Friday, 27 February 2009

Being a single parent Part 2: How baked beans can become your best friend

I'm one of those sad people who, when buying a new electrical item, always always keeps the instructions. Not only that but I actually read them too, and then file them safely away in my orange 'Instructions' box file for future reference. Now what does that tell you about me? Actually, don't tell me.

So it'll come as no surprise to you that when I first became a single parent I looked around for some instructions. Yes, really I did.

Instructions were a little hard to come by, but I did do plenty of reading on the subject. And boy, there is plenty to read. How to cope as a lone parent. Raising confident children. Going it alone. The survival guide to single parenting. How to raise happy, healthy children in a one parent home. The pitfalls of being a single parent. How to succeed as a single parent. And so on....

In fact there is so much information on how to be an all singing, all dancing single parent that if I read it all the girlies would have left home by the time I'd finished. No, far too much. So there was an awful lot of reading bits and pieces of books, magazine and newspaper articles and watching inspiring TV programmes about how all of society's ills are the fault of the single, and mainly female, parent.

Hmm....so out of all of this overload of advice came a few nuggets of information which I have mentally kept filed away. Not in the orange box file, but in my head. Things such as:
  • Don't wish your children's lives away. Enjoy the age they are now and don't look too far ahead as it can be daunting. This has got me through a lot of difficult times and is something I still live by. Children grow so fast and although it sounds cliched to say it, before you know it they will be grown-ups and that precious childhood time will be but a distant memory.

  • Who cares if there is beans on toast for dinner three days on the run? As long as there is love in the house that's all that matters. I read this in a long forgotten book on single parenting and it really struck a chord with me. Why worry about things that will be forgotten about in the future? Yes, money may be tight. No, there may not be enough hours in the day to do all the other things and make a three course meal. I just want my girlies to know that are loved and that, I believe, is the best foundation I can give them.

  • Start everyday afresh. This can be hard, especially when you're going through a difficult time but I think it's a good one to bear in mind. No matter what has happened to you or what the children have done, every morning is a fresh day.

  • Never be the first person to pull away from a hug with your child. This might sound really odd, but I swear it works. I used to always be in a rush, thinking of 1001 things that need doing and even when my daughters just needed a hug these lists of 'important' jobs would be racing through my mind. Then I remember seeing an Oprah Winfrey show where one mother said she had resolved to always hug her children for as long as they wanted. Wow! So simple but so profoundly effective. I decided to try this. Now, when either of my girlies come over for a hug I stop everything (OK, don't try this when driving!) and give them my undivided attention. I wait until they are ready to pull away - and they will, eventually I promise! This one simple thing makes them feel more important than anything else I am doing, which of course they are, and for children actions speak much louder than words.
I'm really hoping these few nuggets won't sound patronising or smug. These are things that have worked for me over the past 6 years, and we're doing OK. Of course every family is different, but finding what works for you and your own children is crucial to making things work as a single parent.
Of course if you are a lone parent there is tons of good advice to be had from places like OneSpace.org.uk, Loneparents.org.uk and Oneparentfamilies.org.uk. Or, if you prefer the occasional rantings of a real life imperfect single mum you're welcome back here anytime.
Image from here

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Does anyone send handwritten letters anymore?

There's an interesting piece on BBC Newsonline today about the Slow Death of Handwriting. It claims that handwriting is becoming less common what with texting, emails and word processing, and that apart from Christmas cards and shopping lists we just don't write things out in longhand anymore.

Most children are still taught how to produce neat handwriting with weekly lessons on how to form letters starting at the beginning of primary school, but these lessons not seen as a priority for many teachers and are often left out of the weekly timetable. The marking scheme for SATs still includes marks for neat and legible handwriting. And whose children are not already adept at typing by the time they reach high school?

But who still writes letters? Well, my children write the occasional thank you note although it can hardly be called a letter, and I often send a postcard or note to friends rather than using the phone or email (I think it's more personal) but I can't remember the last time I actually wrote a proper letter.

I used to keep a stash of love letters from The Great Love of my Life (not my ex-husband...ahem) which I destroyed when I got married, but I used to take great pleasure from reading and rereading them and reminiscing about our time together. I can't imagine getting the same pleasure from keeping and reading love emails, or looking fondly at a love text.

