’s the other big small issue. Tech time. The (nearly) seven year old comes home with Internet based homework. With each year they spend in school the tech time needed continues to climb. I can’t even say much because, well, the Mr is Mr IT. He spends all day fiddling and fixing technology so it seems only wise that schools are cluing in to this situation and making students tech savvy but that ultimately means that the children have more screeen time each day than they do PE or playtime. 

Everyday I’m winging it. I have no guru waiting with sage advice, there is no one size fits all “idiots guide” and the only advantage I have over most others is that we have enough children to keep experimenting and trying to get it right.

I don’t think I’m doing too badly either. The strength of their characters is plain for all to see, the spirit with which they each grab life keeps me on my toes and astonishes me daily, their warm, kind, giving, generous hearts is often mentioned by those around us and we both consider ourselves blessed to end each day with our children having taught us more about the world, the human race, ourselves, than when we awoke. 

I find children to be so utterly enthralling. Yes, of course I have days when I am just glad that *my* bedtime has finally arrived but I would never choose a do over. I’m ready to start a new day and see how many lost shoes there are, how many chocolate krispy cakes survived the night, and how just one night will have altered at least one of us just enough to say that our family has grown in one way or another. 

There may well be 10 in our bed but not for all the riches in the world would I change it. I am already the richest of mothers and though it may be very hard at times, I’m loving every minute of it.