Thursday, 5 May 2016

Self confessed 'helicopter parent'

My teenage daughter is always late for school. No, that is not fair, she was on time today so ‘always’ would be an exaggeration. ‘Mostly’ late for school is a better word… And I am a proper, self-confessed ‘helicopter mother’. If you don’t know about helicopter parenting then let me explain, we hover and wait for things not to go as planned. It doesn’t take long, they are teenagers after all. Then we jump in and rescue the child from impending doom. We go home and make a cup of tea and pat ourselves on the back, saving our children from life is hard work.

Disasters come in all shapes: Late for school? don’t worry just jump into my car and I will break every road traffic law to get you to school on time. Lost your English literature book? Again? I am on Amazon ordering you a new copy before you even finished that smoothie I just made you. Forgot your PE kit? Don’t fret, I will drop it off at the school office. Last time I dropped the PE kit, I apologised to the lady at reception, ‘I know I should just let her suffer the consequences but…’ She cut me off, face stern, ‘I have given up telling you parents to stop saving your children.’

Now, don’t you judge me, I am not stupid… I am aware that they will not learn to take the stupid PE kit to school if they know I will run after them with it when they do. I know…  I share with you because I made myself laugh today whilst weaving in and out of traffic, trying to get to school before the pink slips get handed out. I nearly got hit by a number of cars and buses on the way, not due to my driving…I don’t think it was due to my driving… My thought with every near miss was not, ‘Gosh, I am glad no damage was caused to the cars or people.’ No, no my friend, my thought was, ‘Gosh, glad I didn’t need to stop and get out of the car.’ Why? Because I had jumped into the car in my PJ’s and flip flops, hair unbrushed and dirty. I had brushed my teeth, that that was a relief. So, I was grateful that I was not in a collision so that I didn’t have to been seen out on the road looking like I had slept on that road.

We spoke about finding our identity in Jesus last night in our women’s group and not in the superficial, in the way we dress and what we look like. Perhaps I still need to work more on where I find my identity because what I looked like really mattered to me this morning. God doesn’t care about my PJ’s, he cares about my heart.

Now, please excuse me, I have a helicopter to polish and prepare for take off, the lunch box that was left on the kitchen counter needs to be flown to school…  

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Fretting and being a mum...

I had moment today, not one of the ‘lock myself in the closet and scream’ moments. A rare moment when God pulls back a little of the wrapping paper and I get a glimpse of the gift He has for me, for my girls, my family.

I would be a gold medallist in the sport of fretting over my kids. Most of my brain cells are on a loop, day and night, calculating and mapping, worrying about my 2 girls. I worry that we are giving them too much freedom and then I worry we are holding them too close. I worry about the friends they make and then I fret that they might be lonely. I could go on and list more but you would get bored with the trivial nature of my thought patterns. I guess the moment I held my screaming new born in my arms, I inherently believed that I was going to make a royal mess of this parenting thing, I mean, I could hardly look after myself.

My mother was only just 21 when she gave birth to me. Pregnant out of wedlock, in apartheid South Africa. Getting pregnant when you weren’t married was nearly as bad as murder. My father’s family begrudgingly accepted my mother into their fold, mind you only after the vows were exchanged. She always carried the shadow of the shame, the stain of sex before marriage. Can I just point out now that the product of that shame was me, little old me. I know that my mother worried about us, all the time. The family pointed out to her often that she was too strict, that she was too this, too that. I remember her crying often about how she could never be enough. She suffered from post-natal depression, she got ill, hospital ill. She struggled to manage her strong emotions, living with her was like living in the eye of a tornado, you knew you were ok but if the wind changed even the slightest, then chaos erupted.

But she loved me. She loved, loved, loved, loved me and my brother and my sister.

What was my moment then? It was this. As my mother sat nursing me in the hot, humid South African air and dreamed of who I might become, she could not have seen me walking in the cool, spring air in England 42 years later. She could not have seen that I would know love and peace so strong that it takes my breath away.

I am not sure she understood that God had my life all mapped out before she even met my father. Oh, God knew about the bad choices I would make and still make, the roads that became really long and rocky because of them. He knew the tears, the pain we would endure as a family. He knew I would cry, holding onto my daughter as she suffered, raging against her own illness. It is mystery to me how God always works things for the good of those that love him. And how He always carries me through.