This reminded me of a recent conversation with the Teenager-in-Waiting which happened when I received a letter through the post from a friend:

Teenager-in-waiting: What's that?
Me: A letter from Tony.
T-i-W: Why has he sent you a letter? Why didn't he use the 'phone?
Me: I'm not sure why he didn't use the phone but he had some news he wanted to share and I imagine he preferred sending it in a letter.
T-i-W: But why didn't he send you an email?
Me: He doesn't have a pc.
T-i-W: WHAT? Why not? Well, why didn't he send you a text?
Me: Well, it's quite a long letter as you can see, so it would have been too much to send by text....and anyway, he doesn't have a mobile phone.
T-i-W: WHAT?!!! No mobile phone, and no pc? How does he manage to live?

Apart from all the new technology that's available we have also got used to sending - and receiving - quick, convenient messages to people, and the thought of sitting down and writing out a letter seems like a lot of hard work sometimes.

So, is handwriting dying out? Do you still put pen to paper and write letters? And is the art of handwriting still important in this technological age?

Image from here

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Is there a doctor in the house?

I have been surrounded by sick and ailing people recently - and I include myself in that list. First my Teenager-in-Waiting had some minor surgery, then last week my dear old Dad was taken into hospital with various ailments and he'll be there for a few more days at least. He's stable and really enjoying all of the nurses fussing over him.

Since Monday I've been feeling unwell and today the doctor (sadly not the one pictured, but any excuse to post a photo of my future husband) has confirmed I have a chest infection. Splutter, splutter....I'm going to be off work for a few days and I clearly don't have the strength to do the pile of ironing waiting expectantly in the spare room, or the paperwork piled up on my desk. No, I will have to fill my time with reading blogs, making a cuppa, perhaps a piece of toast....reading more blogs, leaving longer than usual comments, maybe more tea. Later if I get bored with that I have a copy of PS. I Love You to watch on DVD. I like the look of Gerard Butler who's in it. Just what the doctor ordered.

Now if I could just get Dr Doug Ross to rub some vapour rub on my chest......

Monday, 23 February 2009

The Love Ya Award goes to....

Well, darlinks I am honoured to have received the Love Ya Award from the erudite La Belette Rouge. She is an inspirational blogger who takes us with her through her highs and lows, and boy has she had some lows, but maintains an air of mystique and elegance throughout. When I grow up I'd like to be like her, even if it's just a little bit.

So, the protocol declares that I have to include this message from our sponsors:


“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind
bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in
self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut,
even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these
writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and
include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

I'd like to pass this on to the following bloggers who I'd like to count as friends - some newer than others - if only in the virtual world.
 
Enjoy!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

You know you're getting older when...


  • you write lists to help you remember things and then lose the notepad;


  • you have a whole cupboard dedicated to Tupperware;


  • when you're invited out the first thing you worry about is how you're going to get home;


  • you can remember the new fashions from the first time around;


  • you remember the original version of a cover song;


  • you make references to TV programmes that none of your colleagues can remember;


  • when you talk to your children you hear your mother's voice;


  • you actually look at the comfortable shoes range;


  • the thought of touching your toes is just that - a thought;


  • you struggle to remember people's names. Sometimes your own children's;


  • 11pm seems really late;


  • you can drink alcohol and go to bed early, or keep to soft drinks and stay up late. Staying up late drinking alcohol is a thing of the past;


  • you start taking notice of the weather forecasts;
  • These are my signs of ageing - what are yours?
Image from Allposters.co.uk

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The patient is testing my patience

The Teenager-in-Waiting had some minor surgery on Friday and was a bit groggy and poorly for the next couple of days. Today, however, I can see signs that she is almost back to normal (being difficult, arguing with her sister) but every so often she conveniently lapses into a dizzy state and demands ice cream or a cold drink.

Me thinks she is milking her time as a patient, and I am definitely not cut out to be a nurse. I'll give her until tomorrow then it's back to normal service in this house!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Why you can no longer buy a plush uterus for your child to play with


There is a website called Iheartguts.com where you can buy cuddly toy organs. Honestly it's true. Can't you just see your baby holding onto the cuddly spleen as you push them down the high street? I'm sure it would be a conversation point if nothing else. I mean, why didn't they have them when I was growing up? I remember being forced to play with dolls and such like....not a single cuddly organ in sight. This may have scarred me for life.

Sadly, if you wanted to buy a plush uterus they have had a safety recall. Yes, really - there is such a thing as a plush uterus. It begs the question, are their other categories of uterus? Maybe the economy uterus? Or the business class uterus? It might come with its own briefcase.
Now, I've had a good look at their product range on Iheartguts, and what I want to know is this: where, oh where is the cuddly scrotum?* Have I detected a gap in the market? Perhaps I should patent my idea before it gets stolen?
There's already a site where you can buy cuddly sperm. Don't believe me? Check this site. My personal favourite is the fudge sperm, he looks cute.
*Yes I know that's the second time the word scrotum has appeared on my blog recently. You can make your own minds up about what that says about me!
Photo from Iheartguts.com

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Happy Valentine's Day


Happy Valentine's Day to you all.
And just in case you're wondering they're pink smarties. My daughter made them into a heart shape and I thought it looked really cute.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Dispatches from the chalkface.

