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 :)