My moment? I suddenly understood that my life is so much more than my mother could have dreamt, filled with so much joy despite the hard times- all her anxiety about getting it right and about my poor choices was wasted time and energy- I was held by the One that created me, held every moment. And so are my girls. I shouldn’t waste another moment trying to worry things better for them. The One that created them has it covered.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Mothering perfectly...

The tent catches the breeze and billows out as we grab hold of the edges, filled with strength as it pulls at our hands. Hammering the tent pegs into the soil, the scent of the earth fills the warm air. And my child laughs. The sound fills my ear canals, the middle ear sending vibrations along the nerves into my cortex. And then my soul billows like the tent, the breeze of her laughter filling me up, the joy of it so sweet, so precious. My eyes brim with tears as she runs across the field, the dog trotting beside her. Not sadness but a deep sense of gratitude for the moment.

I recall the professional telling me that perfect mothers do not exist. He hands me a tissue as I cry tears of regret, of fear. Being enough was all I could be, perfection was a lie I had been fed. Now, sitting around the campfire, the flames staining our skin with an orange glow, the night velvet around us, I understand that I have spent too long being deceived. For 15 years I have carried with me a conviction, a constant regret, a piercing fear that I would get it wrong. That my precious girls would be damaged by my inequities. So many moments lost, forever tainted with the cold feeling of ‘not good enough’.
If I could time travel, I would go back 15 years and sit beside myself on the hospital bed. My body aching from giving birth, my belly empty, exhausted but unable to sleep as I watch my newborn girl, swaddled, exquisite. I would wrap my arms around this new mother and I would whisper in my ear, ‘You will do well, you will not be perfect but you will be enough.’ Perhaps I would go and sit beside the mother again, on the kitchen floor as I cry tears of frustration, my strong willed, intelligent toddler refusing to do as she is asked. I would hand myself a cup of tea and whisper, ‘Breath. You are not perfect but you are enough. God has healed you, he has taken the anger and resentment, washed them from your innermost being.’ If I could time travel.
My girl and I lie on the beach, the sun baking on our shoulders, the dog panting at our side. We collect little pebbles and shells. They will fill the miniature glass pots we have just emptied of jam onto warm scones. Each stone represents the tiny steps we have taken towards this moment. We could not carry her as the anorexia consumed her, we could only walk beside her, guide her. This moment. I look up at the blue sky, I hear the waves, their rhythm a worship song. And I am filled with a deep gratitude. Now I know that I am enough. God is the only perfect parent. I whisper to my girl, ‘Do you know how loved you are?’ She smiles and my soul swells. She does.   

Friday, 5 June 2015

14 things I want my girls to know about being a friend

Last weekend was a rare moment in time when I was surrounded by some of my oldest friends. On Friday we all squeezed into my house: 6 of my friends and all of our teenage daughters, 8 to be precise. With pen and paper, crisps and sparkling wine in hand, my friend the Creative Consultant showed us how to find our inner creative side. There was laughter and joy as we sat around, the girls in and out onto the trampoline, showing us their work with pride on their faces, us mums surprised at what we could actually draw. I sat and watched the scene with a deep sense of gratitude and love for all the women and nearly women in my house. We are all so different, one a senior teacher, one a trainee counsellor, a brainiac historian, a charity worker, a Jesus follower, an agnostic, an atheist, a single mum, married, divorced…. All of us so different but none of it mattered. We sat and chatted with more than a decade of life in common, our teenagers sitting around us joining in, even the shy ones, the ones with mental health problems and they all felt at home.

Over the last decade we have shared life together, all the pain and joy. We have had babies, made each other meals, cleaned each others houses when we were ill. We have faced cancer together, broken relationships, mental health problems, miscarriages, buying and selling our homes, car accidents, school issues with our kids, weddings and holidays… the list is endless. We have argued with each other, been mad as snakes with each other and sometimes not spoken for months. But we have grown up, forgiven, and rebuilt. We have laughed hysterically, drank 1000’s of cups of tea and even more Prosecco, cared for each others kids, used 100’s of boxes of tissues to wipe away tears, had picnics in the rain and been to tons of kids birthday parties.

I was thinking about what we have modelled to our teenage girls over the last 15 years, what have we taught them about friendship? Our girls will learn through what they observe us doing, how we live our relationships with others.