Recent conversations I have had with children.

Show and tell. Sam tells us about his 7th birthday. Me: So, Sam what sort of a party did you have? Sam: A birthday party. (Ask a stupid question)

Today during storytime I had to say to one girl: Jane, headbutting my chair is not a very good idea is it?

Holding up a cylindrical 3D shape I ask "Who can tell me what this shape is called?" 6 year old's reply: "I don't know but it's the same shape as a can of Fosters."

During a sex education lesson a couple of years ago, while the pupils were completing a question and answer sheet, one 10 year old boy shouted across the classroom: "Miss, how d'you spell scrotum?"

Yesterday during a lesson on finding definitions of words.
Question: Who can give me a definition of a man? One boy's answer: Drinks beer, goes to the pub and farts a lot.

You couldn't make 'em up could you?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Lurkers of the world unite

Are you a lurker? Are you? Yes, you....the one reading this post before scurrying off to be unfaithful with another blog.

Y'see, I know that there are more people reading this than ever actually post a comment. And while I'm not in the least bit interesting in getting a colossal number of comments (liar, liar, pants on fire) I would love to know who you are!

Have a look at this diagram which I got from an interesting website. Proof, if proof were needed!

Go on, make my day. Leave a comment. I dare you.

p.s. Regular contributors also very welcome!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Unhappy Anniversary

Yesterday should have been my 13th wedding anniversary.

Instead I spent the day remembering that happy Friday in February when we tied the knot at the local Town Hall. It was a sunny day, the weather was mild and we were joined by family and friends to celebrate our day. We were full of hopes for our marriage and plans for the future and very much in love.

Seven years later, almost to the day, my husband packed his bags and left our home. Our girls were just 3 and 6 and they just didn't understand where Daddy was going and why he wouldn't be tucking them up in bed that night, or any other night. They cried themselves to sleep for weeks afterwards and I encouraged the tears. They needed to cry, as did I, and let the emotion out instead of letting it stagnate and fester for years to come.

I spent hours over consecutive nights massaging my eldest daughter's feet because it relaxed her. As I massaged the warm fragrant oil into her feet she sobbed almost non-stop. Then she would start to yawn and I knew I could carry her to bed because sleep might be a little closer for her. My youngest daughter reverted to a babylike state, which a psychologist friend informed me was her way of feeling safe, but all the same was heartbreaking to witness.

The three of us spent many nights all squashed together in my bed. One after the other they would find their way into my room in the middle of the night and slide between the covers. They needed to know I was still there.

Slowly, slowly our lives took on a new routine. New rules, new dynamics, a new normality.

Somehow I managed to deal with most of it with a smile and a joke. "I was happily married for 4 years....unfortunately the marriage lasted for 7." Boom boom! Most people would never have guessed how low I got, or how isolated I felt. Admitting that you are lonely or scared or afraid gets harder as you get older, and the fear of being judged or - worse - pitied was enough to make me put a brave face on everything.

I had planned to celebrate my decree absolute with champagne, a toast to freedom and a new life. But when I opened the buff envelope containing the papers I was overwhelmed by the feelings of sadness and loss. A future I had planned as part of a couple had been lost, and there was a tangible feeling of failure. Failure to make my marriage work. Failure to live the life I had planned as part of our family.

So, here I am. Instead of celebrating 13 years old marriage I am marking 6 years of being a single parent. I can hardly believe it's that many years since he left, and yet it seems to have passed so quickly. I wonder what the next 6 years will bring?

Monday, 2 February 2009

Snow

As I sit here typing I can see the snow falling heavily outside in the garden. When we awoke this morning everywhere was white although it wasn't very deep. Though there was enough for us to have a quick snowball fight before school and when we got home earlier the Smallest Daughter made a snowlady. Unfortunately, she didn't secure the head very well and it has now slid down the back of the body and is lying on the floor. I've told SD that the snowlady is just having a lie down, but tomorrow - if it continues to snow like it is - we'll make her a boyfriend.
SD wrote this poem for me today:

Snow dear snow
come down from the sky.
Let our kids play in you
never go, never go
please stay.
Bring the snowmen with you
Snow snow dear snow

I'm going to nominate her to be the next Poet Laureate. She's clearly a genius.