Here are some of the things that I would like my 2 girls to know being a friend:

#1 To build a true friendship takes risk on your part. You will have to risk inviting people to your house for a cuppa and being turned down. You will have to risk sharing a part of your life story so that they will share theirs. Girls, when you look at the friends your mum has, don’t think that each relationship was an instant success. I bet if you ask her she will say that many people she tried to build friendships rejected her. She will have given time and energy to someone who would walk away. But when the right person comes along, the risk is worth the gain. When you share a painful truth about yourself and your new friend shares hers with you- a friendship born.

#2 I know that it doesn’t feel fair when her house is bigger or her hair is smoother than yours! I promise that if you ask her, she will be thinking that she wished she had your wardrobe or something else. Life never feels fair so enjoy what you have!

#3 Make time for your friends, buy them flowers when they are sad, call them, text them, FB them or Insta- whatever them. No relationship can grow without investment of time.

#4 Be quick to forgive, even the biggest mistakes. We are human and the truth is every human will mess up at some point- even you and I! We will hurt each other without intending to and occasionally with intention. But we are all going to need to be forgiven at some point so as the Frozen song says, ‘Let it Go’. Girls, I want you to see me forgive my friends so that you know deep down that I will forgive you. Plus, I want you to forgive me when I hurt you or forget to buy the right type of biscuits again!

#5 Have a sense of humour but more importantly be able to laugh at yourself.

#6 Learn to listen, really listen to what she says. That means putting down the phone, making eye contact and asking questions. Even when she tells you about her broken heart again! LISTEN!

#7 Your friend will not always agree with you. Sometimes she will tell you that you are wrong and you are being an idiot. That is because sometimes we are just that! And when you don’t agree with her choices remember- you can support her without supporting her choices.

#8 Be ready to drive over in the middle of the night to help or answer the phone to listen to her cry. Then she will do the same for you. We all get our turn to need help.

#9 Accept that you cannot change anyone, you can only change yourself. This has taken me years to learn!! When someone is behaving in a way you do not like, it is not your right to try and change them, in fact you cannot! Do not waste your time. But you can change the way you react to them and how you behave. If you want the dance to change, then you change the steps.
#10 Never change who you are for somebody! Be yourself always. A true friend loves you for who you are.
#11 Be honest but be kind. ‘Does this dress look good on me?’ is the perfect time to practice how to be honest and kind simultaneously.

#12 Don’t gossip about each other. Nothing will teach your future child how to be dishonest more quickly than saying one thing when someone is not there and then another when they are.  

#13 Never ever flirt with your friend’s man! Never!

#14 Lastly, treasure her. Life without friends is lonely and boring!

Friday, 13 March 2015

No worry, no cry

Walking the fluffy puppy through the Ham Lands this morning, we came across an elderly lady who was walking her rather regal looking dog. They were both slow, the lady with a walking stick and the dog trotting happily beside her. Stopping to chat, she told me that her dog had suffered a stroke a few days ago. She looked over at my puppy and with a great sadness in her eyes she said, “You are so lucky, you are at the beginning of the journey with yours.”

That lady made me think about what she is longing for. She has had 13 years with her dog and now she is coming to the end of her journey with him. And I felt an instant conviction. I have been blessed with so many journeys in my life, my precious girls, my marriage, my friends and family, my jobs, my life in the UK.  I think that it is only recently that I have realised that I have spent so much time focussing on the wrong things that I have not fully enjoyed what I have.

I missed so much of the joy of my precious girls whilst I worried about the mundane. I have friendship that are heaven sent but I have been distracted by life. I could go on but I won’t because I don’t want you to think badly of me J

“Blessed abundantly” is not enough to describe what I am. So much love, so much joy and laughter, more than I will ever be able to realise. I recon it is time to enjoy the present and hear what Jesus said on the mountain: “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life- whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more that food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store away in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all you worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6, 25,26 NLT)

Nope, not a single moment added but many beautiful moments lost. So, perhaps I should change that, starting now! As the legend Bob Marley said: No worry, no cry :)

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Christmas thinking in October!

How are you all? It has been a while since I have come on my blog, in fact the seasons have changed and we are in the middle of autumn. I love this time of the year, when the leaves turn and we get closer to Christmas. Some of you shudder at the thought of thinking about Christmas in October but at Kingston Vineyard and Growbaby we love to.

Why? Because it is the time of year that my church start the huge job of organising the Christmas gifts for some of the most vulnerable children in our borough. Do you know how many gifts my girls get under the tree? Too many! And I love watching them unwrap each gift, I love the look of joy on their faces. And it breaks my heart to think there are children, possibly even in the road we live in that get nothing under the tree at all. There are children that have had to flee domestic violence this year. I have met their mothers, heard their awful stories of having to flee in the middle of the night, leaving everything they own behind just so that they can be safe. There are children whose parents are addicted to substances and will not have thought to buy them something for Christmas. And then there are the children of parents who love them very much but this year they lost their jobs or they were diagnosed with terminal illness and they have no money to buy them anything special. And the list goes on.

I love my church. We are small and God doesn’t care about that! He can use anyone to reach out into the world and show His love. Even me and even you!

In the year that has gone by, Kingston and Richmond boroughs have joined together and so we have twice as many children to give gifts to.  Last year we gave around 850 gifts to the children and this year we already have 1200 requests and we don’t even have all the names yet! Social services, the police, children centres and other organisations send us the details of children that deserve a gift under the tree. We partner with Epsom College who give us around 650 gifts and so this year we will need another 800 plus gifts. How will we do it you ask? I don’t know but I do know that we are not worried about it because the gifts will come, they always do.

The card that goes with the gift tells the child that this is a demonstration of how much Jesus loves them. Jesus taught that we were to reach out to our neighbours and show them His love. Some of us have had a really difficult 2014, a year filled with tears and heart ache but it is this time of the year that we can look around and be grateful for what we do have. Despite our tears, most of us have more than a lot of others in our community.  Perhaps it is time for us to give a little back. Do you want to be a part of something that could make all the difference to a child this year? I do!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Traffic jams!

We are on holiday in France. Nothing fancy, a cheap cottage attached to some lovely French lady's house. It is however close to the beach and has a pool. All forms of water entertain my little family so a holiday has to include at least some access to glorious H2O. The gorgeous French wine that is so cheap at the supermarket is an added bonus!!

I have one complaint, driving down here on the day after the schools in the UK closed was possibly not that clever. And it was my idea so I can't moan too much. We left at 5 in the morning to catch the Eurotunnel train with our car and so we had very little competition getting there. The motorway (highway for all those outside of the UK) was nearly empty and when we landed in France it was early so the roads were clear. We sped along the motorway in France, listening to our music and looking forward to our little gîte in Brittany- a bit apprehensive about what we would find and praying the host could speak some English. Yes, I am ashamed to say that having grown up in South Africa, we never learnt French! Another blog about my lack of communication later!

A few hours into our journey into France we hit the 'school is out' traffic! Wow! We were stuck in one spot for ages, then we moved a meter and were stuck there for ages... and that went on for hours! I can tell you now, the level of complaints went up by 100% in the car very quickly! "How long will this take?" "Why are we not moving?" "I hate the French roads!" (how quickly the young forget the M25...)

In the middle of the traffic jam, God had a little word with me. He showed me that lately I have been so focused on the destination, that I have forgotten the journey. Let me explain what I mean. When we were speeding along the road, with no obstacles in our way, we were so focussed on the the holiday we were going to that we did not stop to consider the freedom we were enjoying. It did not occur to us that we had speed and open roads, that we were following the timeline the Sat Nav had set for us. But once we hit the traffic, we wished for the freedom again, wanted to move without every car in Europe blocking our path! We only grasped the concept of freedom once we had lost it.

Things have been tough for my little family over the last 6 months. I am not ashamed to admit that I have become totally focused on the destination, the place I believe we need to be. A place of health and freedom. I have been so busy looking at where we should be, that I have not noticed the road we are walking. Before things got tough, I had no idea how much freedom I had. Now that we are in what feels like a "traffic jam", I am suddenly aware of how much freedom I had before. But more than that, what blessing can come along when your ability to run without taking notice is impeded.... Now I notice the friends that have stood by me, even when I could not be there for them. I notice how God has paid the bills, even when I could not work. I notice that that God has changed the hearts of those I love most, even when I had nothing to do with it.

But most of all, I suddenly understand that God allows us to go through the "traffic jams" to remind us of the freedom we have. It is up to you, isn't it? Do you use these times to grow and learn? Look around you and see the blessings? Do you understand the freedom you have? Or do you just moan about the French drivers and waste your energy on things you can never change?